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Marie Rachelle, owner of Business BEactive, is the interviewee in the latest episode of the Smarter Business Podcast. In this episode, Marie and Neil discuss the freelance business, the importance of planning and opportunity, reaching the right people, and how being involved with different groups can help your business.
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(upbeat music) - Welcome to this episode of the Smarter Business Podcast. This is Business Advice with a Video Bent. If you like what you hear today, please subscribe, tell your friends, share this episode, because today's guest is Marie Rochelle of Business be Active. Marie does a lot of work in the freelance community, in the startup community, in the social media community. Marie, do you want to kinda intro yourself and Business be Active? - Of course, so I'm Marie Rochelle. I've been freelancing since 2014, doing social media work. With the pandemic I shifted my business into coaching aspiring freelancers. So I again changed what I do. I've kind of got my hands in a lot of things, but mostly now it's coaching aspiring freelancers, educating small businesses, startups, anyone who's really like grassroot run. I really like to help them. So that's my main mission. - That's excellent. A group of people who are really fun to work with. Our own business pivot, I got to move back to the real small businesses, the startups with the creator network set up and everything, and it's great. They're just energizing. - Important now than ever. I mean, it was always important to start or to support small, but we really need to do it now or if we won't survive. - Absolutely, a little dire, but important. So if you had to boil down what Business be Active does into one sentence, kind of your shortened elevator pitch, what do you think that would be? - This is a fun question. I like the name Business be Active because Business be Active can really be whatever the client needs. How about that? Because it's got business and then be active and that can be I've kind of branded myself and be social, be you, be coached. It can turn into really whatever I needed to be and whatever my clients need it to be. - Excellent, all right. Well, and there's a lot of kind of personal branding I know you do a lot of, and that's probably kind of fits in that vein too, right? - It really does, it does. People are always asking, what are you doing now? What are you up to now? Oh, you're doing that too? Okay. It's fine. I kind of like keeping people on their toes. - Well, and the wider the services you can provide the more you can help out those small businesses. So it comes up in every one of these episodes and I feel like every podcast, but you can't talk past what's going on with COVID and like how business has changed. So do you feel like there's been an uptick in freelance work or freelance workers because of the pandemic? - So I can speak for myself and then I think I can speak for the community when I say at the beginning it was really hard. A lot of us didn't know if we were gonna make it or we were backed up against a wall and not sure what we were going to do next, but now that we're a whole year in, unfortunately we've had the time to do whatever it was we needed to do, whether it was to panic or be sad or be angry. We had the time to do that. So now we're all really kind of getting our feet planted back on solid ground and going in whatever direction it is that we chose. I am seeing an uptick in freelance work. And I'd like to say that I'm a part of that just being such a passionate freelancer and a passionate community builder, helping those who maybe were laid off or are unemployed, or who are just having more time at home wanting to maybe explore other options, becoming freelancers is really cool. And then also helping those freelancers and other people in my network, like the small businesses and startups, and even corporations connect and see how we can work together to support each other. - So that's again a more important than ever type thing. The connections that used to happen, maybe a little more face-to-face get pushed online. People are looking for solutions that maybe are little less permanent, freelance. - They're looking for something that they can do a lot of whether it's now, it has to be moldable, and freelancing really is just that. People get intimidated by it sometimes. And I think in years before this, it was kind of viewed similarly to like a gig musician. So there's like a gig musician or like a freelancer who like maybe does something sometimes, bu it's a full business depending on where you want to take it has the opportunity to do that. - What do you think has kind of changed for the freelance community in that span other than the uptick? - What I love about it is that the way we work hasn't changed that much. It was interesting, I was on a call earlier this week about other countries and some countries that hits them harder like in France, they're very touchy and they did the double kisses and everything. And then like in Finland, they didn't really do that. Like they were already pretty distant. So freelancers, depending on how you worked and what you do of course, like I know with what you did with video, you have to work live with clients sometimes, but at least for me and a lot of other people they were already doing virtual work or virtual conferences depending on where their clients were located. And then of course, if we did have to go out, we were always, it was small groups anyway. So I wasn't impacted as much I think as like the corporate world, but our influx and the kind of the bumpy road that led to where we are now was the challenge. - That's a great point.- We were already asleep until 10:
