doing spec work kenny soto

Getting a Job After College, Spec Work is The Best Method

What is Spec Work?

I’d like to preface this article with where this idea came from—Gary Vaynerchuk. I have been following Gary for exactly over a year now, and one of the very first doubts about him came when he talked about doing spec work (free services) for people for business development and expanding reach.

Spec work is any kind of creative work, either partial or completed, submitted by designers to prospective clients before designers secure both their work and equitable fees. Under these conditions, designers will often be asked to submit work in the guise of a contest or an entry exam on existing jobs as a “test” of their skill.”

I decided that instead of just taking what he said and accepting it, that I would test it for myself (which in retrospect, is what he wanted his viewers to do when he talked about the subject). The story below is how it all happened and how it can help you if you’re still in college or just graduated, and you’re looking to grow in your industry.

Finding a need, getting the client.

Now, this article focuses on the context of my particular skills—skills in digital marketing (SEO, web development, and Social Media Marketing) that I used to get spec work. Although this may not apply to all industries, if your skills map to working on being creative and providing services for a client that don’t require a license of specific certifications, this can work for you. My first step in this process was to find a customer that needed my help. I knew from the start that I’d be doing this work for an exchange outside of financial compensation, perhaps a referral to a job after college or something else.

While I was at my college’s local bar, Grill On The Hill, I felt the need to have more of my college friends become more aware of what the bar offered. It was an excellent place that was just starting out, and whenever I went, there were a lot of locals but, not enough college students. One evening, while hanging out with my fraternity brothers, I saw one of the bar’s owners outside. I walked to him, introduced myself and what I do, and told him that I would market his bar online—for free.
Obviously, there was a catch. I was still figuring out what that would be myself—when I was pitching to the owner. Several days later I was hired as the bars digital marketing consultant with a small monthly budget to do Facebook marketing and to create their website with the help of one of the bartenders there. It was my second time creating a website and creating any paid media on Facebook.

What did I get in return from the experience?

Besides gaining valuable experience in doing Facebook ads (the bar was my second client at my time), I was able to learn more about my craft in a holistic way. I began to understand that marketing doesn’t work without tying your campaign goals to actual business goals that drive revenue—it’s not enough to promote a bar’s event to everyone then, making sure you promote it to the ideal customers (people who spend money and drive revenue). In return, besides getting experience, the bar gave me a free beer (and occasionally a free meal) once to twice a week for eight months. This showed me that even if you aren’t making an income for the work you do for someone, there can always be an exchange of equal value for said work. That’s the main message I want to drive home, especially for college students, doing work someone doesn’t necessarily need to equate to you making money.

The hidden value in working for free

We are taught that work has to produce income, and it doesn’t. Work can help you build your network. Work can help you expose yourself to new ideas and possibilities. Instead of focusing on monetary gain, focus your job for skills-based learning. It’s because of my experience working at Grill on the Hill that, it gave me the opportunity to see what marketing services I could pitch to my college and try my hand at making them my first paid client (you can find out more about that story here).

I’d love to know your thoughts on this article. Do you think work should only be done for monetary gain/income? Have you done similar work in exchange for services, experience, etc.? Let’s chat in the comments section down below!

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How Landed My First Paid Account as a Consultant at 22 Kenny Soto

My 1st Client as a Digital Marketing Consultant at 22

Believe it or not, I was able to convince my college to hire me. I’m not talking about work study, being a bookstore stockboy, or being a research assistant for a professor. I’m talking about closing a deal for thousands of dollars. In this post, I’ll provide some back story as to how I was able to have the opportunity to even come up with the pitch, the pitch itself, and the lessons learned from the work. As a small disclaimer, as a student I respect my university tremendously—as a consultant, I learned from them what it means when people say large organizations are “slow.”

It all starts with finding a need.

How did I come up with the idea of even pursuing this pitch? It all started with accessing the problem my college had—we had severe budget cuts during the fiscal year. The only reason I was privy to this information was due to my role as student body president. During the first few meetings with school administration during my last academic year in college, I learned that our college, along with other CUNYs, hadn’t met their goal that the Board of Trustees set for getting more students.

The lack of increase in tuition was one of four factors that contributed to the millions in budget cuts that we’re going to occur. After sitting down and actually contemplating on why this particular problem was occurring, it dawned on me that I should check out the college’s social media & paid search marketing efforts. Low and behold, they weren’t launching any paid ads or producing content of any value to potential students or the parents of those students. This was my in, the opportunity I was looking for.

Devising the pitch.

Coming up with something of real worth to present to school administration wasn’t easy. It took me two weeks just to have the stones even to share this idea with my Fraternity brothers for feedback. After carefully thinking about what I learned from both my internship and doing pro bono digital marketing for a bar near campus (I still got something out of it, free food and free beer which wasn’t a bad deal if I do say so myself) I came up with a 43-slide deck for my presentation.

