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How do you great guys land so many projects

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#1
ProMapper

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Hi all you great cartographers

I am really wonderstruck at the kinds of projects you get. I am trying my luck to land projects but it is far and few. I have been able to make an average of $200 per month over the last 10 months or so. I have almost all the capabilities right from handling 3D SRTM data to vector data, GIS and cartography. I have good experience on Illustrator CS, Photoshop CS2, Global Mapper, Map Renderer 3D(for producing stunning 3D terrain), Mapinfo (GIS), Microstation SE for line digitisation and MTA etc.

I just do not know how you great guys find projects. Do educate me on this aspect. I really want to establish as a freelance cartographer and my hourly rate is very reasonable but I am not just able to make ends meet. I started about 10 odd months back and have used up my savings. Absolutely in misery.

Do let me know if you have some suggestions.

Thanks.

Promapper

promapper@gmail.com

#2
Hans van der Maarel

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I am really wonderstruck at the kinds of projects you get. I am trying my luck to land projects but it is far and few. I have been able to make an average of $200 per month over the last 10 months or so. I have almost all the capabilities right from handling 3D SRTM data to vector data, GIS and cartography. I have good experience on Illustrator CS, Photoshop CS2, Global Mapper, Map Renderer 3D(for producing stunning 3D terrain), Mapinfo (GIS), Microstation SE for line digitisation and MTA etc.

I just do not know how you great guys find projects. Do educate me on this aspect. I really want to establish as a freelance cartographer and my hourly rate is very reasonable but I am not just able to make ends meet. I started about 10 odd months back and have used up my savings. Absolutely in misery.


Looks like you have the right tools for the job, that's a good start.

I find that word-of-mouth advertising works great. It's the cheapest way :) It does depend on making a good impression. Do you have a website where you can show off some of your work? Build an on-line portfolio somewhere and display a few of your best maps. If you are working on something that you think would be great for your portfolio, ask permission to use it. Work on a hobby project if you don't have a portfolio-worthy real project at hand.

Not every project is 'cool' and 'great'. I've worked on many projects where my contribution was all but invisible in the final product. That's okay, those projects pay the bills (and in my case, that client keeps coming back for more). I do try to get progressively more difficult and special projects whenever possible.

Get your name out there, participate actively in forums that are relevant to your work, like Cartotalk. Don't expect miracles of this, but it does help to build a network. Also, if one of the other members is looking to outsource some work, they might consider you if they've seen what you can do. So... feel free to post some more in the Map Gallery, ask questions if you have them and answer questions if you can.

There's no miracle cure here, it's just a matter of hard work and trying to improve yourself with every project.

Hope this helps...
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
Email: hans@redgeographics.com / Twitter: @redgeographics

#3
Derek Tonn

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Promapper,

I guess in my opinion, the people who are being kept the busiest and/or are getting the opportunity to work on the "great" projects aren't focusing on offering the broadest collection of skill sets or the lowest prices. They are offering either some "niche" type of service in the mapping industry that most/all others are not, or they have superior quality in design work that stands out from their competition.

When you say:

I have almost all the capabilities right from handling 3D SRTM data to vector data, GIS and cartography. I have good experience on Illustrator CS, Photoshop CS2, Global Mapper, Map Renderer 3D(for producing stunning 3D terrain), Mapinfo (GIS), Microstation SE for line digitisation and MTA etc.

and

my hourly rate is very reasonable


...you've almost inevitably positioned yourself to compete for work on price...AND have reinforced the idea in many prospective clients' minds that if one tries to master all-things, they will inevitably become a master of none. That is the exact same position that literally hundreds/thousands of other map freelancers (or small firms) are in...and the challenge then is trying to stand out from all the "noise" to make a name for yourself and at least land enough work to survive.

The trick, in my opinion, is NOT to say "I can be all things to all people," but rather "I am one of the best in our industry (or region) at _________." Not in an arrogant or cocky way, by any means! But rather honing your skills in a particular segment of the greater cartography industry, then doing what you can to make sure people are aware of what you do. If you can do that, people will eventually seek you out, and you won't be needing to get sucked down into that ever-present whirlpool of being the low-cost leader. There will ALWAYS be someone who will be willing to undercut you on price! The trick is to make sure that the client doesn't care, because they see your portfolio and when comparing it to those of your competition, decided that they are willing to pay the extra 10-20+ percent to hire you.

