Jump to content

 
Photo

How to market myself as a freelance cartographer?


  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1
lost_tree

lost_tree

    Newbie

  • Validated Member
  • Pip
  • 6 posts
  • United States

I am seriously considering starting a one-man, freelance cartographic shop, initally part-time with the goal of eventually going full-time. I understand the mechanics of map-making, the basics of managing a small business, finances, etc. BUT, I am completely clueless as to how to go about marketing my business. So far I've determined two potential approaches:

1) Develop a series of maps (not sure of the topic or focus) that I then try to sell to retailers (i.e. bookstores, travel stores, mapping stores, etc.) or via the internet.

2) Develop custom maps as a consultant for companies, government agencies, non-profits, etc.

I really don't have any idea how to approach this. Mail-outs, web sites, cold-calling, email spam (just kidding about that one)... What are some of the potential markets out there? What experience do you free-lance cartographers have marketing yourselves?

Any advice, thoughts, or feedback would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks!



#2
Hans van der Maarel

Hans van der Maarel

    CartoTalk Editor-in-Chief

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,835 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Netherlands
  • Interests:Cartography, GIS, history, popular science, music.
  • Netherlands

I've been going with option 2 for the past 3 years and that has been working out great for me. Of course it helps if you have a network of potential clients around you. The trouble with option 1 is that you need to do a lot of work up front without knowing whether it's going to pay off or not. Also, the consequences of the maps not selling as much as you thought are your responsibility.

You could also try a combination of course. Work towards developing your own series of maps but in the meantime take on additional custom map projects to keep the cash flow going (and build up a network of satisfied customers). It would also help to expand your portfolio.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
Email: hans@redgeographics.com / Twitter: @redgeographics

#3
lost_tree

lost_tree

    Newbie

  • Validated Member
  • Pip
  • 6 posts
  • United States

Hi Hans, and thanks for the reply. So that's one of my questions - how did you develop your "network of potential clients"? Did you develop this network through a previous job, from going to conferences/workshops, handing out your business cards at parties, etc? I agree with you that it would probably make more sense to focus on custom cartography, but I just don't know how to find my market and approach potential clients...

Thanks!

Jesse

#4
Hans van der Maarel

Hans van der Maarel

    CartoTalk Editor-in-Chief

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,835 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Netherlands
  • Interests:Cartography, GIS, history, popular science, music.
  • Netherlands

Hi Hans, and thanks for the reply. So that's one of my questions - how did you develop your "network of potential clients"? Did you develop this network through a previous job, from going to conferences/workshops, handing out your business cards at parties, etc? I agree with you that it would probably make more sense to focus on custom cartography, but I just don't know how to find my market and approach potential clients...


In my particular case, it's mainly through my previous job (I should point out that all those clients contacted me, I did not sent out any mass mailings or stuff like that). I've also worked on some larger projects where I did just a small portion of the work, with others doing their bits. That has gotten me some connections, which in turn lead to more work.

Conferences and communities like Cartotalk help too. I think it's very important to be visible, in a positive way of course, and to deliver a high quality of work. By just that, I'm getting enough work in to keep me occupied pretty much constantly, without having to spend anything on advertisement other than my website.

It really helps to know other cartographers. If I get a client who's asking me to do some work, but I don't have the time (or the right tools/skills to do it), I'd prefer to say: "I can't do it, but I know somebody who can" instead of just "I can't do it".

This might be an interesting topic for you as well: How do you great guys land so many projects

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

#5
Map Guy

Map Guy

    Newbie

  • Validated Member
  • Pip
  • 6 posts
  • United States

I am seriously considering starting a one-man, freelance cartographic shop, initally part-time with the goal of eventually going full-time. I understand the mechanics of map-making, the basics of managing a small business, finances, etc. BUT, I am completely clueless as to how to go about marketing my business. So far I've determined two potential approaches:

1) Develop a series of maps (not sure of the topic or focus) that I then try to sell to retailers (i.e. bookstores, travel stores, mapping stores, etc.) or via the internet.

