Bilna Sandeep began her career as a Chartered Surveyor. Since then, a journey into the world of digital marketing through her blog about motherhood, lead her to pursue a new passion and create multiple businesses. Now, she coaches women with small businesses to improve their social media strategies, so that they can access the same success online that she enjoys.
So, first up, how did you go from construction to digital marketing?!
So, yes, I'm a Civil Engineer and worked in the construction industry for more than ten years. During that time, I pursued my career and climbed the career ladder to become a Chartered Surveyor. Then I got the opportunity to work as a commercial lead at one of the great construction firms here in Dubai.
Eight years ago, I decided to take a break to spend more time with my son, but it didn't go as planned. I wasn't actually enjoying the break and found myself going into some kind of dark phase. So I started blogging and created a website; writing as a parenting blogger. I was sharing my journey as a mum.
It started getting traction and people started to interact with me. Before I knew it I was collaborating with different kids' brands.
So that's how it started and when it started growing, I finally decided to focus on this side of things. The construction sector is on hold right now and, actually, from this month onwards, I'm fully focused now on my business.
When you told people that you were going to leave to go and work in social media marketing, what was the reaction of your coworkers?
Actually, they knew about my Instagram profiles, but none of them had expected it to become my full-time job. So that was kind of shocking for a lot of them.
However, because I have a very in-depth knowledge of construction and I have a good knowledge of digital marketing as well, I plan to start a service for construction companies to manage their digital marketing and social media channels.
I see a lot of well-established companies that don't really have a good social media presence. So that is something I plan to focus on as well. That's how I plan to keep in touch with the construction sector and help them grow using my digital marketing skills.
You left behind a stable career with a really good salary to start a business, which is always risky. How do you feel about that?
The thing is, it wasn’t a sudden decision. It was planned for at least a year in advance and I saved for it.
Whenever anyone is thinking of starting a business, I think you should plan to amass six months’ worth of savings because it takes time for a business to get into its groove. So it's not like I suddenly jumped out of the plane. It was a calculated risk.
Whenever anyone is thinking of starting a business, you should plan to amass six months’ worth of savings because it takes time for a business to get into its groove.
And yes, it did take a bit of time to convince my family, but I have a very supportive husband and my kids are supportive of me too. I didn’t want to be regretful after, say, ten years, thinking that I missed an opportunity. I didn’t want to have that feeling, knowing that I never even tried.
Also, I did run the business for one year first, so I knew how it was going and that it was just going to get better. It came to the point where I couldn't focus on both my business and my current career at the time, so I had to make a choice.
So, I have to ask, now you're in digital marketing where do most of your leads come from? Is it through Google advertising? Is it through LinkedIn?
I’ve got three main points of the funnel.
One is the Homepreneurs club which is a group coaching platform that I run specifically for women setting up or running businesses.
And then the second is the social media agency, which we do through LinkedIn. Some of the people who work with us through the agency actually become a Homepreneur club member, and then after being a member for a few months, some of them come and ask us to handle their marketing for them.
And then the third is through my podcast. I offer a lot of freebies for downloads. So some of my listeners download it, and then they become part of my email marketing.
So it's a step-by-step process.
What’s it like looking inside all of these different businesses in all these different sectors - now that you can see how they all work, what are they doing wrong?
For established sectors, what I see is that they neglect their social media quite a lot. I say this because, although they might have been getting clients without social media previously, the pandemic has moved people online, meaning a lot more people are using social media platforms. So now, if you haven’t invested in social media platforms earlier, you’re missing out on a lot more than you would have been before.
That's where they are leaving money on the table.
But on the other hand, small businesses, like crafters and artists, are very obsessed with Instagram. They can become too focused on their follow rate or engagement and sometimes forget the integral parts. Just getting one million people to view your videos is not equal to getting money into your bank account.
If people want to follow your work where can they find more of you?
They can find me on LinkedIn or Instagram or Facebook, just search for Bilna Sandeep.
You can also find my podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Just search for The Bilna Sandeep Show. Every week I share some business strategies and tips for business owners.
Bilna Sandeep is the Dubai-based Founder of Built Market Lab, Bilna Sandeep Consulting, and the Homepreneurs business platform.
To check out Bilna's extended interview with us, and find out why her story resonated so much with one of our Co-Founders, head to our YouTube channel.
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