Beginning Your Gig
There's a small part within many of us that desires to have that little extra income or the freedom to manage our own schedule. If that's you, you're not alone. More than 57 Million Americans do freelance work across many disciplines, and it's an increasingly growing field with Millennials and younger leading the charge. Being your own boss is just part of the attraction - many earn more than 70% an hour by doing freelance, so there is a lot of reward to this kind of work.
But there's also a lot of risk and pressure that comes with consulting.
Coming from someone who has done consulting work for the last 10 years, it has its ups and downs that you have to be ready for. Some of that planning comes from trial and error, but a lot of that planning comes from learning from mentors in the business who have made the mistakes and perfected their practice. Everyone has their own ebb and flow that marries well with the service they provide, many of which I'll aim to cover in a series of blogs here. But before you even get into the nitty gritty, it's important to think about what, how and when you'd want to offer if you're considering freelance work.
There are many articles out there that offer you steps to take when considering building your consulting business, but I'm going to stick with what I've seen work and fail with my own growth as a freelancer. My hope is that you'll feel inspired to take that step forward you've been considering for a while, knowing that building your own business can be one of the most rewarding paths for you.
1. Identify Strengths
If you're like me, you may be capable of wearing multiple hats in the freelance world but you're not sure which path to take. In other cases, maybe you're considering freelancing for the first time and not sure which strengths you have that can be applied to freelancing. The key to remember is that in either case, there's always a skill set you can apply to freelance work. Bookkeeping, Accounting, Design Work, Editing, Marketing, Social Media, Web Design and so many more fields are great areas for you to apply your skills - whether you've practiced solely in these areas or they've just been a facet of your roles, it's all about how you market yourself to potential clients.
To know WHAT you should market to your clients, you can sit down and think about the varying aspects of your current and past roles, as well as any passion activities/roles you hold outside of a paying job. Do you manage a household? Do you plan your family / friend trips? Do you have a knack for getting creative with content? Think about what you're truly great at, which can be one or many things.
2. Consider Efficiencies
Unless you're planning to quit your job and shift priorities, the next step would be to consider the efficiencies you have in bandwidth. In other words, what services most easily align with your current schedule and tool belt. As you break into freelancing, you'll want to consider what systems you already have at your disposal and how much time you could devote each week (and when) to the type of work you're offering. This gives you the chance to continue earning your main income while transitioning into consulting work.
3. Consider Platforms
There are a lot of platforms out there to choose from when it comes to freelance work. Some of them become really spammy really quick, some have a terrible user experience, some never yield any return. It's safe to say I've tried them all after 10 years in the business, but there's one that has remained my go-to. If you've been in the freelance world for long, you've heard of Fiverr. If you haven't, you've seen a bus ad or you're about to Google freelance work and see it pop up in the first ew results. Fiverr has had a lot of growth over the last few years and there's no question as to why that is.
Fiverr is a really easy user experience to get used to and they offer a lot of helpful tools when just starting out. If you're marketing your service, you can see price comparisons so you know how to price yourself against competition based on your experience, you can build your service page so people can find you, and you have access to a lot of other freelancers and help tools if you ever need a community to talk to. One of the best parts is that the clients and projects on Fiverr have been vetted for the most part, so you don't have to deal with researching whether the opportunity is legit or not. And, let me tell you, with consulting... anytime you can alleviate risk of getting scammed is going to save you A LOT of headache.
4. Build Your Strategy
Next step, build your strategy. Once you're on Fiverr, see how others in the market are promoting themselves. What are they saying, how are they attracting customers, what skills are in-demand. You can see how you fit - and stand out - in the landscape and can turn that into marketable material.
In addition to building your profile on Fiverr, you'll want to build a portfolio site that showcases your skills. Ideally, you would build a simple site on Wix or other drag and drop platform that includes samples of your work and client testimonials. If you're just starting out, chances are you may not have some of this available to you. Still, having a portfolio site will benefit you because it can show who you are within 2 seconds.
(If you're not comfortable building a site on your own, this happens to be one of MY freelance skills and I'm always happy to help you do this. I like helping other entrepreneurs grow, so you can always reach out to me for guidance.)
You can also use social media to build your freelance work and this gives prospective clients a glimpse into your work ethic, expertise, passions and so forth. You can use Twitter to network, LinkedIn to network and promote your services, and Instagram to curate content that showcases your skills.
Lastly, as you get started, you'll want to outline how you plan to manage your business. Think about how many hours you'll set aside each week, what email address you plan to work from, how you'll keep track of earnings and client communications, etc. The great news is Fiverr can do a lot of the project management operations for you to help, but having a plan for your operations will take you really far.