2) Develop custom maps as a consultant for companies, government agencies, non-profits, etc.

I really don't have any idea how to approach this. Mail-outs, web sites, cold-calling, email spam (just kidding about that one)... What are some of the potential markets out there? What experience do you free-lance cartographers have marketing yourselves?

Any advice, thoughts, or feedback would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks!

Jesse Langdon


HI,

Please look at www.engelsmaps.com. If you can make maps like these please PM me and lets talk.

#6
David T

David T

    GIS Manager, USMC, MCIWEST-MCB Camp Pendleton

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 192 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:San Diego, California
  • United States

This might be an interesting topic for you as well: How do you great guys land so many projects


Hans - thanks for linking to that thread. I was about to do the same thing. I think everyone offered a lot of good tips there.

As I mentioned in that thread, I think one key is to find a niche for yourself. It doesn't have to be your only goal, nor should you limit yourself to one thing. But I think finding a niche at first is a good way to start. (Keep in mind that, while I did have a freelance business for a couple of years, I didn't do the volume that the full-timers on here do).

When I was looking to expand (prior to starting my new job - I abandoned these thoughts when I took on my new responsibilities), I looked at a couple of markets locally, that were either under-served or not served at all. For example, think of a Chamber of Commerce map (this wasn't the idea I had, but this serves my example well). My idea was to take this map to a number of potential advertisers, and secure some adversting on the map. Since some of the advertisers were going to include retailers that would be selling this map, I would also be presenting the map for purchase at that location.

Once I secured the advertising and the retail channels, the plan was to produce and print the map myself. My goal was to earn enough through advertising revenue to cover the initial print costs of the product. My own time cost of production would be covered in the sales of the map.

The overall idea was to find something that, once produced, would live on it's own. I wanted something that could earn money (through sales, and updates), that wouldn't take a lot of time to keep up to date or require a lot of production time in the future. Self-sustaining, if you will. Once it got up and running, it could keep itself going for the most part, earning revenue while requiring very little work in the future.
David Toney, GISP
GIS Manager
United States Marine Corps
West Coast Installations

#7
natcase

natcase

    Ultimate Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 569 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Interests:cartography
    aeshetics
    cartographic design
    John Bartholomew
    road maps
    large-scale mapping
  • United States

As I mentioned in that thread, I think one key is to find a niche for yourself.
...

I looked at a couple of markets locally, that were either under-served or not served at all. For example, think of a Chamber of Commerce map (this wasn't the idea I had, but this serves my example well). My idea was to take this map to a number of potential advertisers, and secure some adversting on the map. Since some of the advertisers were going to include retailers that would be selling this map, I would also be presenting the map for purchase at that location.

Once I secured the advertising and the retail channels, the plan was to produce and print the map myself. My goal was to earn enough through advertising revenue to cover the initial print costs of the product. My own time cost of production would be covered in the sales of the map.

The overall idea was to find something that, once produced, would live on it's own. I wanted something that could earn money (through sales, and updates), that wouldn't take a lot of time to keep up to date or require a lot of production time in the future. Self-sustaining, if you will. Once it got up and running, it could keep itself going for the most part, earning revenue while requiring very little work in the future.


Developing a niche (or niches) is a good idea, but it is really helpful to already know your niche market from the inside before starting up your venture.

What I mean by this: If you're targeting bait and tackle shops for your map series of the lakes of the Mojave, then not only should you know the lakes, and know cartography, but it really helps to have worked in bait and tackle shops, to know how they advertise, what kind of discounts they work with...

The example you give (chamber maps) has been done a lot, and it is never as easy as you's think. Ad sales are a lot harder to do than they look. Membership organizations want to dictate what's on the map (that lake isn't a member, leave it off the map), and advertisers all want special treatment (I'll advertise, but only if I'm the only funeral parlor on the map, and I have to have dot number one and it has to be in my corporate color and you need to also include my location 3 miles past your current frame...).

