Jump-start your freelance or consulting practice in three steps

In this period of widespread job-market turmoil, I created Stand Up 8 Times to help unemployed and underemployed people who want to start making money quickly as a freelancer or consultant.

As I look back on my own experience as a freelancer and consultant, beginning in 1992, and research how others succeed in similar quests, many of my findings coalesce around three action steps.

First, offer a service as similar as possible to what you did in your last good full-time job. You’ll have the most self-confidence in offering the work you know best. And you will have the qualifications—years of experience, success stories and war stories, portfolio, college degrees, certificates and credentials, association memberships—that will easily convince prospects that you are the best talent for the assignment.

Remember that freelancers and consultants must be able to work independently. The stronger your background in the specific work and industry, the easier it will be to produce client-pleasing work that meets tight deadlines from the relative isolation of a home office.

The alternative to this advice? Well, many advisors recommend that you determine your passion and pursue it wholeheartedly. Sounds good, but in practice, it’s easiest to get paying assignments quickly by aligning your efforts with your qualifications.

Second, contact the best prospects individually. Telephoning is especially effective. Your best prospects are employed at full-time corporate jobs and work under a great deal of pressure. Though we self-employed individuals may find time to explore Facebook, Twitter, networking events, etc., the people who most need your help are engulfed in on-the-job fire fighting. They are too busy to note your existence unless you reach out and tap them directly on the figurative shoulder.

Third, get real! Let’s define “quickly” as 30 days, not 30 minutes or even 30 seconds. Much as you would like to start making money with your first phone call, this rarely happens. It may require substantial numbers of phone calls, but with planning and discipline, these can be completed in a month or less. Though there may seem to be minimal response to your first calls, as the days pass you begin to see results. And since the sole practitioner can only handle a limited number of assignments simultaneously, your schedule may fill up quickly.

Most other prospecting techniques require much more time to kick in. Networking and online social networking require prospects to know, like and trust you; obviously such relationships require nurturing over time. Website development, search engine optimization and other sophisticated practices also may require several months or much longer to fill your practice.

Is this the right path for every individual? Of course not. Mapping our life journey is a unique process for each of us. Our education and experience, skills and preferences, personalities and attitudes, perhaps even our missions and destinies, lead us to choose how we will manage our work campaigns in ways that are uniquely right for us.

While the three action steps above are not ideal for everyone—and conflict with much of the advice out there, they may be just right for you.

What do you think? I have posted this article on my blog for your input and discussion.


One response to “Jump-start your freelance or consulting practice in three steps

  1. Diana,

    I think you point about how busy one’s prospects are is a key point. These people don’t have time for reading all their email, let alone the other channels you mention.

    A phone conversation is so much richer in terms of its potential to begin to establish a relationship.

    Your related post about how to leave a useful voice mail message helps address the challenge of how to address the fact that few people even have time to answer their phones.

    Thanks for all your great content and practical ideas.


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