00 AM and we weren't jumping on calls before 10, we do calls on the weekends. It's just kind of how it already was and any other business owner can relate to that. - Especially the smaller ones. Like very often you're doing every aspect of the business anyway, so time of day and tasks and so on don't necessarily make a difference. - I think we've just gotten more savvy, like I said. Being up against the wall, we have to find ways like, for example with zoom. Who has zoom commercial? Like not everyone can afford or could have afforded it at the time. So maybe you had to work together with someone else, just being very efficient and smart and maybe a little more savvy than normal. But I think that that's great and obviously that'll help us moving forward because we had to think outside the box to make it work. - I think the kind of lasting effects are gonna be very interesting to see. Like a lot of the changes made, how permanent they are-- - I hope people keep doing it, I really do. I think it can add a tremendous value to either how they do business or the business itself. Like restaurants that weren't doing takeout or delivery, they had to, and now they're like, Oh, well, we've got this. We can go back, we can do both. And it helps. - That'll be an additional revenue stream that they hadn't realized. And now you just make it to that finish line. I know of a few restaurants too that have completely changed the way they did things and have actually done very well during this span. So it's interesting. The innovators are finding ways. - Definitely, and if you're struggling, I think it's really important to ask for help. There's some people, they were doing their business one way for so long and there's nothing wrong with that, but if they ask for help then we'll definitely get it from those who either have figured something out or working with creatives to kind of explore their options. - I'm going to use that as a segue to some of the communities that you're involved with. Because that's what it's all about. I always bring up, I went through the UBCEL program, which is a great group of folks to bounce ideas off of, and be able to kind of figure out new ways to do things and so on. You were involved with a number of groups. Do you want to kind of talk about any of that? - Yeah, I mean, of course, so Freelance Business Week is a huge reason why I do and it's added a lot of value for me and the community I think here, especially in Western New York. So Freelance Business Week is something I'm really passionate about. I do a lot of work with them hosting an annual event. It was in person our first year, second year we had to pivot and turn it into.. I was allowed to do hybrid events. So that was really cool, mostly virtual. We got to collaborate with other cities. So Miami, Tampa, Austin and Buffalo, it was really cool to have us up there with those cities because I feel very passionate about us being there. I don't know why we're not. So kind of just like helping our city make a name for ourselves, especially in that market. So Freelance Business Week, I'm opening Hamburg's first coworking space, which took a back seat for a little while, just because of the pandemic. But we took the opportunity to apply for grants. I participated in a pitch competition, which was really fun. So the coworking spaces, it's going at the pace that we're allowed. So that, God willing, we'll get that open hopefully by spring, that would be really great. We're working with an architect now so that's awesome. So Freelance Business Week, convergence, my business, of course, so the coaching. And then I was recently inspired, so along with Freelance Business Week, I wanted to bring the local co-working spaces together. So I created the Western New York Coworking Association. This was at the beginning of the pandemic. I had aspirations to do that even before I became an owner or potential owner of a coworking space, to bring that group of people together. But a recent conversation helped me. And you're actually going to hear it first today here, the Western Europe Freelance Association as well. So I feel like we don't have a local resource for that. Besides Freelance Business Week, we don't have a a hyper continuous network of freelancers or where startups or small businesses can go to search. So really like a directory and I'm a part of a freelancing females directory. So I was in part inspired by that, and also in part inspired by the conversation I had to bring that to the city because something that I've always dreamed of is really like being that person to talk to about freelancing. It's amazing when people mentioned, Oh, I might want to freelance, people bring up my name and I want to be able to live up to it really. So all of those things, it seems like a lot, but they all, like I said earlier, they go towards the same mission, they support the same community and like the same theme just building our city. - And a lot of connecting. So, you know everybody, connect the people who need to meet each other. I mean, it's a super important role right? - Definitely, and you've known me longer than a lot of people here. You knew me before I even got into that world. So it's really fun to have that progression and talk over a span of what, like 10 years probably. - Everybody's in different spots, I guess I'm in the same business technically, but we've had some pretty major pivots. - Don't undersell yourself. You're doing something that a lot of people didn't think or know that they could do. So I really love it. - Well, and I'll take that segue too. Let's talk about the Creator Network. That works well. So our big pivot, like folks who have kind of listened or watch this before is the Creator Network, which is meant to empower small business owners and marketing folks to create their own video content. This month's theme, the month of January's theme, is opportunities and planning. And now you are also going to come and talk to us on the 21st for one of our public meetings. - Be sure to have my kid by then, I know we talked about that earlier. I'm gonna get my kids. So if you guys think this video is good now you just wait. - Wait until the public meeting and then you'll get to put them side by side. Well with so many things going on in your life, like planning is gotta be huge and you've run a lot of the social media campaigns, marketing campaigns. How important do you think planning is for businesses to reach the goals that they put out there? - And I think the ongoing theme for today seems that it's more important than ever, but planning has always been important. We've always done our end of year planning into the next year. This year, it's going to take a little bit of more creative thinking, and I think that