Setting Yourself up in Business
There are plenty of mainframers out there who probably haven’t seen a mainframe recently. These are people who have set themselves up in business offering mainframe-related services to other organizations. The reason they’re in this position may be that they’ve always wanted to run their own company and be their own boss. Or it may be that their local office has closed and they are looking for something that will fill their time and use their expertise. Whatever the reason, I have some hints and tips for them.
The first thing is to decide what it is you want to offer, and what kind of company you could offer it to. You might just want to cover for CICS staff when they’re off. Or you may want to offer training on communications, IPv4 and IPv6. Or you might decide to offer technical writing. And all sorts of organizations, not just mainframe sites, could use that service.
Once you’ve done that, you can create your website. It’s important that the first text potential customers read is focused on what you can do for them. If it matches what they need, they will read more. If it doesn’t, they will search the web again for something that will meet their needs.
Get a corporate e-mail address. You’ll look professional. Hotmail or Yahoo accounts make it look like you’re not serious about your business.
Once you get paid employments, or you could even use your previous employer, you want testimonials. And you want them visible on your front page. People may not read them in detail, but a skim read will reveal lots of positive comments. Photos are good. An embedded YouTube video is even better. And add to them regularly.
It’s usually worth having professional photos taken and putting them on your website. They make the site look so much more professional and they make you look professional, too.
Similarly, branding is important. You need a good logo: It should be nicely designed, with appropriate colors and be in a high resolution. You may want to use it on a banner one day, so design it as an EPS. And you’ll want the colors on your website to look professional. It’s always worthwhile making friends with a graphic designer rather than doing too much on your own.
You might consider creating a monthly newsletter or e-zine. That can contain bits of mainframe news and anything interesting you’ve come across. The whole point is that your mailing list keeps your name in their mind. So when they need some work done, they think of you. And that way you stay in business. You can always include ‘calls to action’ buttons – two-for-one offers or early bird discounts if people act soon!
You need to build your presence on social media. You need a Facebook page showing off what work you’ve done. Remember to use lots of photos, and encourage everyone to ‘Like’ your page. You should also try Twitter. You can link it to your Facebook page. It’s a good way of networking with similar people and organizations that may offer you work. There’s also Google Plus, and LinkedIn. Lots of companies look up prospective employees on LinkedIn (and Facebook), so highlight your professional credentials. I also use about.me. Join LinkedIn groups and comment on posts. And there are those YouTube videos. On quiet days, set up the camera and explain things and post them, and then link to them from your website. In fact, add links to all your social media from your website. Get people used to seeing your name, and use the same name across all networks, if possible. Familiarity means that they are more likely to employ you.
Produce news releases and send them out to trade papers as well as local papers, radio and TV stations. Commenting on recent events on a radio program can help to get out your name and your expertise. Media outlets are always looking for experts to comment on events.
Create a blog. Blogging is a good way to be found on the Internet and it gives you an opportunity to show off your expertise. It also gives you something to tweet about and put on your Facebook page.
Finally, treat everything as a marketing opportunity. Whenever you meet anyone new, tell him or her you’re a mainframe consultant (or whatever you’re calling yourself). You never know whom they might be able to put you in contact with. And while pricing can be variable, if you decide to charge a set amount, then stick to the price. People will pay for quality, but if you start working for less, you’ll find it hard to get the price up again.
And keep up-to-date with news and announcements. You can set up Google alerts to keep you informed. You can subscribe to mainframe-oriented publications and websites, such as Destination z. You can see what other people are tweeting about, and read their blogs. And you can join online user groups like the Virtual CICS or Virtual IMS user groups.
I hope that helps. And good luck with your new company.