Two super-searcher tricks

searchingI’ve been an online searcher since the 19-mumbles, and I’m still learning new search tricks. Here are a couple of tips for mining online databases that I picked up from Cynthia Hetherington, a Big Kahuna in the private investigative world, during an excellent webinar on due diligence she gave for AIIP.

When you are exploring a new resource for information on individuals and want to figure out how far back in time the dataset goes, try searching for a common name like Smith. Since it’s a safe assumption that there will be Smiths in even the earliest records, you can just sort the search results in chronological order from earliest forward, and you’ll probably see the first year of coverage. You could use the same approach with any other type of database — just search for something that is likely to occur very frequently, and then see the date of the earliest record you retrieve. Searching an export database? Try a common export like machinery. Checking out a database of news articles? Search for the word President.

Another trick I learned from Cynthia relates to those times when you’re looking for reliable information on a topic and keep turning up too much irrelevant material. Try restricting your search to only government sites by adding to your search the phrase site:gov. Sure, it’s a very restrictive search and probably won’t turn up a lot of results, but the sites you do get will probably be useful. Cynthia recommended using this technique when looking for public records on individuals and needing to weed out all the resellers of government data.

(I was surprised at how useful this was. When googling bull snakes, having found one living in my backyard, I wasn’t finding much reliable information. Even the Wikipedia entry was full of “citation needed” notes. Limiting my search to .gov or .edu sites, I turned up several useful articles from university extension services and state government web sites. Bull snakes are our friends!)

[ADDED: Tara “ResearchBuzz” Calashain reminded me that she built an awesome Google Custom Search Engine that limits the search to just US states, counties and cities. See her description here.]

What search tricks have you learned recently?

Google News Lab – for more than just journalists

google-news-labEvery now and then, Google re-brands the portal it’s designed for journalists. They just put out a press release announcing the Google News Lab, so I had a reason to look at the site again. In no particular order, here are the reasons why you—yes, you, non-journalist—should go look at the News Lab.

First, it’s designed from the user’s point of view rather than a Google engineer’s POV. What a concept!  To start with, the shortened URL to get to the site is a mobile-friendly While you may not have had the foresight to register a three-letter domain like Google did, consider creating short, customized URLs for any site you want people to get to easily.

The front page offers multiple ways to engage with the site. There are four large graphics that offer brief tutorials for the various Google platforms, organized by Research, Report, Distribute and Optimize. Each of these areas features five to 10 tutorials on very focused, targeted activities relevant to journalists—everything from using Google Earth to creating consumer surveys and shaping stories to encourage binge watching.

There are also links across the top of the page, breaking out the content by type, including Tools, Data and Programs. The Tools link takes you to all the tutorials; the Data links offer examples of innovative ways that journalists and news organizations have created insight using Google’s data sets, and Programs highlights partnerships Google has with media organizations and the journalist community.

Much of the material in these lessons could be of use to solopreneurs as well. Do you know how and when to use Google’s reverse image search? Are you tagging your YouTube videos (webinars, podcasts, etc.) so that they are easily findable by your audience? Have you checked out Google Public Data Explorer‘s data sets and data viz tools to spice up a presentation?

Beyond raising your search and analysis skills, look at the News Lab for ideas on how to present your services or products in ways that make sense to your user community.

My Clients Can’t Afford Me!

One of the most common concerns I hear from my coaching clients is “my clients are too cost-conscious – they can’t afford my usual hourly rate.” My response, as uncomfortable as it may be to hear, is that it’s your job to find a client base that doesn’t think twice about how much you cost. Yes, I know it’s hard to find new clients… but is it really easier to try to get your existing clients to pay you what you want to get paid?

The problem isn’t that there aren’t any good clients — it’s just that the well-paying clients haven’t heard about you yet. If your prospective clients gasp on horror when they hear  that your project will cost $500, you have learned a useful lesson – you are not talking with people who understand your value. No harm; you simply need to pivot and determine another approach that enhances your profile and reputation with people who have the need for your high-value services, a recognition of your value, and the ability to pay what you are charging.

One of the first things I do when I am finding too much push-back to my prices is to conduct some reality-check interviews to learn what my clients really value today. What are their biggest concerns right now? What are they most challenged by? What do they wish they could accomplish that they can’t? I am always surprised by what I learn and, even after 20+ years in business, I am reminded to continually question my assumptions about what “I know” my clients value. Once I find out what their pain points are now, I can modify how I talk about my services and focus more on the current challenges my clients are experiencing.

What’s YOUR hourly rate?

If it’s not at least $150/hour, you’re undervaluing—and underpricing—yourself.

Join me on Tuesday, June 9th at noon EDT for a webinar that will change how you think about pricing.

In this live, hour-long webinar, Getting Paid What You’re Worth: Pricing Secrets of Info-Entrepreneurs, I will cover:

  • The 7 Deadly Pricing Sins
  • How to use MEB’s Hourly-rate Calculator
  • Why we undercharge
  • How to re-think your pricing to focus on value

Then I’ll give you the 3-minute tour of my new online course, Pricing For Solopreneurs.

After that, I will take all the questions you have – I plan on 30 minutes of Q&A at the end of the webinar.

I am charging $10 for this webinar. Why aren’t I giving it away for free? Because my expertise and insights have value. Sure, $10 isn’t much, but it’s a recognition that you expect value from me, and I expect to provide a LOT of value to you.

Join me Tuesday, June 9th at noon EDT.

P.S. The webinar will be recorded, but only the attendees of the live webinar will be offered a 50% discount off my 7-module online course, Pricing For Solopreneurs. I will also do a drawing during the webinar for a copy of The Reluctant Entrepreneur: Making a Living Doing What You Love.

Got questions? Email me

Adding a zero to your budget

As I mentioned earlier, I was recently in the market for a graphic designer to create a new template for my online courses. (Watch this space for the first course on pricing strategies.)

Adding a zero I could go to Elance or Fiverr and find someone who could probably deliver a perfectly serviceable template for a very modest fee. In fact, Fiverr specializes in jobs that will cost no more than $5. (Why would anyone work for or hire someone for $5/job? I have used Fiverr to get a 3-D image of an ebook; it probably took the designer 15 seconds and it would have taken me more than $5 worth of my time to do it myself.)

But this template really matters to me, and I knew that I would get a lot of use out of a well-designed template. I would rather pay more and get something of much higher value. And I wanted someone who would engage me in a conversation, who would take the time to listen to some of my presentations to get a sense of how I project myself. I wanted someone who really wanted my business, and who makes a living through maintaining a sterling reputation and generating word-of-mouth referrals, not someone whose main selling point is that he is cheap.

So, I had a choice of several price points for my custom template:

  • Over 200 people on Fiverr offering to design a PowerPoint template for $5
  • Over 3,000 people on Elance designing PowerPoint templates for under $15/hour
  • 1 person I found through a referral who charges around $500 to design a PowerPoint template

I was happy spending 100 times as much as I would have had I hired a Fiverr for this job, and I am probably at least 100 times happier with the results. Why? Because I wasn’t just shopping for a PowerPoint template. I was looking for someone who was willing to invest time in learning about who I am and who could create something unique that will reflect me best.

As you think about the services or products you provide, consider what you could do that would add a zero to your value to your clients. What can you do that will push you outside your comfort zone and into your Zone of Inspiration? What can you create that no one else has thought of in quite the same way? What can you do that is unlike anything else?