I didn’t really have a good idea of what I was getting into way back in 2005. I just knew I didn’t want to sell houses any more. I was ready to hang up my Realtor name tag and do what I loved for a living. Some of you have already taken a similar leap of faith, and some of you are sitting on the fence trying to decide whether or not to take that same leap. I hope this series of articles will help you decide whether or not to dive head first into full time guiding; or how to grow your current guiding business.
“What do you want to do? If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” That was the question my wife asked me during a late night conversation over a decade ago. She knew I had been unhappy for a good while. She knew I didn’t like my job. Or any job for that matter. When I had met her back in 1998, I was a minor league professional baseball player in the New York Yankees organization with hopes of making it to the big leagues. That didn’t work out and subsequent jobs for the following 6 or 7 years left me feeling unfulfilled. She was frustrated for me and she just wanted me to be happy.
I told her, “I want to fish. But, I just don’t know if there’s any money in it.” She said, “Well, I would rather have a happy husband than a rich one. So, tomorrow I want you to do whatever it takes to have a job that brings you joy.”
So the next morning I went out and bought a 22 foot Ranger bay boat. I already had my captain’s license, I just needed that bigger boat (I already had a 16′ Ranger flats boat). So I bought it. And I dove head first into being a full time fishing guide.
So, I got the boat, had the license, purchased insurance, and took the leap…. all I needed was clients!
I knew I needed a website.
Coming from a sales background, I knew the internet was going to be a big part of convincing people to fish with me. I knew I needed a website. So, I called around to get some prices. The quotes I got were either so astronomical that I couldn’t afford them, or they were so cheap that I didn’t trust the work they were offering. I had built websites in the past for a few different things, like the fishing tournaments I used to run. So, after determining, that I couldn’t afford the crazy prices that the “authorities” on fishing web design were quoting me, or the work of the “cheap guys”, I decided I would build a site myself.
I went immediately to Barnes & Noble and bought this huge, thick, 1500+ page book called “HTML For Dummies” (HTML is a code language for building websites). I studied it and studied it and I experimented with building my website. I must have made 100 changes to it over the course of a year. But, I learned what brought me the most success.
I got my website to the top of Google search results.
I knew that if I had the best looking website in the world but nobody could find it, I didn’t have much. I found an SEO guy in Miami that actually did right by me and he got me to the top of search engines for the keywords I wanted to target (he’s no longer in that business). I hated spending the money on SEO, which seemed like chasing a unicorn at the time, but in the end, my investment in SEO paid me back 1000+ fold. So once I was ranked highly in search engines, it was all about playing around, tweaking, and perfecting the presentation people would see when they visited my site.
I took great pictures.
I knew from being a Realtor that great pictures could sell a house. Why not a fishing charter? The difference between a house for sale with terrible pictures and one with great pictures made all the difference online when people were searching for a home. I was sure that it would make a difference for me as a fishing guide as well. So, I went out and bought a really nice Nikon DSLR and learned to use it. I took pictures of every fish. Stockpiling a reserve of pictures I could always go back to and use if I was in need of one. I still get new clients that tell me they picked my charter business because of the pictures on my site.
I put my best foot forward.
Even though I took pictures of every fish, I knew from real estate marketing, you should always put your best foot forward. So, I never promoted myself with pictures of tiny fish. Just like if I had been selling a house, I wouldn’t have used a photo of the bald spot in the yard to promote it.
If I wrote a fishing report for a certain week, but all we caught were small fish, I would either not include a picture with the report or I would only include a picture of the largest fish we caught that week. You can’t impress people with unimpressive things.
I tried to look successful.
One time I was fishing a redfish tournament in Jacksonville Florida. Every day after practice, we would drive by this one restaurant where the parking lot was always full of cars. I decided I wanted to eat there, solely because the parking lot was always full. So, one day I did. And it was amazing. If I had never seen that parking lot full, I would have missed out on eating at one of the most amazing restaurants I had ever eaten at. I only ate there because they looked successful. I didn’t know anything else about them.
“If you look good, you feel good, if you feel good you play good, if you play good, you get paid good.” – Deon Sanders
- I wrote a lot of fishing reports. I wrote detailed reports about every fishing trip I went on. Sometimes I was writing 3 or 4 reports a week. When people visited my site, they saw that I was busy and people want to go fishing with a busy guide.
- I tried to never “poor mouth” anything. Fishing guides, and people in general for that matter, are notorious for poor mouthing everything. “The fishing stinks. The tides are bad. The weather is horrible. I hate my competition….” etc. Why would I give anyone a reason NOT to hire me? I didn’t lie to anyone. But, if I had a slow week, or the fishing was bad, I figured it was best just to keep my mouth shut. If the fish weren’t biting, or the phone wasn’t ringing, I wrote product reviews or fishing forecasts. I wanted to make sure people knew I was actively working my business; even in the slow times. Plus, people want to fish with a happy captain. Not one who is constantly grumbling.
- I answered every phone call and email. If you want a sure fire way to increase your charter business overnight, this is the ticket. I made sure to answer every phone call or return messages as soon as I had them. I answered every email as quickly as possible and with great detail in my responses. It was amazing to me how many people told me that they had contacted 5 or even 10 guides without a response from any of them until they talked to me. I got tons of charters because I was the first guide to respond to clients.
Part 2 – It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Part 3 – It’s not about you.
Part 4 – Gorilla marketing… that phone ain’t gonna ring itself.
Part 5 – You’re worth more than you think.
Part 6 – Would you want to fish with you?