The other thing is you really need those first 3-4 bigger or prestigious clients who have no business hiring you to take a chance on you. When I landed my first big account back in 2000, I had NO business even being in the room, pitching my services to them. However, I had made a friend at that particular institution, and that friend gave me a shot to come in and share my vision and plan for completing the job. I got hired, and that one job turned into 4-5 other good jobs in the next year, which turned into 15-20 good jobs the next year, which turned into 35-40 good jobs the next year, etc. You have to be good....but sometimes it also takes a great deal of luck too in landing that one project or client that your portfolio REALLY needs in order to show people that you are for real.

Not sure if that helps or not. Good luck!

Derek
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#4
Jean-Louis

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Promapper,

I agree with all that Hans and Derek said and would add this. In my experience, I have often sought out clients rather than wait for them to come to me. Pretty much every business needs maps and most are not even aware of it.
Just as an example, I was aware of a well known funeral home with many locations around town. I called them up, introduced myself and convinced them that maps was a good idea for them. They replied that yes, in fact when clients come to a funeral they not only need to give directions to family and friends, they are often asking where they can have a coffee or a meal nearby. The funeral home had never thought of providing their clients with maps of their surroundings as well as their other locations.
You may also consider the business of advertizing. The formula is simple. Do a good map of your area. Calculate how much it would cost you to print it and distribute it and then sell ads to local buisnesses.
Jean-Louis Rheault
Montreal


#5
David T

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I'm going to agree with the others - find that niche that will really help bring things in for you.

Another idea, that goes along with finding a niche...find something that will help generate revenue over and over, but not cost you time to work on it. This becomes a good source of revenue for you, and allows you to spend time developing contacts and business, and working on those jobs that require more time and effort.

I would look into getting involved in your local area. Get in contact with your local chamber of commerce. See if they have a map of the local area. Maybe even develop a map of the area that you could bring to them. They may have an interest in having a local produce the map. (You may want to join the chamber of commerce, too). You may be able to take on the task of gathering clients for the map, which gives you the chance to outreach to other local businesses.
David Toney, GISP
GIS Manager
United States Marine Corps
West Coast Installations

#6
MapMedia

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In addition to shameless self promotion, you absolutely must have a 'virtual map display rack': a web site showing representative sample work. These must be clean, easy to view images. After you direct prospective clients to your portfolio site, you want them to say something to the tune of "Wow. I want this person to handle my project." Hang in there - there is plenty of work out there - and you will find it I am sure.

#7
Polaris

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great advice from everyone!

One important factor that seems to have been left out so far is SERVICE. I believe that being very responsive, cultivating the ability and putting in the time and effort to anticipate client (and potential client) needs, communicating effectively, keeping promises, exceeding expectations, etc. are key components of success in my business. Service wins bids and earns repeat work.

It also takes patience. 10 months is a very short time. Probably most of us have had to have a 'day job' for a number of years to make ends meet. Probably many of us have made great sacrifices for the sake of right livelihood.

#8
CHART

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Yep Service, good service is a must to stay in business.

On the topic of Niche, I personally believe niches come and go. But if you lock onto a good client you try to offer him the best services in your field of knowledge to keep him as long as possible. If you keep your services offerings to close to your 'niche offerings' you might lose that client.... too many 'sorry I don't do this' .... might steer him away.

I have stopped looking for that killer Niche. Clients alone can drive your business and make it grow and make you survive the test of time. You need only to adapt to their needs.

This is not to say that finding a Niche in a field is bad. I am just saying that it is not a must.
Chart

#9
Derek Tonn

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Jacques,

I agree. Maybe I should clarify my earlier statement. I think with marketing, one needs to initially define a narrower niche (or two...or three) in your marketing materials to establish and/or reinforce the concept of "specialist" or "expertise" with prospective clients who aren't familiar with your work. However, once a client is sold related to your services, that's when it is easier to say "You know....we can also provide you with _________ as well." :)

It sounds backwards....offering LESS services to prospective clients to get them in the door! However, that's been the best way I have come up with in effort to avoid having to get stuck competing on price and/or lots of projects that are not in our "core" specialties.
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#10
David T

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My thoughts about niche, are to use it as a way of identifying a potential market that you can succeed in. Too often, there are too many possibilities, and you might spread yourself too thin.

It's almost like finding a place to start. I believe there are so many different opportunities, in so many different markets - that it can be a bit overwhelming.

