Prior to switching to Macs a couple of years ago I was a bit of a techno-phobe. Those of you in business then will remember the debacle of the Millenium Bug when everyone panicked about losing everything on their computer. At the time I was running a specialist building company (secretly a damp and dry rot geek) and due to the utterly ridiculous protection system someone installed on our PC in Dec 1999, we did indeed have all our information wiped off, client records, invoices, surveys, argghhh. I watched it all disappear into a little multi-coloured dot in the middle of the screen and vowed never to trust another computer. But then I found Mac and my faith was restored, my fear banished. Of course, computers are now a lot more user friendly full stop, no dial up tone and having time to make lunch before the internet has cranked itself up, but I’m still a convert.
With all these advances meant my step into social media was made easier, first with Facebook, then the Moregeous blog, then finally with Twitter (and a few extras like Linked-In, etc thrown in). I avoided Twitter for ages, thinking it was purely for sad celeb watchers and reckoned I simply didn’t have time for it alongside everything else. However my business had changed. A car accident in 06 meant I couldn’t do as much of the physical side of the work as I’d always done and paying someone else made costs soar, just what you don’t need when finances are already tight due to the decreased work/increased pain ratio and an unhelpful economy. My property flair, and everyone in property has a certain style, is taking old buildings, unloved, dilapidated and dated, and turing them around, increasingly their beauty, useability and importantly value. Eighteen months out of the game in any real sense due to pain meant low finances available as I’d not been able to properly capitalise on the final boom times, doh! I still bought two more blocks to refubish and rent out but my new limitations meant I could only manage so much work myself, beyond frustrating for a previous property dynamo. Something had to be done!
I had to start doing more work for private clients, as opposed to favours for friends before, fitting kitchens, bathrooms, redesigning spaces, all the things I’d been personally doing to my own rentals and home properties for a decade but now needed to manage my team doing for other people. It was tough, frustrating and hard work at first: trying to get too involved on site, micro-managing, not charging enough, letting others make decisions which weren’t the best option for the house and not finding the right words (undiplomatic Sagittarian). The only way I can describe it was that it was like a steel worker who’d always built cars being asked to manage a team building a boat: same tools, same people, same metals, totally different job, does that make sense?
And where should I advertise? I’d never advertised myself or a business before, all had been done locally and organically. Ahhhhhhhhhh, the penny drops 🙂 At first it was purely word of mouth and the jobs did come in, but I didn’t feel like I was *doing* anything. I took another look a Twitter in Summer 2009 when I’d had a bad bout of pain and wanted to take some control, feel like I was active even though I was mostly at the time inactive. I joined and played at it, not really understanding how it worked and how to get connected with people who could help my business. Then slowly I started to make friends on it, oh that sounds so sad and lonely in your bedroomy but it’s actually true. And once I’d made the friends and properly connected with people, the recommendations suddenly started to flow.
From Summer ’10 to date Twitter had been responsible for bringing us contracts worth nearly £75,000, with lots more in the pipeline. That isn’t all profit for me, I’ve paid builders, trades and suppliers, but by god, it’s gotta be better than advertising and it’s creating good solid work for local people. Clients seem to love the word of mouth effect on Twitter, the fact they can see who else has used you and ask what you’re like, check you out before they buy, as it were. If you are going to let someone into your house, you should know what they’re like, and that absolutely should incorporate what they eat for tea and who they voted for on X-factor 😉
Both present and potential clients can see images as work happens, follow progress and read your mind without you feeling it, although sometimes they do suggest I eat too much cake.
Twitter? It’s bloody marvellous!