MakerPros: Keep selling yourself

You may have heard the phrase in sales, “always be closing,” conveniently abbreviated “ABC.” As a MakerPro, I don’t think that phrase, though easily abbreviated, should be your goal. After all, one needs to actually make the product or perform the service that you’re selling, and being really pushy seems like it would simply turn potential clients off. On the other hand, you can’t just expect people to email or call you out of the blue. Perhaps a better strategy would involve always selling, and always performing. “ABS” and “ABP” don’t sound as good as “ABC,” but hopefully the motivation of bringing in enough money to keep things running is enough for you.

Market online

[Photos, such as this one of my StrandMaus, are a great way to show off your abilities online.]

In my case, online takes the form of several different strategies. I’m active on Twitter, and have had great success reaching out to people and companies that seem interesting. Because of its nature, Twitter acts like a sort of phone book to many interesting and/or important people, and if you can introduce yourself, perhaps mentioning what you can do for that person, it seems to work out well. Other social sites can certainly be useful, but that’s where I’ve put most of my effort so far.

Of course, having a website or even YouTube channel (or any number of other resources) are good, but I might classify those as more passive sales methods. They can, however, be great collateral for showing potential clients what you can accomplish.

Maker Faires

Maker Faires are certainly good places to meet like-minded people. I’ve attended several, and have had some interest in people working with me on certain projects. Most of these potential projects don’t work out, but you never know when a meeting might turn into something more concrete later.

Maker Faires have, however, been excellent opportunities to meet many people that I have already worked with, but only communicated with online. It’s hard to put a monetary value on this. It’s always been very fun for me, and hopefully helps people see that I’m not simply a non-nondescript resource on the Internet, but an actual person, hopefully leading to more business in the future.

Do good work

If you have a good relationship and do good work for your current clients, there’s a good chance they will pass your name around. You could ask for this, though I generally don’t, and I think this goes back to ABP, or always be performing. If you do mediocre work, people aren’t going to recommend you to their friends and associates. For that matter, if you don’t do an excellent job, work may eventually stop with your current clients.

There’s a good chance whatever work you’re doing right now will come to a close whether you do good work or not. Unlike an employee, MakerPros are generally paid for jobs, and as demand and how business cycles ebb and flow, your services with one employer will likely not be needed. Along with the possibility of getting better, not just finding replacement jobs, this means you constantly need to sell yourself, both in the good and bad times. The great thing though is that if/when a certain employer doesn’t need you, it’s entirely possible the relationships you’ve gained with people that worked there can carry over to other employers. Personally, I’ve worked for the same person at three different companies.

Make sure you get paid

[I’m happy to accept payment via check, cash, electronic deposit, or gold coins. Image by Wolfgang Sauber (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons]

To bring things full circle, though the implied pushiness of ABC, or always be closing, might not work when you’re trying to build relationships, ABC could be an acronym for “always be collecting.” Though it’s been extremely rare for a company to simply not pay me for a job, some companies are excellent about paying in a timely manner, while others can take a long time to pay. Sometimes being a bit more pushy is called for here, or you may want some sort of upfront payment depending on the situation. Either way, be sure to keep a good record of what you’re owed, and usually things can be taken care of with a few polite emails.

There are certainly challenges to making a living working for yourself as a MakerPro that you wouldn’t find as a normal employee. Personally, I find it very rewarding, even if I have to constantly consider where my next payment is coming from!

Jeremy S. Cook is a freelance tech journalist and engineering consultant with over 10 years of factory automation experience. An avid maker and experimenter, you can see some of his exploits on the Jeremy Cook’s Projects YouTube Channel.

Topics covered in this article