Dear Sam: I am a recently retired design engineer. I created an LLC to do freelance design engineering in retirement. In this era of Covid-19, I feel that it’s not practical or safe to get out there and make contacts face-to-face. So, I thought that a better idea would be to gain exposure using digital social media, but I’m not sure the best way to go about it. Friends and colleagues have mentioned various social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and creating a website. I’m not very fluent in all of that, and frankly, the options are rather dizzying to me. I don’t want to get dragged into the social media “weeds.” I feel that I might end up spending a considerable amount of time on all of that rather than actual design engineering. Can you provide your thoughts and suggestions? — Ken
Dear Ken: You are not alone. So many individuals leverage their expertise to engage in a second-act career. Deciding how to promote your engineering venture would undoubtedly be dizzying if trying to engage across each of those social media platforms. Not only would you need to build your profile on each of those platforms, but you would have to curate content for each, establish a routine posting cadence, and engage your followers through active involvement. This indeed would take a lot of time and attention away from your craft.
While social media is a great marketing tool and often very inexpensive, perhaps choose one platform on which to build your brand. As you are leveraging your professional career to fuel your post-retirement venture, I would recommend utilizing LinkedIn to build your brand. Using LinkedIn would allow you to tell your professional story to potential clients, to share examples of your work, to create product showcases and even a company page, and to solicit recommendations of your work. In essence, if you built a personal LinkedIn profile with an adjacent company page, that would serve as your digital footprint and a comprehensive way to market your services.
In addition to having a profile, you would, of course, want to engage your target audience. You may want to research advertising opportunities on LinkedIn, but if you have a robust professional network, simply connecting with those in your orbit could provide the awareness you need to start having clients trickle in. You would also want to establish a posting cadence your network can rely on, meaning creating a structure to your daily posting activity to further show your presence and subject matter expertise. You can also join affinity groups on LinkedIn so that you have access to connect with like-minded members, follow hashtags to pull relevant content into your news feed, and then actively spend 10-15 minutes minimum per day professionally commenting on such content to evangelize your expertise and brand.
Lastly, you may want to develop strategic pieces of marketing collateral, perhaps starting out with a one-page overview of your professional story and how your journey positions you with the expertise you are now offering clients. When I am working with entrepreneurs, I often create their resumes to validate their full professional chronology, build the content for their LinkedIn profile, and write an adjacent one-page bio that they can provide to networking contacts and potential clients. Marketing your business, especially when your business is based on your professional area of expertise, is much like performing a job search in that you are promoting your competitive differentiators to your target audience. Perhaps starting simple with a personal LinkedIn profile and a one-page overview of your expertise and services will make your post-retirement venture a little less daunting. I wish you much ongoing success!