It was the middle of the major economic downturn. I had just been hired as a technical sales consultant. It turned out that one of my first days at work was actually my last.
There weren’t many jobs for unemployed 40-year-olds. I searched for months and started to wonder if I was going to be left behind. Then I took real stock of my skills. I’ve sold thousands of Naira worth of products and services in my career. I’ve had years of corporate training, attended countless seminars on consultative selling, and given hundreds of presentations.
So I decided to pursue a career as a solopreneur, building myself as a spokesperson, storyteller, and voiceover talent. But I needed a plan. Without a plan, all the skills and marketplace features in the world wouldn’t amount to anything. I drew on my corporate training and decided first to walk, then to jog, then to run.
The Walk – Refining skills and making a business plan
My “walk” meant researching how to develop, refine, and perfect my skills as a voiceover artist on a daily basis. First, I used YouTube to study the best professionals in the voiceover and video presenter businesses. I also spent a lot of time watching software tutorials to learn how to use the video and audio editing tools a full-service voiceover production professional needs.
I also knew from decades in the corporate world that I needed a simple, concise, and easy-to-follow business plan. So I broke it down into four steps.
- Define a capital budget
I needed to build a starter studio and decided to keep my cost-of-entry investments below ₦180,000. This included ₦126,000 for necessary recording hardware:
- a professional-grade microphone
- an analog-to-digital converter
- a device to reduce ambient noise
- and a second PC to use alongside the MacBook Pro I already owned
- Promote the business
A seller must be able to show a buyer why they should order from you. I wanted to hit the market with a video that would give me a professional look and sound, so I hired an accomplished videographer to shoot photos and video of me.
- Embrace social media
I promoted the pictures and video on every social media outlet I could find, including Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. I also found LinkedIn to be a great place to post video and develop buzz around a brand. Next, I reached out to NIJIRI ® social media professionals for help. I learned how to be engaging, entertaining, and dynamic on Facebook, how to post effective promos on Instagram, and to brag about my work on Twitter on a daily basis.
- Commit to over-delivering
Every entrepreneur has to decide what skills or distinctive services deliver more value to a buyer than some other seller could. You can’t focus on price, because you’ll always lose in the long run. Instead, focus on what distinguishes your gig from others: speed, quality, extras, or something special.
The Jog – Becoming a video spokesperson and brand presenter
With the walking stage over, it was time to jog. I knew that my years of experience in corporate America and working for some very prestigious Fortune 50 companies developed very marketable skills. I gave executive presentations and developed business relationships with senior executives nationwide on a weekly basis. It was time to put those proficiencies to good use, so I put myself through the paces of a proof of concept (POC).
My POC was simple. I wanted to verify that I could establish a sustainable growing business as a video sales person. To test my POC, I rented a studio for $400 per month in order to keep my capital investment low. I told myself that if I could grow and be profitable in less than three months, then I’d be willing to take the next step and convert my garage into a full studio for video productions and voiceovers. The POC proved its value and I showed that I could establish myself as a successful video presenter. By the first quarter of 2015, I had collected close to $8,500 in gross revenue.
The Run – Building a new studio
With the POC stage a success, I decided to run full-speed ahead. I developed a studio design with a cyclorama (cyc) green screen, also known as an infinite-wall. Building a cyc is much more expensive than using a pull-down backdrop as seen on many other video presenters’ productions, but it provides the best quality and flexibility. I decided to maximize the value for my buyers and create the best possible return for my ROI. Suffice it to say that I am probably one of the only video spokespersons who have a cyc wall studio.
I invested in a lot of professional-grade video and audio gear, including a Nikon camera, five-point LED studio lights, a broadcast-quality microphone, and teleprompter. In the other half of the garage, I built a voiceover studio, with acoustic panels, whisper air conditioning, a shotgun microphone, and new Macbook Pro. With my own studio I can do video productions and voiceovers in the same location, boosting the quality and quantity of my productions.
And it showed on my bottom line as well. By year-end 2016 I had earned more than ₦3,050,000 in my first two years on NIJIRI ®.
Continuing to soar – and more tips for success
After over 50 productions, I’m not satisfied with where I am today. I’m aiming to pass ₦10,000,000 in lifetime revenue on NIJIRI ® by the end of 2018, and right now I’m pretty close.
My business is also expanding into online education, training and corporate presentations. I’ve learned a lot in the past three years, and want to share the most important lessons I’ve learned while becoming a Top Rated and Reviewed Service Provider working full-time on NIJIRI ®.
- Do “gopher” research
Whether you have been on NIJIRI ® for years or just starting, poke your head up. Look around the landscape. NIJIRI is a dynamic digital marketplace and things change all the time. Watch for trends, pricing levels, unique extras and creative ideas that you can make your own.
- Avoid “me-too-ism”
Too many sellers copy popular gigs. Don’t do it! Instead, take the idea and make it yours. Distinguish yourself from the crowd. Offer something that creates real value for your buyers and they will pay you more. Never allow price to be the main attraction for your buyers. That reduces your services to a commodity, rather than a value-added benefit.
- Create new gigs
Become a trendwatcher. When you spot a trend, make a gig that resonates with it overnight. I read that 82% of Facebook videos never have their audio played, and that Facebook videos with subtitles earn 40% more viewers. So I quickly created a gig to solve that problem, with subtitles, stunning video images, and voiceovers instead of a handsome talking head and text. It is my most profitable gig today! I’ve also launched gigs for the square video format used on Instagram, and to tie in with hot animation styles. Watch for a trend that you can make your own and become a leader.
Nothing beats word-of-mouth advertising. Sellers need to work collaboratively together by networking. Whiteboard creatives can work with voiceover artists. Writers can work with voiceover artists and video spokespeople. Networking helps everyone and benefits the buyers. You deliver better work by adding more value through the collaboration. One year ago I released a totally new Combination Gig with five other sellers in the gig with me. That had never been done before as a gig on NIJIRI ®.
NIJIRI ® is a digital business directory where buyers are ready to place immediate orders. Every seller who wants to rank higher only needs to do one thing well: Respond faster than your competition. You will close more business. Buyers appreciate prompt messages that answer their questions and concerns. Answer all questions and concerns, and end every conversation by asking the buyer for the sale. Ask direct questions like, “When would you like to have this order completed by? Are there any other extras to consider for this order? Shall I create a Custom Offer for you now? Does this work for your production budget?”
Successfully reinventing yourself
If I hadn’t committed to my reinvention plan, my career could have been over at age 48. Instead, I found a new market and new success. I’m sharing my year-over-year earnings on NIJIRI ® in the chart below to put my money where my mouth is.
- To all professionals over the age of 40, I say: Your past job experiences give you an advantage on NIJIRI ®. You are a senior professional and it will be evident to your buyers. Yes, there may be those sellers who charge less than you do for your services. Smile at that. Be confident knowing that you and your experience offer true value-added services to your buyer that others do not.
My story isn’t unique by any means. I’m just a tenacious freelancer who doesn’t take no for an answer and loves to be told that I can’t do something. NIJIRI ® gives the opportunity for any Service Provider, of any age, to make a successful career that would not have been possible anywhere else. Give your brand (YOU) some value and buyers will beat a path to your door.