My point is, a cartographer with previous extensive experience in advertising (or even better, in chamber maps) may be able to anticipate these sorts of pitfalls and structure a piece that he/she feels good about as a cartographer and that still makes money. Someone who says, "cool niche, I'll get into it" will probably find the going pretty rough and may end up setting precedents that are hard to undo in future editions.

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com



#8
David T

David T

    GIS Manager, USMC, MCIWEST-MCB Camp Pendleton

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 192 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:San Diego, California
  • United States

Developing a niche (or niches) is a good idea, but it is really helpful to already know your niche market from the inside before starting up your venture.

What I mean by this: If you're targeting bait and tackle shops for your map series of the lakes of the Mojave, then not only should you know the lakes, and know cartography, but it really helps to have worked in bait and tackle shops, to know how they advertise, what kind of discounts they work with...


Great great piece of advice. It definitely boils down to knowing your market. The more you know, the better your chances.

The example you give (chamber maps) has been done a lot


Very true, and perhaps a poor example. (Your bait and tackle shops idea is much better). I didn't want to reveal my idea - it's fairly unique, not very well developed by anyone else, and, even if I never find the time to do it myself, I'd like to keep it to myself. :P
David Toney, GISP
GIS Manager
United States Marine Corps
West Coast Installations

#9
Hans van der Maarel

Hans van der Maarel

    CartoTalk Editor-in-Chief

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,835 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Netherlands
  • Interests:Cartography, GIS, history, popular science, music.
  • Netherlands

Resurrecting an old topic...

I think CHART is making some very good points here.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
Email: hans@redgeographics.com / Twitter: @redgeographics

#10
Gamerprinter

Gamerprinter

    Newbie

  • Validated Member
  • Pip
  • 9 posts
  • No Country Selected

Several years ago a client came into my shop wanting to create and sell a local Fishing Hotspots map with GPS locations of Hot Spots and Water Hazards on the river near my home. After design, printing and shipping a predetermined number of them, he desired the best approach to market them.

I told him to sell 4" x 5" ads to completely cover the back of the map and a few on the front, like a Chamber of Commerce map. He sold each ad for $75 to bait shops, restaurants, sporting goods stores, and other businesses related to fishing or fisherman support. In the end, his map print project was completely paid for and he had $1200 profit before one map was sold. I told him to slap an arbitrary cover price on it, and allow retailers to sell the maps for 100% profit - they'd be willing to offer it easily. And you've already been paid (by the advertising). Plus the retailers selling your map were eager to be clients from year to year. Find several fishing areas to map and this could be a very lucrative cartography venture.

I'm not into fishing, so it isn't my business model. This is just one way to market a mapping business.

GP

#11
kevinpaulscarrott

kevinpaulscarrott

    Master Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 124 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Stavanger, Norway
  • Interests:wine, women and song
  • Norway

Jesse

You are really fortunate in that the advice you will receive through CartoTalk will be some of the best and most accurate advice to help you implement a-one-person-band. These guys & dolls really know their stuff.

From my own personal experience and in my own words, here are a few simple pointers:

- Acquire information

- Access it

- Register it

- Utilize it in your daily work

In other words some of the information that you require to really push through and establish a mapping business can be found in the newspapers and commerce magazines’ around your location.

Study them until you find an area that could be improved upon, or an area where there is a lack of coverage. You may even be fortunate enough whilst investigating, to hear someone say “what we could really do with is…….” These are some of the best opportunities because of procrastination. Be the first to try and develop a product(s) that others only talk about.

One thing is for sure, it won’t be easy for you when you become independent and work for yourself, there’s always some blood sweat and tears along the way.
Compensating for all that is the simple fact that you’re in charge of your own future.
You and you alone make things happen!

Good luck and best wishes from Norway.

Kevin Paul




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

-->