The reason why this deck was so long, and by all means I don’t recommend doing something this long for any presentation, was because I knew I wouldn’t have been taken seriously (at the end of the day, I’m too young to be taken seriously for anything right now). If I didn’t make sure I showed both school admin and the marketing department that not only I knew what I was talking about—but, that I also put it into the context of their specific needs, none of this would have worked. Also, I had already assembled a small team of two other student government members that would help me in my efforts; this increased their confidence in my ability to not only create a sound project but, also execute on it.

Negotiating the price.

The two most important lessons I gained from the overall experience was:

  1. Always write the service contract yourself.
  2. Bid high for a high price.

If it weren’t for a close friend of mine, I would have left a considerable amount of money on the table. I believe the main reason why the college administration agreed to pay my team and me as much as they did, was because the labor was relatively cheap in terms of industry standards and we wrote the whole contract ourselves. It also helps that they didn’t go through the hassle of signing it but, that’s beside the point. If a client is willing to pay you without signing a contract for whatever reason you still want them to do so, it puts both of you in a position where each party is fully committed to each other’s success. I believe this was the first sign that there was only going to be so much we could have done for them.

The challenge I’m glad I faced early on.

The biggest challenge with working for any big client as a digital markeitng consultant is this—the internal communications process is slow as hell, meaning that you’re going to have to plan at least two weeks ahead to get anything approved for launch. I lacked experience in this one aspect of doing digital marketing consulting; I didn’t anticipate that the one deterrent to my success would be not preparing for slow communication in between tasks. Although, I wasn’t successful in fully executing on the marketing plan I was at the very least, able to show the importance of why their efforts should be focused primarily on social and search advertising and not on subway or television ads.

Other lessons I learned were:

Your client, regardless of their size, will want all reports on a consistent basis. It’s important to let them know early on that marketing is a marathon and not a sprint. Metrics don’t improve overnight. You want to at least report on new ideas you’re working on so they can add their insight into the mix.
Have a dedicated team member to set up phone calls for Q & A whenever needed. If you’re this person, you have the hardest job. Client retention is key to recurring income. My biggest regret is not giving enough attention to thinking about building a long term relationship with my college so I could have had them as a client after I graduated.* Your team’s size should reflect the size of the account.

This is something I’ve debated with my colleagues for quite some time now. I still believe that we could have done a better job if we had at least three to four more students on our team. A team of three college students wasn’t enough to solve the problems a big institution like my college had.

Moving forward.

In the end, although I wasn’t successful in the execution of my first account, I at least learned how to get one. That experience has proved invaluable as I continue getting new clients and building my team at digiquation.com, the startup I work at now. Whether it’s in digital marketing or any other consulting practice, it never hurts to start early. Regardless of your age, there is something that you know; that is intrinsic in the experiences you’ve had that can be of value to a client. You just have to figure out how to successfully communicate that—and then have the team and knowledge to execute the plan you’re being paid to do.

*The experience gained from this one part of my collegiate career was the most valuable by far, and I am forever indebted to the City College of New York for giving me a chance to help them. If you check their Facebook page now, you can see the ads they are launching to get more attention. A special thanks to Tammie and Safiyyah, without your help, none of this would have been accomplished.


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Aaron Burden Kenny Soto

“People Get Paid To Think.”

“How do you learn on a daily basis?” “Do you think about what thoughts make up your mind?” “Are you expanding on what you already know?” “How do I make my learning habits more effective?”

I think about these questions on a daily basis, ever since one of my mentors shared this piece of wisdom with me in a recent session: “people get paid to think, Kenny.” I’ve been letting this saturate my thoughts for quite some time now. There’s a reason why not more than twelve months ago if I wanted to meet with a client, I would have had to jump through so many hoops just get an email reply. And now, clients are begging me to give them 30 minutes of my time so that they can buy me lunch.

What purpose does this quote have?

It wasn’t like this before — and now it is. Doing business seems to be easier: mentors want to teach me, and I’m much happier than I used to be. To give some context into why my mentor told me this, I’m currently taking lessons from her on public speaking and time management (two of my weaknesses as of now). She was talking about the importance of planning each week with objectives and goals in mind, and not by what tasks need to get done. And because of this, I’ve made it clearer to myself that my objectives and goals revolve around how much quality learning I could get done in any given time frame.

I live my life on a grid.

I used to think this was a good thing. I know what has to get done and when it has to be completed. It’s helped me survive college. It turns out that it isn’t enough anymore, and this is definitely news to me. It’s been a challenge to start thinking about what I need to do on a daily basis that maximizes my return on investment concerning what and how I learn.

