New information professionals struggle with the decision whether or not to specialise and narrow their target client base to one or two particular niches. Once the decision has been made, you must then find the clients. LinkedIn Answers and tweet chats provide not only spaces to interact virtually with potential clients but also opportuntities to listen to conversations related to your field of interest.
Information professionals just starting out in the field and in business undoubtedly face a few challenges. Shall I create a home office or have a traditional work space outside of the home? Will I charge an hourly fee, flat rate, or some other fee structure? Do I need a business licence for this type of work? All are important questions that must be addressed in the planning stages of independent information work.
Deciding what services to offer is another necessary first step. Because “research services” is a rather vague concept for potential customers to understand, it is necessary to define the services you provide clearly or else risk clients defining this for you based on their idea of “research services”. Over time your service offering may change based on client needs and changes in the industry, but starting out you should have a few core services in mind.
Another critical question is where to find clients. New information professionals struggle with the decision whether or not to specialise and narrow the target client base to one or two particular niches. Finding a niche has been recommended by seasoned information professionals. In the book “Super Searchers Make It On Their Own” Suzanne Sabroski wrote, “Finding an industry niche and offering specialised services is almost essential these days. Specialisation is necessary for clear communication in marketing”. Sabroski also recommends going where clients and potential clients hang out.
Where the clients are
If you’ve decided to focus on one or two target audiences, attend the industry, trade and professional gatherings for that audience. It’s very easy to find local chapter information online and often the meetings are open to non-members. After you have attended a few meetings, and when you feel more comfortable with the organisation and its fit for your business needs, apply for membership and join a committee. Active participation, particularly in member-facing roles (membership or programming), puts you closer to your potential clients while demonstrating your skills, abilities, and interest in the organisation or industry.
Cindy Shamel of Shamel Information Services suggests offering to speak at one of the meetings or events and writing for one of the group’s publications to increase your visibility.
LinkedIn offers an opportunity for exposure to a wide range of professionals. Position yourself as a knowledgeable resource in the field by answering questions on LinkedIn Answers or in your groups. Create an RSS feed so that new questions are pushed to you. A neat thing about LinkedIn Answers is that top experts (those chosen as the best answer) appear on the LinkedIn Answers homepage which means more exposure.
Twitter chats or tweet chats are another avenue for interacting with potential clients as well as listening to industry chatter. These chats are organised by individuals and organisations with many occurring on a regularly weekly basis. Some chat transcripts are archived elsewhere online. There are well over 500 Twitter chats listed on this Google document that is frequently updated with schedule and hashtag information.
Online resources make it easier to go where our clients are. LinkedIn Answers and tweet chats provide not only a space to interact virtually with potential clients but also a chance to listen to conversations related to your field of interest.
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This Research Focus provides analysis, expert articles, product reviews, webinars and Community sessions on how information teams can adapt and evolve to meet the new skills required in today's dynamic environment. (April - June 2018).
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