We’ve all been there. Unless you have a marketing degree or something like a quarter century of experience in sales, turning to the Internet with stars in your eyes made you overlook one simple fact: you probably had no idea what you were getting into.
Maybe you grabbed some books from the library, joined a Work at Home forum, signed up to an Internet Marketing newsletter or two. As the depth of the undertaking hit you, instead of doing what a sane person would have done, you dove in head-first, credit card in hand, hoping to scoop up all the knowledge that was “out there”. Some time later, you came up for air, broke, disillusioned and desperate to “crack the code.” Well, finally, you’ve come to the right place.
All the Internet Marketing e-books in the world won’t help you, if you can’t practice marketing on the Internet! So, get a freelance account and start working.
Despite the reputation of freelance bidding sites such as Guru.com, there aren’t too many places where you can go in, dumb as a box of rocks as far as marketing knowledge and have a chance to polish those rocks into marketing gems. If you try this on a blog, you’ll be ignored. If you try this on Google AdWords, you’ll lose your shirt. I’ll show you why I think Guru.com is the place to hone your marketing skills.
In order to do this in the most compelling way, I’m going to grab an Internet Marketing e-book off my hard drive. We’ll look at the bullet points and translate it into action. When you think about it, this is exactly what ethical e-book authors want you to do. The thing is, they’re telling you to update a blog, fix your e-commerce site or trick out your eBay store or other online holding. What’s usually missing is the feedback loop. How will you know if what they are suggesting works? You guessed it: traffic. But Wait! Remember the two types of traffic? Now what? Arrgh! Let’s put all that angst aside and focus on marketing.
I’ve paraphrased the table of contents and added two of my own – I expect you’ll find similar outlines in your own dusty PDF collection. Let’s dive in, again.
Branding, Part One
You may want to consider your brand before you create your Guru.com account. The registration form gives you a chance to personalize a link to your landing page on Guru.com. While it can be related to a domain, a domain is not required. For example, my brand on Guru.com is ParserMonster.
Choosing a Market
You may suck at marketing, but you still should know that you can’t buy a basketball at McDonalds. The first thing Internet Marketing e-books tell you to do is to consider what you want to sell. As you’ll see in the brainstorming section, you’ll get very little practice with this exercise. Research is not the same as entering a market to see if you can sell anything!
Guru.com helps you create a profile. Think of it as the shingle you hang outside of your shop. As this is your primary marketing tool, this is where you will practice until you get it right. You can create up to ten profiles.
Brainstorming for a Niche
Internet Marketing e-books are very good at giving you links to resources for brainstorming. Some are even clever. However, you don’t need to brainstorm. Let me tell you why. It doesn’t do you any good to discover that 60,000 people a month searched for how to stop twitching while talking to attractive people, unless you already know how to help the twitchers. I’m not talking about selling them an e-book you found via ClickBank. Unless you are able to offer a truly unique solution, you’re better off focusing on what you can offer.
Brainstorming is a process by which you can unlock hidden ideas. When it comes to marketing your skills, it’s more important to find out if anyone is looking for what you have to offer. Save those brainstorming ideas until you become good enough to market them profitably.
Guru.com can show you exactly where you should be focusing on your skills. By first selecting a broad category, you can see where potential niches exist. Guru.com calls them skill subcategories. You can choose up to five of them. This helps you later on, as you will only be able to bid on projects that match your criteria. See? You’re going to find out if anybody is actively searching for what you have to offer!
After selecting your skills, you will zero in on the industry or industries where your skills have been used. You can choose up to five industries. This exercise really helps you segment the marketplace. From now on, you must imagine yourself talking to executives from these industries. If you have chosen truthfully, you should actually have some experience in talking with key industry personnel.
Branding, Part Two
While there are plenty of freelancers with incomplete profiles who are making money, Guru.com gives you many opportunities to build out your profiles. Why not give yourself an edge? Create a memorable tagline, add a logo and make sure you have a website where you can display your portfolio!
When you click Create a Profile, you get a new screen that displays a web address link. This is not your customized link! You’ll see that after you’ve activated your first profile and visited your landing page. Try to get your profile completeness up to the maximum of 80%.
