Positioning Your Business

Continuing with my observations from the Space Foundation workshop, today, I’ll be talking about establishing yourself as a small-business service provider. What follows will be a mix of the presenters’ thoughts and my own.

Questions to Ask Yourself

The speaker for this session was Diane Dimeff, Chief Advisor for the Space Foundation. She started by asking the participants ten questions to help us get our minds focused in the right direction. While her questions were geared more toward companies building products, they can apply just as well to those providing services, such as technical writing and editing. Or, if you’re one of those go-getters who’s working with a group of entrepreneurs developing a new product, the questions will also apply to you.

  1. What is the industry or customer problem that your innovation, technology, or service solves?
  2. Why is this problem significant enough to warrant the creation of a new company or product?
  3. What is the “secret sauce” that differentiates you from your competitors?
  4. Who is the competition now and who would it be in the future? Why is your solution better than your competitors’?
  5. What is the cost/time investment to make your innovation/product/service customer ready?
  6. Who will invest in the technology? Who will champion your product? What type of investment is necessary? Do customers need to be an early adopter to use your tech?
  7. What is the value of your product compared to its projected cost?
  8. Once successful, how do you protect your intellectual property (I.P.)?
  9. What is the potential revenue?
  10. Who is on the team?

How These Questions Look to a Tech Writing Entrepreneur

What is the industry or customer problem that your innovation, technology, or service solves?

I wish I’d had these questions available to me when I was first starting out and trying to market myself: I could have better focused my message. However, now that I’ve had a chance to work for a while, I would say that my target customer is a business focused on civil or commercial space. The problem these companies often face is that they lack the revenue or workload to justify hiring a full-time technical writer.

Why is this problem significant enough to warrant the creation of a new company or product?

New space companies are forming more and more often now. As these entrepreneurs struggle to get started, they are concentrating primarily on the tech: building the rocket, engine, satellite, widget, what have you. However, they still need to write and edit proposals and engineering documents. Paperwork is inevitable when working in the space industry…and others, too.

What is the “secret sauce” that differentiates you from your competitors?

Where I become useful is with companies that need a tech writer who has worked in the industry long enough to “speak Space.” After 13 years in the business, I’m no longer that same guy who asked an engine customer, “What’s a turbopump?” I know the acronyms and can figure out where the subjects, verbs, and objects are. As a bonus, I work pretty quickly, too.

Who is the competition now and who would it be in the future? Why is your solution better than your competitors’?

My competition would be professional proposal shops who hire proposal or technical writers to crank out content. They might have people who speak Space, but not necessarily. And they also might not have the network in the industry that I do if questions come up.

What is the cost/time investment to make your innovation/product/service customer ready?

Since I’m not building hardware, all I needed to get started, really, were a laptop and a fresh set of business cards.

Who will invest in the technology? Who will champion your product? What type of investment is necessary? Do customers need to be an early adopter to use your tech?

Again, I’m not building hardware, so this didn’t really apply to me. However, when it comes to “champions,” it helps to have friends in high places scattered around the space business.

What is the value of your product compared to its projected cost?

I charge an hourly rate that’s competitive with the industry and I produce solid, clearly written content early or on time.

Once successful, how do you protect your intellectual property (I.P.)?

Eventually, I need to publish my book about about the “secrets of my success,” but otherwise, I don’t have much I.P. to speak of.

What is the potential revenue?

Sorry, folks, that’s proprietary. However, the reality is that I’m paying my bills, nearly debt free, and able to afford to take a decent vacation now and then.  So: enough revenue, for now.

Who is on the team?

Just me, in all of my Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, scruffy goodness. Here to help.

 

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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