If you don’t mind public speaking, you can generate considerable freelance projects and dollars using free seminars to land repeat, high-dollar clients. Depending on the services you offer, you should be able to immediately pick up gigs that generate anywhere from $500 to thousands during the course of a year.
If you are successful with your free, one-hour seminars, you can start making $500 to $1,000 a day charging admission to three-hour seminars.
The key is to contact small-town Chambers of Commerce near you and offer to do a free, small-business seminar for local business owners. You can do a “PR for Small Businesses 101” talk, or one on advertising, or the basics of creating and promoting a website, or business writing tips or how to create a marketing plan. You can combine topics.
You will pick up several clients from the attendees who hear your message, understand it and like it, but don’t feel they are ready to do it themselves.
This method for generating freelance client business is easy and free — and Chambers of Commerce will promote you to local businesses at no cost.
How to Get Started
Decide on your Seminar Content
Plan on a one-hour (minimum) breakfast or lunch-and-learn talk. It should be a topic you know well, since you will undoubtedly be asked questions during your talk. Don’t worry about being a total subject expert — remember, your audience will be spa owners, restaurateurs, remodeling contractors, dentists and other small-business owners who handle their own marketing and PR, but don’t have any training in it.
Create an outline to help guide you as you develop your talk and seminar materials. For example, if you are giving a talk on small-business advertising, your content might be divided like this:
- Setting an Advertising Budget
- Defining your Customers
- Creating your Message
- The Basics of Advertising Layout
- Comparing and Buying Media
- Tracking your Results
If you can do 10 minutes on each topic, you have a one-hour seminar!
Add information under each heading to further flesh out your talk, like so…
Setting an Advertising Budget
- Tie the budget to sales
- Include pre-buy planning and post-buy tracking
- How agency discounts work
Defining your Customers
- Age, gender, race, location, parents, married, single
Creating your Message
- Create a need and offer a solution
- Sell the benefits, not the product
- Selling to women
- Selling to men
The Basics of Advertising Layout
- Placing elements with an inverted 6
- Designing for men
- Designing for women
Comparing and Buying Media
- Media kits
- CPM calculation
- Through agencies
- Negotiating discounts
Tracking your Results
- Web stats
Prepare Your Materials
You’ll need a professional brochure (.pdf) and whatever you’ll be passing out to attendees to show the Chamber when you pitch the idea.
You will need to provide a handout the small-business owners will be able to take home and that has some value, so a one-page outline won’t cut it. Take some time to create a short workbook. It could be 15-20 pages in a $1.99 three-ring binder with a cover page. Your pages could include work samples you review during your talk and helpful articles attendees can read later.
A Chamber of Commerce may be hesitant to schedule and promote a speaker who has never done this before. For this reason, you’ll need to present them with your seminar materials, which must provide value to their members. A professional brochure, attendee workbook and Website or Web page will go a long way to getting you this gig.
Write and Rehearse Your Presentation
Practice delivering your presentation, even by yourself, and time the length. Try to notice if you are rushing.
Definitely create content that is longer than you need. If you get nervous and talk fast, you will feel foolish if you promise a 60-minute seminar and are finished after 40 minutes. Include unadvertised, “bonus” material you can use if you run short or skip if you don’t need it.
You may very well get 10 or more minutes of questions, but don’t plan on it. Have unadvertised bonus material ready if you want to build in a Q&A session.
Don’t sell your services during the presentation, just give good, how-to information that makes it worth everyone’s time to attend. Of course there will be much more information small-business owners will need, and now they will know where they can get it — by hiring you.
Create a Website
It doesn’t have to be more than one page, but a professional-looking site that promotes your seminar will help potential Chambers and attendees feel more confident about hiring you or coming to your talk. A one-page site with a download of your brochure should be sufficient. This website was created using a $50 GoDaddy Managed Hosting WordPress package. You can also create a WordPress site for free.
Visit the website of your local Chamber of Commerce. Check to see if they offer continuing education classes or seminars. If they don’t have any posted on their website, it doesn’t mean they don’t offer them. Call and ask the receptionist which person is the appropriate contact for you to send your materials.
Contact the appropriate person and offer the Chamber a free seminar. Include your brochure, complete attendee workbook and a link to your Web page. If the Chamber offers fee-based seminars, tell them you will let them keep 100 percent of the attendee fees.
What if the Chamber likes your idea but needs a reference or won’t take a chance on a new speaker? Hold your own seminar and promote it free through the local media.
Negotiate space with a centrally located restaurant that has a meeting room and free parking. Offer to trade your services to the restaurant in exchange for them letting you use their meeting room for a seminar. You might need to pay a $100 clean up fee, or buy $100 worth of snacks and drinks, but your first client should be at least $500.
Publicize your free seminar in local newspapers and other media outlets. Get on local-access cable TV bulletin boards. Put up signs at the restaurant where you’ll hold the event.
Don’t invite Chambers to your first talk — you may not be able to promote your event as well as a Chamber can and you won’t know what your attendance will be. If your talk goes well, add testimonials to your brochure, then start sending it to area Chambers of Commerce.
How to Expand and Make More Money
If you get a very positive response to your free small-business seminar, you have two options for expanding.
You can create a series of seminars, repeating each one every three months. Remember, people who want to come to your seminar may be busy the first time you hold it, so offer it three to four times each year. If you have a series of different seminars, small-business owners who don’t hire you after attending your first topic will be more likely to hire you if they attend another session.
Another way to expand your speaking engagements is to create three-hour seminars and charge $50 per attendee. You can use your free, one-hour overview seminars to drum up business for the paid, three-hour, in-depth seminars (but you’d still need to provide value in the one-hour seminar). If just 10 business owners attend your seminar, you’ll make $500 for a morning talk — imagine if you could do that in a different town each day!
Upsell the seminar by offering to analyze and give feedback and suggestions on attendee brochures, websites or ads for $25. Allow attendees to send their materials to you in advance so you can give them your report at the meeting. Or, tell attendees to bring materials with them and decide at the seminar if they want the $25 review.
Don’t be a Chicken!
If you don’t have the confidence in yourself to present a seminas because you don’t think you’re “smart enough,” remember, the one thing that separates most successful entrepreneurs from those who work paycheck to paycheck is that entrepreneurs had the guts to try. That’s it.
Many of the local business owners who will attend your seminars aren’t rocket scientists and may not have even finished college. They’d love to sit down with you and pick your brain about what you know and hear your suggestions. Consider a seminar you give like a one-one-one talk with a client, only more people are listening in.
Even if you’re sure you don’t have what it takes, go through the steps and prepare to do it for the heck of it. Create your seminar content, develop your brochure, create your workbook, rehearse your presentation. No one is going to force you to do the seminar — but at lest it’s ready if you change your mind. And once you have everything finished and see how it looks, you might find you’re more confident and ready to give it a try.
It doesn’t cost a thing to prepare for success!