Rill Hodari Senior Insights Consultant
Learn how Rill has turned 20 years of experience in market research into a profitable freelancing business that offers a unique consulting product to tech startups.
What's your background and what type of services do you offer to clients?
I have over 20 years of experience in market research and consumer insights and I hold a bachelors in Math and an MBA in Marketing Research.
I offer a wide variety of primary research and consumer insights consulting services. I consult on various business issues such as business strategy development, new product development and validation testing, advertising/ creative testing, consumer journey and needs identification, and ideation session facilitation and management.
After I was laid off from a job, I secured a contract position soon after and I just continued working as a freelancer and contractor. It was not always an consistent flow of work but I continued to pursue channels I was interested in.
Who is your target or ideal client?
I typically focus on tech startups in a wide variety of industries that either have some seed funding from friends and family or angel investor or VC. My unique study offering is called a MV MVP study (Most Valuable Minimum Viable Product) which delivers the optimal feature configuration, pricing and brand name for a product or service. This research method starts at about $7K and can go up to $35K or more depending on sample size and the incidence of the target respondent.
How do you find and attract clients?
I would offer free workshops or network with pro bono activities to educate smaller entities about the value and methods of marketing research. I also use the LinkedIn Pro Finder platform. I also produce and distribute a monthly newsletter for further instruction and awareness.
Regarding LinkedIn Pro Finder, do you simply search for professionals that meet your target persona and cold email them? What kind of success have you had with this method?
I've had a couple of projects that almost took off but I never got one to actually fully launch. The platform allows people interested in services that you offer to send you an RFP using a form that they provide. Then freelance professionals like myself, can respond through the platform form with a synopsis of their background and standard hourly pricing. This just starts the conversation. For the ones that almost took off, the conversation immediately exited the LinkedIn platform and became more direct in which I submitted a more robust proposal for work and had some phone and in-person meetings.
I would not mind if the platform were tailored to support more of the process. For example, allowing me to complete a general information form and also to attach a robust proposal document along with maybe some flyers or marketing material. Also, I'd like it to have a space to for freelancers to outline the information required for the development and submission of a proposal.
The limitations of the platform illustrate how LinkedIn did not do their due diligence on learning the dynamic of the RFP and subsequent proposal submission activity. They have the captured audience to leverage to create this marketplace, but they are not being very savvy about how they develop it.
Are there any resources that you avoid or do not use to find work?
There are sites that I don't use that are specifically for market research consultants. I have not used these sites because they require non-compete agreements. In other words, I would have to exclusively source work from their site and not any other platforms. This is very limiting and similar to an employee relationship, which is not freelancing.
What advice would you offer other freelancers that are just starting out?
Put together some pre-made solutions that are easy to show to people and show the unique value and relevancy of your services. Find ways that you are comfortable speaking to as many people as possible as often as possible. This is not always going to every networking event or soliciting work from your professional network. But rather it may include participating in volunteer activities with a target client group, online community forums, workshops or webinars that deliver free content, etc. Be prepared to do a lot of work before getting a hit.
Do the due diligence to learn everything about the target client market that you will pursue. Learn not only what their primary needs are but what is the typical organizational or team culture like and the profile of a typical decision-maker. If you have some direct personal experience in your target arena that is great, if not you will have to do more work to learn the landscape and language.
Also, look to supplement your income to make sure you can get through lean times.
Lastly, be sure to ask for an upfront deposit of some percentage of the total cost with the balance either being paid as accrued or upon completion of the project. This keeps both sides honest and protects you from being completely screwed if the client fails to pay after work has been done. Only start 30 or 45 day invoicing policies once you are large enough to absorb any losses and even then only do so with clients with a good track record.
Be kind, generous, empathetic, and flexible with clients, but also be firm about not being exploited, manipulated or abused. As a freelancer you are your only protector, there is not a supervisor or even a company process to protect you as a worker.
Where can we go to find out more about you and your business?
Interested parties can join my email list for my monthly e-newsletter. To join, people can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Market Research Newsletter Signup" in the subject line. Also, if there are primary market research topics they want me to address in an article, they can include that in the body. I also regularly speak to potential clients by phone or in person. I often meet people at 1871 and I conduct office hours at the Polsky Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.