How to Go from Unemployment to Finding Your Niche

an entrepreneur sees opportunity more sharply

Take a new approach to selling.

Here’s a guy with an MBA from Stanford, a BA from Yale, more than 25 years of solid experience helping small businesses bring on rain, and out-of-the-blue, downsizing hit him. Like many in his cohort, Bruce Segall picked himself up and went to look for his next job. But six months later, he was no closer to a job than day one. Only now he had the added frustration of hearing the sympathy sonata from near-strangers. Plus the humiliation of wasting his time as he moved beyond his core audience. He knew he needed options.

Bruce is not in that alleyway anymore. As an independent contractor, he has found the niche that was really attuned to his message. He is taking professional services firms from the dinosaur age to the 21st century. And while he helps them increase revenues by taking full advantage of all the digital tools to grow relationships, he has also noticed that being an older person can actually make less tech-savvy firms more comfortable around this kind of transformation.

Gigging has been lucrative, too. He is bringing in twice the income that he expected when he decided to hijack his auto-pilot and become his own boss. Mojo40 interviews Bruce to learn his story.

Bruce: When I left in January 2010, I thought I would find another company to do marketing and business development, again. Following the common advice, I networked with as many folks as I could. I was looking for the intersection of:

  • what I do well
  • what I liked, and
  • what the market needed

The market, however, needed consulting support, not full-time employees at my level. The more specific I could be about the value I would bring, the better.

Q: When did it start to happen for you?
A: At the end of six months of unemployment, I decided to pursue consulting more seriously, for a six-month trial. Since August, I have secured three significant clients – a law firm, an IT outsourcing company, and a research company that collects data. I am committed to this path now.

Q: Your service to them?
A. Helping smaller professional services firms organize to sell in new ways. They know that their marketing approach is not working; it is clunky and haphazard.

dinosaur searches out better hunting grounds for its lead generation machine

Get with the program: LinkedIn, connections, and networks all working together.

A firm may have launched a website without any promotion whatsoever, or its website may need a total refresh. One cIient never developed an electronic trail of their conversations over the past year, so it was impossible to efficiently keep contacts in the loop or initiate direct response. I started from nothing to build their database. Another business lacked a company page on LinkedIn, its people did not have their profiles filled out, and they weren’t utilizing groups. It is basic to have email lists, websites that function well, and processes that generate qualified leads. I assist smaller businesses that need help to get this foundation set up. My mantra is: Building Business Without Breaking the Bank.

Q: What do you know now that you wished you knew then?
A: I wish that I had invested in a proper work space earlier. Also, at the beginning of my job search I went to different places to meet people all the time, which has limited benefit. You need to really make time to focus.

Q: Other challenges?
A: The loneliness of working alone can be hard.

Q: Anything to be learned regarding how technology or computers helped you?
A: Make the investment to set yourself up right from the technology perspective. I needed to upgrade from Gmail to Outlook, and have someone put my calendar and address book into my BlackBerry.

Q: How long did it take to generate clients?
A: Clients I have now (as of October 2010) are seeds that I started in the spring.

Q: Any organizations that were particularly helpful?
A: Connect to Care has been wonderful. I also recommend going to a professional group in your area of industry expertise, where attendees are mostly employed. I built contacts through a combination of free and low cost events.

Q: What is your next goal?
A: I have the ideal assignment now, so my focus right now is on delivery.

Who else wants to find a higher-paying gig? Tell us your goals and how you are getting there, in the discussion below.

Photo courtesy Creative Commons, Sitoo

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  • Sue

    Great interview. Regarding the loneliness factor, I’ve had my own business for over ten years. I have a few employees but well all work from our homes. A few things that I’ve found to be helpful:

    1. We are on IM constantly. Not only is it like having a conversation with a person next to you, it builds community w/in your virtual business, builds your team and you can get information passed instantly to one another.

    2. I’m on the phone quite a bit. Again, it’s a fast way to communicate and it helps in terms of not feeling alone.

    3. I get out nearly every day to work out at lunch time. I go to the gym or pool and get my social fix in. Since I’ve become a regular I have the usual gang of friends. Just make sure you can pry yourself away, otherwise you’re looking at a three hour “lunch!”

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  • Glenn

    Very direct and informative interview. One has to utilize contacts and realize consulting may be the best option right now.

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