Elisa Camahort, 40, spent a weekend feeling sorry that she hadn't been laid off.
Her employer, a high-tech marketing company, had released a layoff list, and she wasn't on it. She chewed on the "time for something different" idea all weekend. She was burned out from traveling and working long hours. The layoff package was good. She made her decision: she would ask to be included on that list.
She planned to take a couple of months off to relax and then decide what was next, but along with her severance package, the company offered her a four-month consulting project that she could do from home. Less than a week later, she was back to work. That was 18 months ago, and she hasn't slowed down yet.
Her next gig was writing a marketing presentation for another company. And then she got into blogs (blog is short for "Web log"). "I didn't know any HTML," she said in a telephone interview. "You don't have to. I became fascinated by the blogging community and online communities in general. They are proactive. People are choosing to be marketed to, seeking it out, begging to have this stuff pushed in their faces. It's a very powerful, untapped potential.
She saw the marketing possibilities of blogging.
She put her resume online and started her "slacker musings" blog. "I'm not good at chilling," she acknowledged. "I was networking, consulting and just keeping in touch." She added more categories to her personal blog - book, restaurant, movie and music reviews; her thoughts about blogs, cats, politics and even an American Idol blog. Whatever she wanted to blog about, she did.
During lunch with a PR friend who works with theaters, Elisa saw a way to connect up the PR, marketing and blogging dots. She worked up a proposal to blog for a theater. It was accepted. Over the next two shows, online ticket sales doubled.
"Of course people know that I'm blogging for the theaters," Elisa said, "but I do something more than a review of the stage production. I establish a relationship with the audience by giving a glimpse backstage, a behind the scenes look."
With that success in hand, she pitched her blogging-for-theater services and got two more jobs.
She started Worker Bees, a marketing company. In addition to traditional marketing services for high-tech companies, Worker Bees uses "word-of-keyboard" to create buzz for smaller businesses and non-profits. Elisa calls it "leveraging the online creative universe."
She believes that, "Every marketing person will have to start thinking about this. It's easy to do, and there are more and more people like me who are helping people to do it."
Not only is she always looking for opportunities, she is excellent at turning possibilities into her opportunities.
She volunteered to blog for the Santa Clara County (California) Democrats. Her pitch referred them to the politics blog already on her site.
She saw that Silicon Valley Metro, a local newspaper, was looking for a full-time food writer. Elisa is a vegetarian. Vegans are a large group in the San Francisco Bay area, but would the paper want a full-time vegetarian food writer? Probably not. That didn't stop her. With a little research time, she found the right editor's e-mail address and pitched her idea: a column, not just on vegetarian restaurants, but also about which restaurants offer great choices for the veggie folks. Five months later she was given a once-a-month column, "Silicon Veggie."
Elisa found that blogging is also about networking - making both new connections and reconnections with people from her past. "People I went to high school with have contacted me because of my blogs," she said. "I started blogging about the TV show American Idol just because I got hooked on it. And some guy in Switzerland linked his site to that blog because they don't get the program in Switzerland."
Elisa offered some advice for blogging your way to a new career:
"Have Some Passion: Find something to write about that you can be passionate about. Blogging means you are writing a lot, and research is often behind a lot of that writing, so it helps to be really interested in the topic. Later, you might be hired to blog about something that inspires less passion, but your writing will never get much notice to begin with (and get you that paying gig) if you're not excited to be writing.
"Have Some Chutzpah: Create your opportunities ... Be the first one out there pitching your idea, and ask for the opportunity. You'll be surprised at the response you'll get. Being your own boss means you're not waiting for a classified ad or listing to prompt you to apply for a gig. You're pitching your services to people who may not know they need them!
"Don't Forget to Network: Most of the theaters I've worked with were either run by people I knew, or I could approach them with the referral of a mutual colleague. Choosing theater to focus on first was somewhat dictated by my familiarity with that world. Again, that's why finding something you're passionate about and interested in is important. You'll probably already have some kind of network set up in that area."
Elisa's personal blog is at: homepage.mac.com/elisa_camahort/iblog/index.html.
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