About two and a half years ago, I had this flash of inspiration and insight that I wanted to build database applications for nature conservation. Also, I wanted to start a company, so that I could move to Costa Rica, or any other place in the world. To start a company, one needs to answer at least two important questions : who are the clients and what can the company offer that they need so urgently that they will pay for it? There are other important issues, but that is not for this post.
I wanted to serve nature conservation, so roughly, I could answer the client question : NGOs, biologists, companies, government agencies and other actors working in nature conservation. Then to find out what they need is to somehow ask them what they need. Right? My biggest problem however, I did not have a network in nature conservation. Nature conservation used to be a way to live, not my job. My network was in academic research. How to move to it to a new field? I now have enough of a start to give some answers to that question. This post deals with creating content. Later posts will go into volunteer work, forums and webinars, LinkedIn and synergy.
Blogging about databases in nature conservation
On Medium.com, successful freelancers and entrepreneurs shared their ideas about how to become a successful freelancer or entrepreneur. There was a group that claimed that nothing works like creating content. For them that was writing – it was Medium after all, not YouTube – but other types of content may work as well: vlogs, podcasts, whatever. I guess it depends on one’s skills and preferences, and what would suit potential clients.
Because I had done some blogging about various topics before, and because it comes easier to me than podcasts or vlogs, I started making lists with and writing about databases and nature conservation. The first posts were reviews about existing database applications for collecting data on sea turtles and their nests. It was triggered by a question from Osa Conservation, where Cristina and I had done our first volunteer work in 2020. These posts first appeared on theflipflop.life.
Fast forward to the summer or 2021. I was planning to attend IUCN’s world conference in September. IUCN is the world’s association of nature conservation NGOs and IUCN organizes their world conference only once every four years. An opportunity that I could not let go. I made sure to have a company name and website before the conference. So that if just one person would check, they would see what my company was about, even though it did not yet exists and had no business plan.
I moved the sea turtle database posts to the company blog, and moved some old posts from my personal blog about programming and databases in research. It all added up to a modest collection of a dozen posts. Enough to show that I was serious.
The conference was incredibly interesting and inspired me to write three more blog posts: one about the state of the art in data collection in nature conservation and one about machine learning in the fights against poaching and illegal logging. The third was an introduction to machine learning. To write one of them, I ended up asking a few questions to a presenter, who then became a new connection in LinkedIn. And who became someone who knew about my company.
Since then I have gradually added about ten more posts, whenever I had time and inspiration. Is it enough? Not by far. The Medium writers are talking about at least a post per week, which is a hard trick to follow. Elsewhere, I read and heard claims of at least three per week, or even two per day. Fortunately, I also read someone who claimed that if a single person writes a blog per week or more, they are likely to start repeating themselves. This is also what I noticed on Medium. So, I am aiming for one per month.
A year and a half after publishing the sea turtle database posts, I received a request from someone who wondered what my thoughts were on a database design that his company was working on. Did I earn any money on that? No. Does it show that content creation has a networking effect? Yes. More writing leads to more attention and after that it is a numbers game, at least that is what the Medium writers claim. Did I get another request apart from the sea turtle thing? Yes, but that is material for the next post on volunteer work.
Moreover, last month, a year after the IUCN conference and a handful of new posts later, I happened to write a post that received relatively much attention on LinkedIn. It gained attention through my own network, but was also re-shared twice and liked by dozens of people whom I had never heard nor read of. Even better, three or four people who worked in nature conservation asked to connect to me. Not a great step for mankind, but a noticeable first for me, and exactly what I was writing for.
Conclusion: Creating content creates a network
Creating content is not easy, and doing it well takes a lot of effort and practice, but it does not have to be perfect from the start and it is worth the while. The reason why I started with writing about it, and not for example LinkedIn or volunteer work, is that one can start making content without needing anything else than what one already knows and a blog account. No LinkedIn network needed, nor experience in any field.
The audience will be very small at first, so there is nothing to loose. This provides the time and opportunity to learn from mistakes, ask for feedback and gain experience with creating the content. Keep up the work, learn the skills and tricks out there on the web, and the stats on the blog will show how the audience grows.
And that is the point. Well, it is my point here : content creates a network. It is what my company needs most now, so I can find out what my potential clients would pay for.
PS due to a mixup, you may have received a notification of the next post, which is about volunteering and which will appear sometime soon. Sorry about the confusion.