authorial platform

Thinking BIGGER: Freelance Consulting

Think BigI am thinking about starting a consulting business. Consulting appeals to me because I love controlling my schedule, managing projects, and taking on work that I find interesting and fulfilling. It seems like consulting would allow me to be the historian, writer, and researcher I want to be. However, to start a consulting practice, I need to figure out what skills and expertise I possess that other people would pay for. This is the stage where I have been stuck. How do I translate my academic experience into marketable, real-world skills?

Reinventing You

reinventing-youLast Tuesday, my writing group attended a talk given by Dorie Clark, author of [amazon_link id="1422144135" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Reinventing You[/amazon_link]. The premise of her book: How can you get to where you want to go in your career?

Clark contextualized her book by telling the audience about her journey from laid-off political reporter to business expert. In between these two careers, Clark worked as a political campaign spokesperson, marketer, and filmmaker. After catching a break with the Harvard Business Review, Clark used her experience and reporting skills to generate a 3-step process for personal re-invention, a process that enables people to get from point A to point B (or even point C) in their careers.


Dorie Clark’s 3-Step Process

Step 1: Discover your personal brand. You need to know how your friends and coworkers perceive you. Clark suggested either working with a career counselor or asking half a dozen friends to describe you in 3 words.

Step 2: Discover your personal narrative. You need to find the thread that connects all of your different career and personal experiences. To find this thread, Clark advised the audience to write down their “war stories,” the stories that we often tell people. These stories form the cornerstones of how we perceive the world. If you can identify the thread that connects these cornerstones, you will understand why you have chosen to pursue the jobs and experiences you have, even if they seem unrelated.

Step 3: Manifest Your Brand. Don’t tell people about your brand, live it.


From Skeptic to Book Buyer

Think DifferentAlthough an inspiring speaker, Clark’s talk did not move me to buy her book. I have read a number of books on personal branding and I did not find her strategy for how to build a personal brand to be all that new and novel. Her strategy: be consistent with your message and promote it via social media, especially Twitter. However, the Q & A session changed my mind because the posed questions allowed Clark to discuss the contents of her book in more depth.

Clark urged the audience not to overlook and undervalue important attributes of their personality just because they can’t figure out how to connect their love of baking with their career interests. It occurred to me that my seemingly disparate interests, history, writing, marketing, organization, and technology (to name a few), all share a common theme: problem solving. (Perhaps problem solving constitutes a marketable skill set.)

Clark asserted that the economic crash of 2008 has affected the present and future job market in two profound ways:

First, potential employers no longer want to see how you conform. Instead, they want to know how potential employees (and consultants) are different and unique. They want to know about the valuable skills and special perspective you will bring to the table if they hire you.

Second, by 2020, 40% of Americans will be freelancers. People who set-up their freelance shops now are in the vanguard of this coming trend.

Clark counseled that freelancers need to mitigate risk for potential clients by creating a rock-solid brand that demonstrates a track record of reliability. Blogs present freelancers with a powerful tool for broadcasting their ideas to the world. They also demonstrate consistency if freelancers update them on a regular basis.


Imagining My Future

Yoga-DogI attended Clark’s talk more out of peer pressure than interest. However, I left her talk interested in her ideas and inspired to think more about what my “brand” can offer people. Appreciative, I purchased Reinventing You. I have not read it yet, but it is my next read.

Even without reading Clark’s book, her talk stimulated ideas and gave me hope that starting a consulting practice may not be a bad idea. Late last week, I sat down and listed the skills and knowledge I possess that others may be interested in making use of. It turned out to be an expansive list.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to think about how I can offer and market my various skills. I love the idea of offering my skills for hire, but I do not want to offer them haphazardly. I want to develop a clear business plan for how I would offer each skill, how each skill adds to the work I want to accomplish as a historian, and what I would charge for my services. Most of all, I want to create a plan that will enable me to expand my brand and still prioritize the project most important to me: writing my first book: America’s First Gateway: Albany, N.Y., 1615-1830.

As soon as I draft my plan of action, I will let you know.


What Do You Think?

Do you offer your historical, writing, academic or other skills for hire? If so, how are you going about it? Do you have a self-imposed guideline for the type of projects you take on? How many projects do you accept?

Are you thinking about offering your skills for hire? If so, what is your plan of action?


How to Twitter Part 2: 5 Reasons Why You Should Use Twitter

How to Twitter Part 2 is the second in my three post series on how I understand and use Twitter. (How to Twitter Part 1: 4 Myths and Realities) This second post will discuss my top five reasons why YOU should use Twitter.

Twitter Istock 5 Reasons Why You Should Tweet


Reason 1: Networking with Like-minded Individuals

Twitter will connect you with a worldwide network of historians, writers, archivists, and publishers. All historians can benefit from these connections, but they are especially important for independent historians. Twitter can help us escape our isolation by recreating the departmental camaraderie we miss out on by being unaffiliated scholars. Need someone else to talk to? Try starting a conversation on Twitter.


Reason 2: Research Tool

Have a question? Twitter can help you find an answer. In the last week I have asked, answered, or seen requests for book and primary source referrals, historiographical inquiries, restaurant and hotel recommendations for upcoming research trips, blog suggestions, and technology questions.

Although I have not tried it, I believe Twitter will be a useful hack to getting around our diminished access to J-Stor and other journal databases. The scholars on Twitter are a helpful and generous group of people. I have no doubt that if you Tweet a request for an article that someone will help you access it. 


Reason 3: Instant Knowledge

TweetingTwitter will provide you with up-to-date information. You will learn about history-related news, events, books, scholarly debates, articles of interest, fellowships, and the work of other scholars almost the moment they happen or when someone has posted about them on the web.


Reason 4: Enhanced or Virtual Conference Experiences

Tweeting scholars have become a fixture at modern-day history conferences. Conference tweets will enhance your conference experience because they will allow you to keep up with and attend more conference panels.

No longer do you have to choose between the three really interesting panels you want to attend during the same 2-hour time slot. No matter which panel you attend another Twitterer will likely attend and tweet one of the others.

Can’t attend a conference in person? Attend it virtually by using Twitter to follow the official conference hashtag.

social media logosTwitter will also help you improve your conference sociability by providing opportunities for in-person meet-ups with fellow Twitterers. Want to dine or have coffee with other historians? Send a tweet and see who is available. Unfamiliar with the conference’s host city? Tweet for dining or activity recommendations.


Reason 5: Authorial Platform

Twitter will be an important part of your authorial platform. Publishers will require you to participate in the marketing of your book. Your authorial platform serves as the podium from which you will introduce (and hopefully sell) your work and publications to your followers. Independent historians need strong authorial platforms because we lack the pizazz and built-in platforms that our affiliated counterparts enjoy with their institutional affiliations. (I will further define and discuss how to build an authorial platform in future posts.)

These are my top 5 reasons why historians should tweet. What are your reasons and which reason do you think is the most important? Please leave a comment or send me a tweet @lizcovart.