Utilize the niche to find a market, and direct your energies. But, unless you don't have the capabilities or ability, don't ever suggest that you 'can't' perform a task. If it falls outside your niche, that's fine.
David Toney, GISP
GIS Manager
United States Marine Corps
West Coast Installations

#11
ELeFevre

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Promapper,
What's the GIS/Cartographic job market like in your city/town? Competition?



#12
ProMapper

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Thank you very much for all the advise.

Actually Hans has been a great help. There are certain requirements that I need to fulfill before I start landing big projects. Probably I was not aware of the mapping and cartography industry's needs especially at the world level. I had done projects which involved small maps, A4, A3 or an odd A2 or similar size. And that too with maps.com and few others who regularly utilize the sevices of inexpensive freelancers, naturally I do not call myself a cheap freelancer:).

So my idea was that maps are required primarily for books and other print media. The jobs that I got I could easily do with the inexpensive hardware available with most of the vendors. Hans came up with some real big cat out of the bag and I got stuck. The huge map that he sent as a test was difficult to handle with my system. Now I would request you guys to suggest not the best but optimal system to handle cartography tasks. I have worked on Intergraph dual monitor systems with Xeon dual Pentium IV but even they seem to be slow with Illustrator especially if the file size goes beyond 20 mb. The refresh and saving becomes really problematic. If you have some ideas especially suitable hardware to handle Illustrator, and yeah Intel PC not Mac (In India it is difficult to find Mac specialist, if you land in trouble).

Now Erin's question about the opportunities in mapping and GIS locally. The Indian mapping and GIS scene is full of controls and quota regime. The Survey of India (SOI) has many a restrictions on mapping. Only recently the open series of maps have been made available from SOI and they have lot of errors. It is a nightmare to create a map out of SOI data. Also the Indian infrastucture is not fully developed, there are limited master plans and the same change as per the whims of politcians, so any map will be old by the time it is published. One may argue that since the infrastructure is developing there is more the requirement of maps. You need to come to India to see that. Here the informed guy from the village is a better map than the printed map and if you pay him the equivalent of $10, he will be your personal guide for the day.

But whatever it takes I have started on this journey of becoming a freelance cartographer and I will stick to it. As all of you have said that it takes a lot of patience, it will not happen in a jiffy. And yes I need to find my niche and a website with good portfolio, well that is somewhat essential. The niche would be more suitable once I start landing projects where I have a choice of refusing. I thank everyone of you for all the excellent advise and the time.

Now if you can guide me in getting the optimal system for cartography needs. Present system is a Pentium IV duo with 512 mb RAM, Intel 865 motherboard and 128 mb Graphics card with SATA 130GB Hard Disk. I had bought this for $1200 just 10 months back when I embarked on the journey of becoming a freelancer. Today, the obsoloscence has caught up with it.

#13
Hans van der Maarel

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Also the Indian infrastucture is not fully developed, there are limited master plans and the same change as per the whims of politcians, so any map will be old by the time it is published.


This is of course the case with any map ;)

As for hardware advice, first step is to upgrade the RAM to whatever the motherboard can handle. If the motherboard can't handle 2 Gb, you have a problem. The rest of the hardware specs seem to be okay, although I do find that the practical life-span of pc hardware for me at the moment is around 2-3 years.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
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#14
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Promapper,

Apart from your RAM Your systems seems adequate. A decent system with maximum ram and a good graphic card should be productive for 2 years (in my books).
You have the right attitude ... patience and hard work ....

As for the Niche thing, I think what we are all saying is that
Don't offer too many services.... (Jack of all trades and master of none)
but
Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
It is a matter of balance based on your personal capabilities and goals.
Chart

#15
David T

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Here the informed guy from the village is a better map than the printed map and if you pay him the equivalent of $10, he will be your personal guide for the day.


If it makes you feel any better, that's true in every part of the world.

One of my biggest problems at my Marine Corps Base is the lack of good maps. Hard to believe, but, then again, that's what I'm hired to do - improve the data that we have.

Sometimes, it's the water technician, or the fire fighter, that has been on Base for 30 years, that knows the ins and outs of the system far better than any data that I have. The challenge is to capture that data before these people retire. They retain so much corporate knowledge in their heads, it's amazing. So I can understand that same challenge you face.
David Toney, GISP
GIS Manager
United States Marine Corps
West Coast Installations




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