In October 2009, I officially began my consulting business, Topaz Consulting. I had had the name for some years, but I hadn’t done anything with it. I wasn’t sure where my passion was, you know the proverbial, “what I would be willing to do and not get paid for doing it.”
So I waited and waited, knowing that when the time was right, I would feel it in my bones.
My bones began rattling this past summer.
An associate was in need of an internet presence for a new book she was about to publish, and she asked if I could help her. I spend a lot of time online: blogging, tweeting, chatting, posting, uploading, downloading, etc. I’ve even unwittingly developed a personal brand. I knew I could help her and I would have fun doing it.
We had a couple of meetings, decided what she needed and what I would deliver. We negotiated a contract and I began the project. It was fun, exciting, frustrating and a great learning experience.
So, if you’ll be walking in my shoes, before bringing a 1.0 project into the 2.0 world, be sure to follow these steps… in the order presented.
1. Research, research, research and more research
I had more than a casual relationship with my new client; I knew she was well-respected in her field, and I knew no one, outside of her niche, had heard of her. I conducted multiple searches, using various forms of her name, her previous publications and professional affiliations, then, I researched her subject matter.
If I was going to develop an online strategy for my client, I had to know as much about her topic as I could. Who were the subject matter experts and influencers? Where were they? Were they going to be supportive or view my client as competition? What kind of virtual presence did they have?
2. Build a good team
I don’t know everything, and I don’t need to know everything. I don’t even need to know a lot of people, just the right people to be part of my team. I’m a firm believer in letting experts be the experts, which is what I did.
I reached out to a web designer, an editor, subject matter experts and influencers, all of whom were already online and would find my client’s work interesting. Most importantly, my team consisted of people whose work I respected and with whom I wanted to work.
3. WRITE your plan and…
I learned early in my professional career, if it isn’t written, it doesn’t exist. Yes, this is 2010 and I’m Internet-based, and yes, I WROTE it all down in a spiral notebook. Write down everything, every call, every meeting, every conversation and even every dream about your client or the project.
And I don’t just mean the date, time and subject, I took copious notes because it was important for me to have a record to fall back on when my memory #FAILed (and it did). The initial notes formed the basis for my go-live strategy and follow-up notes became the foundation of my maintenance plan, which was a deliverable.
4. PLAN your work
Planning was paramount. I took time management to an art form. A full time job, regular volunteer activities, family obligations and a personal life didn’t leave a lot of time to add another thing in my life.
For the duration of the contract, I scheduled “client time,” dedicated time to work on the project. It was the only way to keep the project on schedule and keep up with my other responsibilities. The biggest mistake I made was when I went off-schedule. I had to learn to stick to my plan or pay the consequences.
I had done my research, built a solid team, written my plan and was ready to get the job done, and I did it. Everything I had learned in all of the professional development and career enhancement workshops, seminars, meetings and conferences worked.
The execution had its hiccups and everything didn’t work or look like I had anticipated, and that’s life. I didn’t give up, I knew I could do the job and, more importantly, my client believed in me. She trusted my experience, expertise and judgment, and in the end I delivered a quality product to my client on time.
My client is a 2.0 convert.
- Contributor Patricia Frame on building your development plan
- Chief Troublemaker Joanna Pineda warns of “project overhang”
Image: Vegard Iglebæk, Creative Commons
Shannon Mouton is the social media and mobile marketing manager for an online higher education institution. She is passionate about utilizing social media for the greater good, information sharing and networking. Shannon has nearly 20 years of community building, outreach and relationship marketing experience. She is the owner of The Mouton Group, a real estate investment firm, and a principal at Topaz Consulting, a public relations and marketing consulting enterprise. She serves on the board of directors for the In Series and a regular volunteer at Calvary Women’s Services. Her blog, Shannon Sez So, examines life, its joys, pains and idiosyncrasies. Shannon is also a contributor to Gridiron Gals, as a die-hard fan of the Washington Redskins. Contact her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.