“Consultant” is a pretty vague term, so to clarify, here’s a full accounting of What I Do on the consulting end. (The short version: a little bit of everything.)
Most of the consulting I do requires a holistic approach. It’s difficult to separate product creation from business objectives–and usually pointless to do so when one sustains the other. Here’s what I offer:
- Business plan development and fundraising: I develop and write business plans, helping entrepreneurs refine pitches in preparation for fundraising. This is somewhat a vestige of my pre-Gawker career as an equity analyst when I was also screening deals for a handful of angel investors and writing “bplans” (which were often plan B) for their portfolio companies that were preparing for a series A or B rounds of fundraising–while simultaneously rejecting badly written, unfocused plans for companies that hadn’t put enough thought into how they were going to execute operationally, be competitive in their respective markets, or generate a palatable ROI for potential backers. I’ve also had to write business plans for my own ventures, so I understand the entrepreneur’s viewpoint as well as the investor’s.
- New launch consulting: If you have an good idea, I can take it from concept to launch. I do A-to-Z development and execution, from hiring to editorial strategy to monetization strategy to tech project management. Having launched successful indie websites as an independent publisher, I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) how to manage every aspect of launching and running a new media property. I can tell you how to develop compelling stories that make people visit and link to your site, why you do or don’t need high-end hosting, where mobile fits into your web strategy, how to construct an editorial contract, whether your traffic projections are reasonable or merely hopeful, how to design a media kit that really showcases your available advertising and sponsorship offerings, how to train your edit staff to interact with other sites and develop syndication partnerships, how to scale technical development so that add-ons are workable but affordable… and so on.
- Hiring: I screen and interview editorial candidates, and contribute to or make hiring decisions, depending on the preferences of the client. Clients have requested this consistently–so much so that I almost think I should be a new media recruiter. Hiring is a big pain–especially for small companies, and even more so when they don’t quite know what they should be looking for. On the editorial front, I’m pretty good with that. I have a screening system that’s fast and efficient, and I can suss out later-stage applicants very quickly with a combination of interviews and editorial testing. I’m also very sensitive to whether candidates fit into the client’s existing environment and bring managers and co-workers into the process early and often.
- Monetization: I also advise companies on creating and optimizing monetization of web assets. Most clients want advice on advertising issues–a topic close to my publishing-oriented heart–but I tend to advocate for diversity of revenue streams and usually suggest some additional options. Where relevant, I create financial models and cost-benefit analyses to help refine thinking about potential revenue opportunities.
- Microsites and advertising campaigns: In the course of other consulting and entrepreneurial work, I’ve also been responsible for generating microsite ideas, mostly for advertisers who expect to launch custom creative campaigns around specific new products, as well as coming up with unique sponsorship packages, some with offline tie-ins.
I also do pure editorial consulting, which is most relevant for established companies that are expanding existing offerings. I offer the following:
- Development: I work with existing editorial staff as a temporary editorial director, overseeing and facilitating story generation, editorial calendar development, editing and prototyping. In some cases, clients already have a well-defined vision for their editorial product–in which case I help with execution and optimization. In other cases, clients only have a vague idea of what they want to cover/who their audience is, and I help them define it. I work with them to establish a tone, focus, and topic-oriented features that reflect that focus. We then plan a workable editorial calendar that maximizes existing editorial resources (however small) to build a successful site.
- Marketing: I also advise on how to get story pickup, traffic generation strategies, and SEO basics. There are shortcuts to traffic generation–buying traffic off of exchanges, junk syndication programs, etc. I always advise against these because I think they’re harmful in the long run. So I focus on how to generate traffic organically–with great original content, smart marketing and meaningful partnerships that actually pair like-minded audiences.
- Training: I also train new hires to write and edit for the web. I teach the basics of writing and reporting, and offer more subtle feedback–refining of style, language usage, and structural definition. This is perhaps the most rewarding part of what I do, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with some extremely talented young writers and editors in the past who’ve gone on to do great things.
- Book editing: I do some book editing–mostly fiction. References are available upon request. I do structural edits as well as detailed line edits. (Both are important, in my opinion.)
- New product critiques: Clients sometimes produce new products and just want some thoughtful feedback on whether the products are sustainable; where they fit in the existing market; and, if the products are editorial, how the editorial can be improved. The deliverable is usually a two or three page memo on the same and if requested, a mark up of layout (for both print and online products.)
- Custom publishing: I’ve also consulted on the editorial development of custom print publications, offering editorial critiques, story ideas and hiring suggestions.
There are a couple of things I’ve done so often that they’ve become fairly standardized. I’m working on handbooks for both.
- Business plan writing: I write business plans for entrepreneurs who are looking to raise capital for new ventures or secondary rounds for established businesses. The process generally entails one or two sessions with the client to determine overall strategy, due diligence on my part to gather the necessary information and a mock pitch critique to anticipate and address any potential investor objections. Pending receipt of necessary information from the client, document turnaround can be fairly quick–as little as five business days. Depending on client needs, I can also add the following for additional fees: three or five year financial projections, a PowerPoint deck for presentation, wireframes and custom media kits.
- Blogging workshops: I also conduct blogging workshops, usually for larger media companies that want to incorporate blogging into existing media offerings. The blogging workshop is a one day affair that consists of three parts: demonstration and instruction, a client-specific brainstorming session and some on-the-fly prototyping that will be critiqued and edited. Workshops are generally tailored to the skill and familiarity level of the attendees, but a typical introductory workshop would include the following instructional topics: standard blogging conventions, writing for the web, how to best utilize short form, community management, the basics of libel and defamation law, real time reporting, traffic generation and analysis, editorial development (calendaring, story development, recurring features) and technical issues.
Business plan writing and blogging workshops are flat-fee. Everything else is generally priced by the hour, but I’m open to negotiating if the client strongly prefers a flat fee.
SPIERS FINANCIAL AID PLAN
I’m aware that not everyone has the same resources, and because I enjoy working with smaller companies, I adjust pricing based on what I think is reasonable given the client’s budget. So if you’re a startup with five employees and no funding, I’m not going to charge you the same rates I’d charge a large media company with a thousand-person staff. (Sorry, media company with a thousand-person staff!)
By the same token, I occasionally do pro bono work for non-profits. If you’re interested, drop me an email with a short description of who you are and what you need and we’ll go from there.
I also sit on a few advisory boards, mostly for equity.
The best way to contact me is via email. ESPIERS at GMAIL.