One of the reasons I started this blog was to help me understand things by writing about them. Text is fossilized thought, so the act of setting ideas to words ought to involve learning. Normally, I'm learning around the edge of what I write. I already know how to use index(match()), so my goal in writing about it is to help others (including future me) get that knowledge too. But this post is about something I'm motivated to learn quickly.

As of Friday, I'm no longer Head of Community at College Confidential. That means I need to find some way to replace that income and stay busy. I might end up getting a full-time job somewhere else, but since my wife has medical, dental and other benefits covered, this seems like a good time to revive my online community consultancy.

(Re-)introducing Civitas

Sorin (my friend who is now Head of Community) and I started Civitas while I was working at EDB. We wanted to continue working together and keep our community building skills current. We talked to several potential clients and landed one who wanted to feel out building a community from scratch. Then we got hired by College Confidential and stopped looking for clients.

I explained in a post introducing our company that "Civitas" means a type of citizenship money can't buy. We picked that name because it signifies the sort of communities we wanted to build. Lately I've been calling them community platforms. To the extent anyone knows how to make that happen, I do.

Finding clients and selling my services is not something I know how to do, however. It would be safest for me to find a large, stable company and get a decent, well-paid job. That's not what I want, though. What I want is to work with half-a-dozen mid-sized communities. To do that, I need to be a contractor. I think the economics are right and the barrier will be making connections with the people who need my services.

As always I start by writing:

Then I posted to social media: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and even Mastodon. Likely none of these will produce leads, so I'll be trying some community-manger-specific places that I found a couple of years ago. I'm also emailing and messaging people who might need my services.

Surprisingly mundane details that might matter

When I wrote the first email pitch my business, I realized I didn't have an email signature. That's because I don't care for them. But it does help to have something to identify the random person who sent the email. Since I'm contacting people out of the blue, I guess a signature is necessary:

Build a community with me!
Schedule an appointment to talk about internet communities.
Visit my blog.

I added comments that are hosted on my Discourse instance. Will that matter? I don't know but it seems odd to claim to be an expert at internet communities and not have comments.

I run a few ads on Discourse for my blog and my Ko-fi profile. Today I added an ad for Civitas. Why not? Maybe it'll bring me a client.

My LinkedIn profile tends toward neglect, which isn't great since people do look at it when they are evaluating people who they might want to go into business with. While I was there I added a Let's meet! button that takes people to a page they can schedule time on my Google calendar. Why not add more ways to contact me?

Generally I'm looking at other consultant's websites and profiles to steal take inspiration. Marketing myself comes easier when I imagine Civitas not as a one-man shop, but as a consulting business I work for.

These are low-hanging fruit in the sense that I can do them today. Still, they aren't going to be the difference maker in any real sense. If I'm still tweaking the colors on my company website in a month or two, I should be giving up on this project.

Playing the odds

In one of my tabs is a spreadsheet called "Job leads". It has 7 rows, not including the headers. I've contacted two so far and I'm trying to find the right person to contact on the rest. If I get work from one of these leads, that seems like a good percentage. Let's be clear: these first seven are my best leads. From here on out my odds get worse.

If these leads become contracts, I'll be able to shift to what I do best: building up communities. The hope from there is that happy clients recommend me to other organizations that need help with their communities. From then on I'm playing on the field of my own choosing.

  1. Technically I started this before I knew I needed to find more work. I've edited one chapter-ish so far and that work is going to be dormant for the immediate future.