that includes social media, includes video content, not just pretty pictures and decent captions and hashtags, because even with hashtags, mostly on Instagram and LinkedIn, even now the whole politics kind of took over and they're kind of on a pause. So even in my world, working with the few social media clients that I still choose to work with, it's a struggle, the discovery getting their name out there. So that's why, again, coming to where you are, like your local network, your referrals, the people you know, that's going to play a huge part in getting the word out there. And like, we've talked about this too, like influencer marketing or micro influencer marketing, that that's a route that people should be taking and planning. They don't know anything about it, they should be checking it out. So all the typical marketing, social media aspects of business, but also going outside the box to make this virtual experience that we all have now more engaging and exciting because now you're competing with more people than there were online before. - That's a good point. You got to really work to differentiate yourself and I'm glad you brought up the influencer marketing because that is going to be part of your talk on the 21st. I believe that's what we talked about anyway. I mean, that's what I was hoping to bring up in this episode because it is a little outside of the box for a lot of folks, for more traditional businesses or people with a more traditional marketing mindset, it's probably a bit foreign. So do you want to just explain it to whoever is listening? - I can plug it a little bit. I think of any of the things you've learned about me I can talk about just about anything. But so influencer marketing can seem intimidating. I started using a term like micro influencers. So they're not people with like 10 K and above or 50 K like maybe they have like five or seven, or even a thousand. I don't think that the vanity metrics matter that much and I never really did. It's always been quality over quantity and just being a social media manager and an organic specialty, like I grow organic social overpaid or in addition to just because my clients were usually small and didn't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to throw at marketing every year. So influencer and micro influencer marketing is a nice part of that, that you can add. And I'll say the most obvious is probably like the bloggers, the foodies, those people, like any local restaurant that can utilize that. So you've got the big influencers, like kind of the top of the food chain, but then you've got all these other aspiring ones. So like, why not work together with those people to get your name out, to have them have content to share so they can build their audience because you most likely have a mutual audience, but anyone with a product, of course you can do that by creating programs that when they sell it they have a code. I mean, everyone knows what that part is, but really just not so much focusing on, Oh, yes, I'm going to have these people basically be my salespeople. It's more, who am I working with? Who are their people? Do they reach an audience I already reached? Do they reach an audience I don't reach, but want to? And then when it comes to service-based businesses like yours, you've got John Augsburg, who's using it, it's a huge network people. He's on the phone all the time, he's always talking. Me, I'm on the phone, always talking. I need that. And then when people take notice, it's not so salesy, because I'm like, Oh yeah, you like my camera or like the sounds really good. You know, like I'm a part of the video network. Like that's why. And they're like, Oh, what's that? That's the organic reach that you're getting it's not social, but it's people. And I think, I mean, we know this, that sells better than anything. - Those smaller networks too, like it's an interesting thing. It used to be I think people were always looking and you mentioned vanity metrics. How many people can I reach on Facebook or something like that? Like the reality is if you're reaching the wrong people or they can't utilize your system, or you're a local restaurant reaching people across the country, not super helpful. - And you can always go there but you've got to start somewhere. - But reaching the right people and maybe the numbers are smaller or maybe on smaller networks, like I think we're both on the Western New York startup and that kind of thing. Those smaller groups of people who are more kind of grouped by interest, I think are great spots to kind of show off. - Honestly, there's a huge theme right now. And this is like a marketing tip, I suppose, it's called like niching down. The more niche you can get the higher your value because you become the expert in that specific field, whether it be food, photography, or organic social media for small businesses or the coach for aspiring freelancers, like that's a very niche market. I can still offer other things, but like I have a main focus and I think that's something that all businesses should be focusing now, too. You know, a lot of times in networking meetings, it was if you know anyone, or if you know everyone, any sales coach is going to say, no, you need to tell us specifically who you're looking for. So for me, if I say, the unemployed, underemployed, bored person who wants to explore a creative freelance path, like that's the person that I want. I want someone very specific. - I do an exercise that we've done through the network and when you're choosing your audience that you want to speak to, especially for a specific campaign, anyone, anybody like any of those catch all words. - Try not to say it, try not to. - Those should be stricken from business vocabulary. - It's tough. So with the vanity metrics. So with followers and with ad space people can buy anything. You can buy followers, you can buy your friends, you can buy whatever, but on social and in real life, when you start growing organically, that's really like when those authentic relationships come into play. And I know that authenticity is kind of oversized now, but it's the appropriate word that when you have those, that niche of people, they're gonna hype you up more than anyone. So that's how you're really going to