Name: Tracy O’Clair

Title: President and CEO

Company: TOCMEDIA, Waterville

About: A digital marketing agency focusing on social media marketing, content and advertising

Website: www.toc-media.com

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

My biggest challenge is finding qualified freelancers to produce the work I need done for my clients. I am looking for freelancers who are working from home. I need somebody who is doing it full time — SEO (search engine optimization), advertising. I can’t just pick someone up off the street that knows a little bit about something.

It’s networking and I have been exploring online resources like UpWork and different subagencies that have been offering content.

I am doing pretty good. I have a lot of longterm freelancers right now. I am waiting for the market to turn a little bit where there’s more freelancers and less 9-to-5 workers. Once it’s more common, it’ll be great.

It doesn’t matter where they are. However, I like working with U.S. citizens who are in the U.S. because of the time difference, but it doesn’t really matter where they are. I need to find someone whose native tongue is English and I prefer to work with people in the U.S., U.S. residents.

My whole entire team works off the internet because we have virtual offices. So as long as they have a laptop or whatever device they are working on, they can log in and do the work.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

Read all your cards before you make a play. You definitely need to make sure you research everything thoroughly before you make a decision. And then another piece of advice is to take an opportunity when it comes. If you wait too long on an opportunity, you may lose it.

What skills do you value the most in the people who work for you?

The biggest thing is you have to be honest and transparent and you have to be able to communicate effectively through electronic means.

They have to be loyal and friendly.

And they have to understand the concept and model of the business. Everyone that works for me is a business owner themselves. It’s a 1099, so they have to be dedicated to their business and their personal growth. They are staying in business, so therefore they can work for me.

The skills that I am looking for are completely across the board. I have copywriters, I have graphic designers, I have social media marketers, I have people that are doing advertising, doing website development. There are not a lot crossovers on those skills. You are not going to find someone who can do all that.

The person I am looking for does want to work. I get a lot of people that come to me that want to work. I know they can learn the skill, because it’s not rocket science, but they are not in a position to maintain a business themselves. So they’ll end up working awhile. If they are not passionate about it, it’s hard for somebody to stay up to date with it and power through the struggles of being an entrepreneur. Then, they’ll end up getting a 9-to-5 job.

Being a freelancer is not easy, plus you pay higher taxes. It’s difficult to keep up. If you’re smart, you’re looking on line every day.

My business is definitely a lifestyle business. I am a single mom. I have been raising my two children for 22 years. It allowed me to go to all their sports games, be home with them and do everything I need to do as a single mom plus make money on the side. Right now it’s crunch time, because I am trying to grow and plan for retirement.

They have to be tech savvy, they have to know how to integrate things. They have to know how to sign on. They have to know how to use their laptop and get to the library and log into everything they need to log into to do the work they need to.

The hardest part, I think, is being up to date with technology and integration when you are working virtually, but most people working virtually understand that.

What was your biggest misconception about being in business?

Everything was confusing. Typing out rates and not accounting for all the extra time that goes into doing something — your taxes and your human resource cost. Just figuring out that formula that works was hard for me. I started out with just myself, and I was looking for a way to grow. So I ended up to hiring a temp agency to start, which cost be extra because of the agency on top of it. And being in a small town, everyone asked me to give them a good deal, which you can’t always do. Just managing the finances and the accounting and all the extra services you need that you are not experienced with is hard for any entrepreneur. I didn’t really think too much about it, I just powered through. I didn’t have many misconceptions, just the struggle and the hustle.

I didn’t start out with a business plan. I started out because somebody asked me to do something and I did it, and I kept doing it for other people.

What is your biggest concern?

The market changes so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. With the communications, the way you communicate changes, the algorithms of the social media networks change, and digital advertising platforms, and they are changing by the second. The rate of change is increasing every single day that it’s difficult for any agency to keep up. It’s difficult for any business to keep up. How do I communicate with my target market if they’re all moved to Snapchat and I am used to doing it on Facebook? Or there’s something else bright and shiny and now that’s the wave. The platforms for communication are changing so quickly and everything is becoming so fragmented, it’s harder to target your audience. That’s what we’re working against right now and we’ll be working against it in the future.

Where do you think your business will be in five years?

Business is going to be good, because I am retiring in four years, kind of. It’s a lifestyle business, so I am working hard now to travel. I expect to double my freelancers right now, so if I have seven, I will double those out to 14 or 15. I will have four times the client base I do now in sales. And then my goal is to have a management team so it can manage the different freelancers.

I would like to get more global and work with people from other countries, but right now, I don’t have the capacity to do that. I only speak English.

Personally, my daughter graduates in three and a half years, so my goal is to take two years off to travel, and build up my passive income and have a camp and a condo.

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