OK, so I’m going to tell you to start prospecting right now. Seems early right?
Well, prospecting is something every freelancer should be doing on a regular basis to maintain a healthy business. In this case, you’re going to be doing something that’s more like pre-prospecting…observing yourself and your community right from the jump. That means paying close attention to…
- Your own buying habits
- Products you see friends and family using (especially if they like them)
- Broad lists like this one
- Ads you run into on the radio, on TV, and online
- Targeted lists like this one
- Companies you see on social media asking for retweets and shares
Go through these to get a feel for what’s out there, what you’re drawn to, who’s already trying out content marketing, and where you see the most money flowing (because #nobrokeniches).
You might be thinking that you just want to focus on “Black Businesses” in general, but let me tell you something…that’s still WAY too broad.
Like I said, Black business is big and it’s diverse. For example…we keep Niche Notes (a summary of a niche and what everybody in the community is discovering) on Black hair alone in the Academy and even that opens the door to local salons, online businesses, hair conventions, e-commerce sites…to help you provide real value (i.e. more sales and a better reputation) to the businesses you want to help, you’re going to want to narrow down your focus. This will help you get started.
A Few Truths About Black Business
Before we get into how to deal with any bumps or resistance you might run into I want to talk a little bit about a few things you’ll need to accept before you jump in and start contacting Black business owners.
That’s because if there’s one thing that will shut you down before you even get started, it’s not seeing, or not accepting the business realities around what you’re trying to accomplish. Here’s an example.
If I’m a social media manager and I’m frustrated that managing social for local non-profits isn’t paying well, there might not be a lot I can do to change that. If they aren’t getting a lot out of their social presence, they probably won’t be willing to invest more without a LOT of work and proof on my end.
That’s what some people in business call a “gravity problem”. You can fight it all you want, but ultimately, there isn’t much you can do about it. That though, doesn’t mean I’m out of options.
What I could do, is start focusing only on high-end local non-profits.
I could stick with my original market and start offering direct response writing for donation letters (because it’s easy to prove you should be paid more if you can help them bring in more donations).
I could start working with local doctors or laywers on getting more out of Facebook.
I could expand my services nationally.
What I probably can’t do, is force a large group of people, one by one, to change their behavior or their priorities. Learning to sort gravity problems from real opportunity takes time, but it’s a valuable business skill.
It can save you from burning a ton of your time and talent on niches and industries that have simply moved on or won’t ever change. (Like we see in a lot of writers’ relationship with traditional media…people betting their careers on creating blogs and thinkpieces for an industry that’s sending every signal that it’s shifting culturally, strategically, and financially.)
So what I want you to do now is accept a few truths (some problems, some not) when it comes to Black businesses, so you don’t end up fighting gravity yourself.
You’ll have to make your case.
Remember how I mentioned latent vs. effective demand earlier? Well you’re going to run into a latent demand challenge when it comes to Black businesses.
I can almost guarantee that any Black entrepreneur has a business challenge that could benefit from the help of an invested and culturally aware freelancer…but that only happens if they’re aware that the solution (and a better business result) is possible.
Most people will tell you to walk right past a customer like that, but since we’re talking about supporting Black businesses (and not just making money off them), my opinion’s a little bit different.
I’m not going to ask you to be a business martyr for anybody, but I will ask you to be discerning.
Some owners just need you to make a strong case for why they should pay you for your services. Marketing is part of your responsibility as a freelancer, and that means more than just broadcasting the fact that you offer a certain service on Twitter.
It means building relationships, listening to problems, presenting results (even if they aren’t all your own…there’s a lot of data and examples out there of how content marketing can help business owners), and in this case, centering Black business needs.
Sometimes this means pitching your services over time, showing them examples of other companies (we’ll look at some of those later), and painting a picture of success where they can envision their business as the star. Ultimately, you have to want to help and provide value where you can.
You’ll have to think different.
I make my living as a content marketer. Most of my clients are non-Black and are selling to selling to a mainstream, B2B audience.)
I also use content marketing here on BlackFreelance (it’s probably how you got here.) By far, most of my readers and customers are Black. I use similar techniques, but definitely not the same.
As you study and develop the application of your skill as a freelance content marketer who wants to work with Black businesses who have Black customers, it’s important to remember who you’re going to be talking to.
We engage with content differently, respond differently to different color schemes, and form business relationships differently than the mainstream. This is true across the diaspora. Your job will be taking only what’s necessary and effective from mainstream sources, and using it only where necessary for Black businesses.
Remember, that especially in areas like social media and general content creation, we have rich, powerful, trend-setting examples of how we do content (Black Twitter) and what content marketing could look like. Center those and don’t try to blaze trails where you don’t need to.
It’s probably not best as your central niche if you’re looking to make $ (at least right now)
You know how I talk about balancing income and peace? Well I’m going to be honest with you about income right now.
You might not want to bet your entire freelance career on Black businesses. That’s not because the opportunity isn’t there (obviously it’s huge). It’s because you’re probably going to be a bit of a pioneer in what you’re doing. Black businesses tend to get less practical consideration unless they mimic White ones (i.e. Black Wall Street) so you’re going to be learning and growing slowly…and honestly that’s great.
It means you have a chance to really learn about your clients’ problems and solve them in ways that help them build healthy, thriving businesses. It means that, as you learn your niche and prove your value, you’ll likely have business opportunities open up in the form of actual coaching, informational products, and guiding other freelancers who want to do what you’ve done.
That might mean you’ll need to focus for a bit and set aside a corner of time or portion of your business for just a client or two a month. It might mean that you’ll just be happy with slow growth as a freelancer. Either way, don’t forget your own business health.
Up Next: Part 3-Taking Action