The New Me: Reinventing My Solo Business

by Laura Foley, Cheater of Death by PowerPoint

I’m 46 years old and I have been freelancing on and off since 1995. I started out in graphic design when waxers and stat cameras were state-of-the art and PageMaker run on a DOS PC was cutting edge. So when I was faced with an “adapt or die” situation with the decline of print marketing, I knew I had to shift the focus of my graphic design business.

I love print design, but by the mid-2000s electronic communication was blowing print out of the water and I was watching my clients bail out on me left and right. People didn’t want letterhead anymore, they wanted snazzy new websites and email newsletter templates. I had to change my business model if I wanted to survive in the New Economy.

My first thought was to become a Web designer. Trouble is, I stink at it. The nearest art school is 70 miles away, so the midweek classes didn’t work with my schedule as the mother of two young boys. I was terrible at Flash animation, and making banner ads seemed boring to me. Besides, new graduates are better, faster, and less expensive to hire.

Then I thought about PowerPoint. I’m good at it since I’ve been using it since 1989. I’ve been hired again and again by the same clients for big PowerPoint presentations. I can do the same things in PowerPoint that I enjoy doing for print, like copywriting and editing, creating infographics, and simplifying complex information. My age works for me because I am seen more as a consultant than a freelancer. Best of all, since people are so used to seeing lousy PowerPoint, when they see my work they think I’m a genius.

I’d even developed a tagline for what I do: Cheating Death by PowerPoint.

I had my new direction. Now I needed new clients. I had never marketed my business before, having always relied on referrals. But I had to tell the world about my new business and my old clients thought of me as a graphic design generalist and not a PowerPoint specialist, so I signed up for a Marketing Mentor “free session.”

Ilise recommended that I join the “basic marketing group,” which surprised me because I had been in business for so long. But I quickly realized that this was exactly the right place for me to start because I wasn’t doing a lot of what I learned are the basics of marketing my business.

Thinking of what I do as a business was the crucial first step. Once I made the mental shift from “I’m Laura M. Foley Design” to “My business is Laura M. Foley Design” I was more easily able to market my services.

For the first time in my life I picked up the phone and started cold calling. At first it was difficult, but as it turned out my worst call was the very first one—the person I spoke to suggested I call back in a couple of years then hung up on me. Now I’m completely unafraid to talk myself up in call after call. I use Highrise, a free online service to track my calls and I have an Excel spreadsheet to note progress against my goal of 1,000 cold calls a year.

The results of all the calling? I’ve added loads of people to my newsletter mailing list, which goes out monthly to remind people of who I am and what I do, and am in discussions with two businesses about redesigning their main PowerPoint decks and conducting daylong workshops about how to design better presentations.

The results of my other marketing initiatives have been good as well. I’ve been getting more calls from prospects based on what they’ve seen on my website (one of which turned into an in-house training session and talks about a major redesign), and my blogging and video creation have earned me the title of PowerPoint thought leader.

I have been in discussions about PowerPoint design with the Marketing Manager of a $500M company. My public speaking gigs at a local college have made me a more confident presenter and give me the referrals and experience I need to promote my daylong Cheating Death by PowerPoint program.

Things are moving in a more positive direction, I’m happier with my work, and I’m starting to land more higher-paying jobs than ever before. I’ve adapted, and I’m thriving!

Have you reinvented yourself? Or are you struggling to do so? Share you story here…you’re definitely not alone!

Laura Foley helps her clients to Cheat Death by PowerPoint. A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, she has helped clients such as Procter & Gamble, Harvard Business School, Juniper Networks, and Eloqua to become better PowerPoint communicators. She lives with her husband and two sons in Central Massachusetts.


2 thoughts on “The New Me: Reinventing My Solo Business

  1. Geoff Strehlow

    Laura Foley, very inspirational message. As an in-house about to be outsourced, I am on the verge of freelancing for the first time, your article says adapting to change can be done. Thank you.