I never would have imagined it were possible. Given that there was no internet when I was a teenager, running my own business over the internet is obviously not something I’ve wanted to do forever.
In fact, running my own business at all only came to me as an option fairly late in the game. I was over 40 when I started this business.
Recently, Naomi Dunford suggested some questions to consider that might help me explain to you what that business actually is and where it might be going from here.
What’s your game? What do you do?
I help social science and humanities academics do their jobs better, or figure out how to make their best contribution with their knowledge, skills, and general brilliance.
I start from whatever problem a particular client has identified:
- trying to balance the multiple demands of their job
- trying to find a job
- needing to write a grant proposal
- wanting to publish more
- finding a way to make the job they have more like the one they want.
The basic service I offer is coaching, delivered by phone. I listen, ask questions, suggest strategies, and provide soft accountability when needed.
I help the client figure out what works best for them, and provide some structure and encouragement to actually make changes in the way they do things.
I also review documents like grant proposals and job application letters and make suggestions so that their awesomeness is communicated in the best possible way.
Why do you do it? Do you love it, or do you just have one of those creepy knacks?
I genuinely believe that a lot of humanities and social science research and scholarship is interesting and important, even if it has no direct instrumental application. I think our society is a better place for having such interesting literary, historical, philosophical, cultural studies, sociology, etc. scholars in our midst.
And I think most people make a better contribution when they love their job, feel valued, get lots of rest, and have interests outside of work.
I love it when my clients get excited about their work again. I love seeing how much they can accomplish when they believe in the value of their contribution.
But I also have a creepy knack for seeing stuff it is often hard to see on your own. Being a sociologist, I often put personal troubles in their structural context, zooming out to locate the problem and find good strategies for tackling it.
I am a relentless optimist, which helps.
Who are your customers? What kind of people would need or want what you offer?
Academics in the humanities and social sciences.
- people in the first few years of an academic appointment
- people finishing up their PhD and planning their post-PhD careers
- mid-career academics who are struggling with some aspect of their work or want to strike out in a new direction
- mid-career academics who want to plan the next phase of their career, figure out some priorities, and really shine
What’s your marketing USP? Why should I buy from you instead of the other losers?
I work for my client. My goal is to help them figure out how to do the thing they do better, with less stress and more joy. Or figure out what else they could do that would use their unique knowledge and talents and be less stressful and bring them more joy.
I don’t work for the university, or the government, or anyone else with an agenda for how higher education should be. I’m not trying to make my client fit someone else’s mold better.
I don’t start from an assumption that anyone with a PhD should want a job in a research intensive university and all other careers (including working in a teaching focused institution) are a compromise or a failure.
I’ve been an academic and know many happy successful ones. I understand the system (and it’s foibles). I’ve also made a career change and know how scary that can be.
What’s next for you? What’s the big plan?
I am still building a client base of coaching clients. This is going well but I would like to have more regular clients.
Workshops (in person, or as online or teleclasses) for small groups would offer a different price point for potential clients. I’m still figuring out good topics for these.
I also want to find ways to connect with people in person. I have been told that I’m an inspiring speaker, and I love speaking to large groups, so I am looking for ways to do that.
In the meantime, I’m focusing on bringing what I have to offer to the people who need it, through my own blog, twitter, online forums, etc. I am also going to be part of the new team of careers bloggers at University Affairs.