CASE STUDY # 1
Starting Part Time into Full Time
A Focus on Training and Consulting
Meet Sarah Zeldman
Sarah Zeldman is a highly experienced professional in
the fields of technology, online marketing and social
media management. Sarah’s business consulting
expertise has been instrumental in helping business
owners and entrepreneurs realize their goals of
increasing sales by utilizing her proven strategic
online marketing campaigns.
After I graduated from University, I went for another degree to
become a Sign Language Interpreter. During my training, I
developed a repetitive stress injury (like carpal tunnel). It got very
bad and I was told that I needed to find a new profession. (As my
favorite Yiddish saying goes, “People makes plans and God
laughs”.) I came from a long line of entrepreneurs and so decided
to start out on my own.
In the late 1990’s, I decided to become a Life Coach. While doing
my Life Coach Training, I stumbled on a website that said that
they could teach you to sell any product or service over the
internet (these were the days before Google and Facebook). So I
bought the training system which consisted of two huge set of
binders and 3 VHS cassettes about Internet Marketing. I devoured
them -- and I've never stopped learning about internet marketing
Later, I moved to Canada with my family. I couldn’t work in
Canada right away, but I could work online. I started a blog and
was doing affiliate marketing, podcasting, and selling information
products. I was only doing it on the side because my husband was
ill and I had 2 small children at home. I had a little bit of success
but I wasn’t doing it full time. But then I had a big life change
when my husband died. I knew I had to support myself and life
coaching was a hard sell, so I decided to help companies with
I got lucky when I went to register my business. The woman at the
organization - the Vaughan Business Enterprise Center (like SBA
in the US) - asked me to speak. I taught several different classes
(Website Design, SEO etc.) and then they wanted me to teach
business owners how to use social sites like LinkedIn, Facebook
What is your background? QUESTION
When I first started my business, I initially tried to offer
everything under the sun including SEO, website design and
more. I found I didn’t like offering website design and SEO
because it changes too often.
As I was teaching at the organization, I had people who couldn’t
come to the training and wanted me to come to their office to
train them in how to use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And I
found that I got the best feedback when I was doing social media
training - and that’s what I enjoyed the most so about five years
ago, I shifted my business to focus solely on social media training
Lesson Learned: Look for where you are getting the best feedback
and what you are enjoying. Work from your strengths.
Now things have evolved. I did originally organize my own
training sessions for small business owners at the Chamber of
commerce. I found that, though it did attract private clients, as
well as the people in the classes, the price points weren’t enough
to justify my efforts.
I specialize in educating and empowering companies to handle the
social media marketing in-house. I focus on consulting and
training at larger companies.
Even though I want to help everyone, including the struggling
small business owner who needs Social Media Training, I have
learned that you can’t make a difference, if you can’t make a
living. So my goal is to charge the “big boys” the big bucks -- and
help small business owners in other ways.
When did you start your
business and how did you
add Social Media
Management into it?
In addition to delivering training packages, I work with clients as
a consultant on retainer.
I do industry research, create the strategy, train the staff, oversee
the implementation of the plan, analyze results, troubleshoot,
develop new strategies -- rinse & repeat.
I love doing this kind of work. It’s easy, fun, flexible and
profitable -- if you find the right size companies that are used to
hiring consultants on retainer.
Though I have worked with many different kinds of businesses, I
have developed two specialties:
Industrial B2B companies
I like this challenge. They are an emerging market and they can’t
really outsource it to agencies so they want someone more “in
house” to train the employees work together as a team to manage
it themselves. They need someone to create the strategy, train the
team, oversee the implementation, troubleshoot etc. It’s a role I
love to fulfill.
Social Media for Non-Profit Organizations
There’s nothing better than using social media for social good!
Often these organizations can’t or don’t want to outsource social
media marketing, so I do the same thing that I do for the B2B
companies. I create a strategy, train the employees, oversee
implementation, analyze & troubleshoot. I really enjoy teaching
them my “Six A’s” of non-profit posting, and other industry
The worst advice I got was “Don’t stop and plan - just go out
and get clients.” It was a mistake. I had a hard time knowing
when I was off-track because I never visualized what the
track should look like.
Also, later I figured out that what they really meant was,
“Don’t get stuck in over-planning.” That is good advice, but
you also need to know where you are going. Clarity is the one
thing you can never have enough of.
Also, I struggled in dealing with the “Impostor
Syndrome.” Feeling like you’ll never know enough, and how
can you call yourself an expert if you don’t know "everything"
about social media. I’ve gotten over that. I know more than
most people and no one can know everything in this
If someone asks me a question I don’t know the answer to I
just say “That’s a great question. I’m not sure, but I’m going
to research it and get back to you.” Then I usually
crowdsource the answer by posting the question in your Social
Media Manager School Facebook group! (LOVE THAT
GROUP!) Impostor Syndrome? I’m over it.
Most of the time, my business grows by referral, but
occasionally, it can slow down. It can get scary in the
downtimes and I sometimes consider looking for a “regular
job” but I know my kids need me to be available and flexible -
- so I continue to work and have faith that I can make this
What were some of
I wasn’t in a rush to be profitable. I had a bit of a
cushion and my children came first and I put them as
my priority. It really took me a few years to ramp up
fully. I was still dealing with my husband’s death, so
it took awhile.
How long did it take
you to be profitable in
Approximately how much
did it cost to start up your
The amazing thing is the start up cost is VERY low for this business.
Just make sure you stay very focused and don’t buy every tool and
every book or program that you think you might want.
Start up costs can be so extremely low and you can work out of your
house and keep costs down.
much did it cost to
start up your business?
There are so many ways to get new clients - the first thing
I would do is check in with your own personality. If you
are extrovert like me, then public speaking and going to
networking events can be great. If you are introvert then
focusing on your own online marketing might be better.
I’m often the shoemaker with holes in my shoes not
keeping with my own social media. (As I understand from
our group, I’m not alone!)
A lot of my clients come through word-of-mouth and
speaking engagements, so other than that I wasn’t doing
anything in particular to get new clients.
Recently I realized I needed to drum up new business and
so I’m following up on old leads (Uh...that’s an area I need
to improve in...follow up..). I’ve also been working
on identifying businesses in my area that could benefit
from my services and I’m going to do a little “cold”
I’m also working on creating an animated explainer video
that offers a unique package. It’s designed to generate
some quick cash for me, but I’m also expecting some of
those customers to convert to consulting clients on
Unless you are an extreme introvert, just go to networking
meetings and meet people.
What advice would you
give for getting new