get that high quality. Like I'd rather spend $500 with my clients and like enhancing their experience with me or connecting them, or having the ability to, like we both use the mighty networks investing in a program like that for people to connect online when they can't connect in person, that's something that they're going to value more and probably talk about more with their friends and family than if I took that $500 and did a cold ad for aspiring freelancers, on LinkedIn or Instagram, which I could still do. But if I have just that $500, like I'm going to put it on the people instead. - You get to pick where it's spent best. And that's a sort of a tough thing time there for folks to figure out sometimes, where is that best spend or what needs to be the goal? - Got to talk to the people who've done it and just bounce ideas. A lot of us are doing free consultations. I mean, I know you talked to people for free all the time. Hey, can I pick your brain for a few minutes? Sometimes that's frowned upon in the freelance world, but these times like gives him 15 minutes, sometimes it'll be 10 at night and I'm like, I got a few minutes now you want to call me? And we'll hash out things that they didn't even know existed. So it means a lot more for me too, it's fulfilling. - Well, there's definitely an aspect of being helpful in these times is very fulfilling. - It will get you along the way. - And a lot of people need adjustment to this new, very digital world and businesses that have not been online, getting online or taking meetings through zoom. Like there's a lot that needs to be learned. Well, I am going to switch, I do a single question that I kind of run as a vein through all of these shows, which is it's called the Smarter Business Podcasts. What is one thing that you have done to make your business or a client's business smarter? - I know I talked about the Mighty Networks, but really, I feel like that's going to be my answer. I finally answered. So the Mighty Networks for anyone who doesn't know, if you're new to the Mighty Networks, it's really kind of an homage to the old school forums. But it's way more niche. You have to be a member, but it makes you feel special. So that's what I really like about it. It's similar, I hate to do this, but similar to a Facebook group, but it's not on Facebook. So the owners and creators that are on there own the data, own the group itself. And that's what I find really important, especially like with data and stuff. Like you don't want Facebook owning all your stuff as a business owner, but having that tool and creating a place for my clients, I have it for the coworking space is where I'm building my virtual co-working space before everything opens up. I have it for my coaching clients, which is amazing, because I'm working on launching like a buddy, a buddy coach program where like they become each other's accountability partners and they can be in touch there. I can share all the same resources there. And you can host meetings in there, do your sessions in there. There's just a lot of opportunity and it's more free flowing and Facebook doesn't own it. So I'm kind of like I'm on board with that. - Private social media network right? - I think a highlight to that too, is just finding the systems and software that works best for you. And definitely the Mighty Networks has worked for us, but there's a lot more out there, project management tools, accounting tools, communication tools like Slack or anything like that. It's really important to find those tools to change your business and how you do it. - Well, especially, I know, there's an onus on efficiency at the moment, at least in this household. - Smarter not harder, you picked a really great podcast title, smarter business. - That's where it needs to be these days. So, I'm going to give one last thing. One, which is in any interview I do, I like to just do an open-ended, if we knocked anything loose because of our conversation, if there's anything you felt like maybe you wanted to say, and you didn't get a chance to now is your chance. - Of course, well, I really love that we talked about the industry and how everyone's changing and that's something a lot of people are talking about, but I think as like an open-ended more like heartfelt type thing, it's that if you're in business or you want to be in business, like there's always a way to get it done. Sometimes you feel like you're you don't know where to go or you're failing, November was a really hard month for me and I didn't know I was gonna make it, but I started asking for help. I have huge network and I've worked hard to get people to like me, like in my authentic self. And the right people have come into my world where they were able to do that. And just it's always able to be done. There's people out there that are willing to help you. And then I guess I would end it on, if you're seeing other people doing what you want to do, or you're already doing it and other people are doing more it seems, don't let like that knock you down. Like you have never done it, or you've never provided a service or product. So no one is like you or better than you, or you're worse than anyone. Like, just do it. Like that's the biggest thing when people ask, what's your word of advice? It's like, just start. And they're like, Oh, well, how did you start freelancing? I was like, I don't know, I just did it. Just do it. Nike was on to something. - Well, I mean that first step is the hardest one. Once you start rolling and you start getting a little more experience, it ends up being (indistinct). - Write down your goals, find your people, get a mentor or a coach and go from there for sure. - I thank you for being on the Smarter Business Podcast. - Thank you for having me. - I'm happy to have you on, I'm looking forward to the meeting we're gonna do in January. And Marie, I usually would, we used to always shake hands at this point. - Well, it's like this, I do this or that. For the AFL community. This is like clapping for them. So I do that or snaps. You can do anything, we got to get creative. - Well, thank you for watching this episode of the Smarter Business Podcast. If you like what you saw or heard, feel free to subscribe and share it with your friends. (upbeat music)