I’ve always been curious about what people around me know; it’s why I’m considered to be a “sponge” to both my peers and my mentors. Now, I have to be more focused on how I learn and, specifically, how to position myself better in the business world. I agree with her. People do get paid to think. Expanding on her thoughts, I offer: “people get paid to think about helping others.” This is something I’ve adopted and I’m still experimenting with, and I realize it might not be the best mantra for everyone. I believe that the highest value I can bring to anyone else is by finding ways to solve their problems. Some might say, and I might agree, that it’s not only thinking but, taking action that people get paid for.

What are your thoughts? What do you believe people get paid for?

Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it.

Baim Hanif Kenny Soto Graduating College

How I Got Employed After Two Weeks Of Graduating College.

If you’ve heard or read my rants for the past 6-8 months, I’m constantly trying to convince people to begin working on their personal brands. Until now, the only results I could show on the benefits of working on my personal brand is being ranked number one for my own name on Google SERPs (search engine return pages). However, now I actually can prove that what I’m alluding to when I’m speaking about my brand is the fact that it only took me two weeks to get a job after I graduated. Mind you; I didn’t even apply for the position.

Read More
emoji marketing

Emoji Marketing: Why you should take it seriously

Changes in marketing & customer service are bound to happen in 2016 due to many things. The use of Emoji marketing is one of them.

If you are selling any product today there are two things you can certainly on agree:

  1. The majority of customers are reaching your organization through mobile usage of the world wide web.
  2. A majority of them contact their friends and family using Emojis.

What does this mean for current business owners and digital marketing professionals? It means that all of us are going to have adapt to the customer’s need of being able to interpret what the emojis mean in the context of a client request—this is the core of emoji marketing today. Now there aren’t many scenarios in which an Emoji is an acceptable use of communication, such as when a customer is filling out an online form for a newsletter or an online support ticket. However, Emoji’s are commonly used when clients are interacting with brands on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, as well as  Snapchat.

 

This, along with the other factors demand that brands be more personal (leveraging employee personal brands) in the marketplace, present a new challenge to anyone who is selling products and services online. Companies who do not hire employees who are familiar with and have in-depth knowledge of how to express themselves with emojis will eventually fall behind to their competitors. There are several reasons as to why there has to be an Emoji guideline integrated into your organization’s community guidelines and marketing strategy.

Who uses Emojis? 

An infographic found on AdWeek states that, “Emojis are used by 92% of the online population.” Emoji is the online equivalent to body language. We live in a culture where we are always pressed for time and if a significant set of eyes can convey my curiosity towards a Facebook post or an emoji of a train can represent I am in transit, I expect the person texting/messaging me to understand what I am saying. Now not everyone uses emojis on their own; there are cases in which emojis are used merely to augment a message (i.e., make it more comical or to convey current facial expressions). What is essentially happening right now is the evolution of online slang.

 

Emojis help to save the user time. Remember when we made a big deal of acronyms such as lol, smh, & lmao that are used tremendously in social media? What’s most important is realizing that this a language that is here to stay  and it has to be considered in every aspect of your online effort as a business owner. Your customers are communicating with them, and you need to as well (wait too long and your competitors will get the higher ground).

Why Emojis matter for customer service?

“Emoji use has grown rapidly since Apple added the emoji keyboard to iOS in 2011…Nearly half of the text on Instagram contains Emoji.” - Emoji Research Team

The overwhelming ubiquitous nature of this language is frightening. The sheer magnitude of how fast Emojis have integrated into our daily lives shows all the more reason as to why companies need to train their employees (especially customer service representatives) in the correct usage of emoji’s online and why business and marketing majors have to learn this in college. If you are in charge of your company’s social media marketing effort here’s something you should know: the growth of Emoji usage is now over 40%!

Emoji Usage Over Time on Instagram

If you are selling any online services or products online, you know that Instagram is a vital tool you can use for brand awareness, hence why it’s so important that your organization starts taking Emojis seriously, now. You aren’t providing your customers with the great services they need if you can’t respond to them in a creative way utilizing Emojis. A great example of how you can start can be found here.

How does this affect college students?

I always try to tie into all of my posts a common theme of sharing my knowledge and making it useful specifically for college students. The reason we are in such an advantageous position is because many of the business professionals, especially in marketing, are going to stick to old forms of copy and customer engagement. Many of them will not make the transition to using Emojis more, and the will be a hindrance to their organization’s success. That’s where we will stand out. Under rigorous investigation, I’ve found at least one university has at least discussed on teaching a course on Emoji, more will follow suit if they are forward-thinking and can keep up with consumer culture.
The times are changing my friends, are you keeping up? Bear in mind, GIFs are an entirely different beast. If you found this article useful comment below and let me know your thoughts. All feedback is welcome; it helps me develop more valuable content for you in the future.

Sources & Recommended Articles:

  1. Report: 92% of Online Consumers Use Emoji (Infographic)
  2. Will emoji become a new language?
  3. GARYVEE’S FIRST 5 #SNAPCHATSECRETS
  4. 2015 Emoji Report (PDF)
  5. Emoji lessons to replace language courses at University of Ulster