You gotta eat. Internet Marketing e-books point out the startling fact that your niche must have a large enough number of potential customers in order for you to make any money from it. This is usually accompanied by a lame joke about selling horse buggy whips, 8-track cartridges or some such item. Sure, that drives home the point, but you won’t listen. That’s because it’s all theory. It’s not until you try to sell horse buggy whips that you realize what a tough market you’ve chosen!
Guru.com shows you all of the active projects that match your profile criteria. If days and days go by without many new project postings, you may be in a moribund market. Go back and make changes to your profile category!
Internet marketing e-books are good at explaining what motivates people to purchase products. You’ve seen a dozen of these hot button issues. The e-books go on to tell you how to detect if your niche is filled with motivated buyers. It’s good advice, but how do we practice this?
How does Guru.com help you determine if there are motivated buyers in your chosen niche? Read the project postings! The language and tone of the post sometimes gives you a starkly clear picture of how badly an employer needs help:
- Looming deadlines
- Half-finished projects abandoned by other freelancers
- Sub-par work needing improvements
The clues are right there, if you’ll just look for them.
Market intelligence, snooping on the competition, getting insider information. Internet Marketing e-books may go into a lot of detail or they may gloss over it. There are many areas where you could study your competition and you could waste valuable time sniffing around the wrong places. Besides, if you can’t get people to your website, anyway, none of the information can help you.
Guru.com doesn’t exactly make this easy for you. But as you lose out to other bidders, the best intel comes from studying the profile of the winning bidder. If you were undercut on the bid, think about what that means in your niche. Are you overpricing your offering? Does it make sense to match such a low bid in the future? Did the winner represent an outsourcing company that can afford to work at much lower rates?
To find out what the winning bidder earned, you have to spy on the employer after the project is paid. This usually isn’t worth the trouble, so only do it if you think it will improve your marketing skills.
If you were not outbid, chances are your rating was not good enough to instill confidence in the employer. Compare your rating to that of the winning bidder. Look at the winning bidder’s profile for clues.
Ask questions in the forum. The professionals who answer questions are experienced. Their feedback is valuable, especially when you run into some strange behavior for the first time:
Internet Marketing e-books will bury you under an avalanche of information, if you let them. Keywords, SEO, copywriting, conversion rates. All good information. Or maybe not. You won’t know because you totally suck at marketing, remember? How do you know for sure the information is invalid and not your implementation of it?
Keywords in your niche should be clear signals to potential employers that you know your stuff. This doesn’t mean slinging jargon around. Some employers don’t know that they need you, so jargon is not going to help. This is the payoff from spending time reading project postings. You should have an idea of the words employers use to describe their problems. Your profile should highlight those words. Ultimately, all you have is your profile. (Only one can be active at a time.) Keep tweaking it!
I have gone about learning this marketing stuff in almost every way imaginable, from running an eBay store to selling real estate online to building microsites. Along the way, I’ve joined ClickBank, affiliate networks and CPA networks (Cost per action – think ringtones.)
Using messages to connect solutions with ready, willing and able buyers is my idea of marketing. The whole point of Internet Marketing is to make a living. That’s why people who are uncomfortable with asking for money have a hard time making any! Only with practice will you get better at it.
Guru.com is one way to actively participate in Internet Marketing when you have a marketable skill. The lessons you learn along the way will help you with your website. The work ethic will do you some good, because you really have to get that get-rich-quick stuff out of your head.
If you really don’t have a skill that you feel qualified to peddle, by all means, dust off the e-books and learn how to be a successful affiliate or six-figure blogger. The key idea is to find a way to practice in the live marketplace.
- I wasn’t paid for this post.
- I actually made some money on Guru.com. Then I left it.
- Later, I rebranded my new account from Digital Tinker (which you see in the images)
- I do not claim to be an expert marketer (read Keep Your Ize on the Prize)
- Guru.com can be a frustrating experience for newcomers and veterans alike.
- Your Mileage May Vary, Results Not Typical, Weight Gain is a possible side-effect of sitting at computer all day, weed kills, weed killer isn’t much better
Guru.com has been a rewarding learning experience for me. My hope is that if you totally suck at marketing, you recognize that research does not equal practice. Check out Emory Rowland’s very balanced review of Guru.com and give it a go!