There is no guest today, just me, Daniel O'Donohue. The inspiration for departing from the norm today is a Reddit discussion on a scenario that may resonate with many.
Are you unhappy in your current GIS job, or feel stagnant in your development? Are you thinking that maybe you are not exploring your full professional potential in the geospatial field? If you are looking for a way to manage these feelings, while taking on very little startup risk, a geospatial side hustle may be the thing for you. If you are completely satisfied with your day-to-day work, that’s great! You will still benefit from keeping aware of market demand, and where the future industry opportunities may lie.
As a map-enthusiast, although it may feel a bit obvious, creating maps may be the perfect fit. You are already making maps, why not go the extra mile and take the opportunity to share them (for profit!).
Others have of course already entered this niche. Etsy is an online marketplace for those who are looking for something you cannot buy off the store shelf. This platform for unique content is an excellent environment to sell maps in.
To get started, take some time to play around with the search function, and figure out what gets hits for the keywords you would expect customers to be searching. ‘Maps’, ‘Geography’, and ‘Landscape’, possibly plus the word ‘Gift’ are some good options to check out. Once you get some results, go ahead and put that analytical brain to work and see if you canfind some patterns as to what works. Etsy can allow you to figure out what people want to buy, it will also give you an idea as to what they are willing to pay. Some other insights can include cartographic style, preferred colors, and even feedback as to what would have made those products even better.
Once you have a template for your content, you can plug any location into it to maximize the diversity of your offerings.
As a mapping professional, you have an advantage over those without that extra skillset, embrace it!
Now that you have the content, it may seem a bit intimidating to take on the arduous tasks of finding a printer, testing the products, figuring out shipping, etc.. The modern era actually allows you to outsource a lot of this. If you would like to avoid print altogether, you can choose to make your prints available as PDFs, and shift the content delivery aspect to the consumer.
If you don’t love the idea of someone being able to download (and potentially resell) your content,you can outsource all the physical production to a third-party printing and shipping service like Printful, and facilitate your digital storefront through Etsy or Shopify.
Geospatial content is not limited to just maps. This podcast is geospatial content, these show notes are geospatial content, this stain that looks like Africa is geospatial content, well, you get the idea.
Content, whether it is audio, visual, or written, especially in the context of social media, is in high demand in the marketing sector. When it comes to geospatial content, the candidate pool those employers have to pull from narrows.
For the highest quality and most effective content, they need someone with a GIS/Geography background, as well as the desire and ability to combine those skills with the content medium.
Companies want to drive growth, and better content means a better chance to be discovered. The right content creator will know how to optimize keywords, resulting in better organic search rankings, and having the background knowledge to know what those words are is invaluable.
If this side hustle sounds like your kind of thing, here are some ways you can break into it. The first thing you will need to do is identify who would benefit from your services.
Take some time to figure out who is already spending money on content creation, as this means they see the value in the results.
You can do this by checking out the quality of their existing content (website, social media feed, etc.) and seeing if they are already running ads. The Facebook Ad Library is a good resource for scoping out their presence and investment in the platform.
Also, look to see how is sponsoring podcasts, online events, conferences. When you visit a geospatial blog do you see companies advertising on it? What ads do you see when searching for geospatial topics on google? What you are looking for here is who is already prepared to invest in getting traffic to their website and who has the budget to invest in content.
Now that you have narrowed down some potential clients, it’s time to sell yourself. Determine what you can bring to the table, and begin those conversations. Keep in mind that it is best to present tangible outcomes. In your discussion, describe how you can accomplish the company’s goals (likely some form of higher engagement, resulting in sales) by completing XYZ projects using ZYX skill set.
If your forte is in development, web or otherwise, you are in luck- business is booming and the space is full of potential. You do not need to be capable of programming the next Google Maps to be successful in this side hustle, simple web tools, such as https://www.gps-coordinates.net/ ( estimated monthly traffic = 443,000, estimated monthly revenue = $6600) or https://www.freemaptools.com/ which is less than polished, but still, its working and has been for awhile.
If you are struggling to find some inspiration for what to create, just know you do not need to reinvent the wheel here.
If something is working in another space, and you have the skills to adapt it for a geospatial purpose, do it!
If you find that an existing tool is lacking in some way, build a better one! Don’t forget to include your contact information in the end product, it will open you up to custom work from particularly impressed visitors.
The trick in creating evergreen content here is to solve a problem that needs to be solved over and over.
If you fix someone’s problem in one visit, you have limited your revenue potential. If you create a tool that someone can add to their toolbox, it will get used whenever something needs fixing. To get an idea of how much revenue a site may be generating, you can use WorthofWeb, and to get an estimate of traffic, try ahrefs. Please note, neither of these sites are perfect, so use some discretion when interpreting the results.
If none of the side hustles above cut it for you, and you would rather be doing raw GIS work, there is still a market for you. Online freelancing platforms have increased dramatically in popularity over the years. Some of the two most popular at this point are Upwork, and Fiverr, although there are plenty of others that we’re sure would love your business.
Freelancing platforms offer a wide variety of work, including GIS work. Clients generally advertise for jobs, and freelancers will submit proposals as to why they are the best candidate. If you want to prove yourself to be the best candidate, you would be wise to back it up with evidence.
Hosting a polished portfolio on your profile will help you get noticed, and increases your chances of landing work.
That first job is always the most difficult one. Be persistent, and have confidence in your abilities, and you will be winning jobs in no time.
You do not need dozens of clients to succeed.Realistically, you only need 3-4 core clients to be sustainable. It will take some time to find these clients, so be sure to value them once you do get them. Clients are looking for someone who can do the work, show up, and can communicate accordingly. Online freelancing platforms host a lot of competition, which can make it feel like a race to the bottom. You will see plenty of freelancers out there with low rates. Just remember that you get what you pay for, and quality talent will always be in demand to those who value it. Do not undervalue your skills, and approach jobs with confidence-- you’ll do great.