"How will I find people to pay me what I want to be paid, to do what I want to do, when I need to work?"
Often I'm asked for advice on whether or not someone should become an independent consultant or freelancer. Worries about finding enough work to pay the bills and grow keep many would-be freelancers from taking the leap. Work flow is obviously important but it doesn't have to hold you back.
Like a lot of big life choices, I think that if you've been turning the thought over in your head for a while, it's probably worth picking up, examining what it's all about, and giving it a shot. For me, working hourly was precisely the solution I needed for career and my family. It works for me.
Here's how it might work for you too.
- Pick just one thing to sell. I know, it's hard. You're probably pretty great at a bunch of things. Fight the urge to be all thing to all potential clients.
- Familiarize yourself with how buyers describe their need for the thing you're going to sell and adopt their language. Don't try to sell a multi-pronged adult education curriculum when your prospective clients are searching for training. The product might be exactly the same but they won't be able to find you.
- Waste little, or better yet, no time creating a website. Perfecting an online presence is a hiding place many would-be entrepreneurs. Start working first, then worry about your site if and when you need it later.
- Draft a short email pitch that you can customize for each of your contacts. Plan to mention your new endeavor in your response to "How are you?" for the foreseeable future.
- Find the others. This is Seth Godin's way of saying that you need to identify communities of like-minded people. For me, communities like Vendeve and the private Facebook group created by my author coach, Angela Lauria have been tremendously helpful. Finding the others isn't about getting to know your competition, it's connecting with other people facing the same challenges who (at the moment) know more than you do about the business.
- Pinpoint whatever very specific thing you need to do for you to pep yourself up, get organized, and face each day as your own boss. When of the trickiest things--even for the most focused and productive among us--is making sure that the "to do" items you tackle first are advancing your business.
Big picture: Know that getting work is both incredibly difficult and super easy. This is just one of the strange contradictions within entrepreneurship. Two seemingly opposite things can be, and often are, simultaneously happening. Some pieces of work require hours of meetings with prospective clients, researching solutions, responding to proposals, and negotiating contracts. Other pieces of work literally fall out of the sky and require little more than an enthusiastic "Yes!"
Both situations are real and have their unique benefits. A longer, more intense sales cycle may result in a bigger project, a deeper connection to your client's needs, and a push into new, enhanced solutions. A shorter sales cycle means you more quickly get paid for the time you're investing.
Believing in yourself and the abundance of opportunities is critical getting the initial courage to leap and will also sustain you as you find place and launch. Send me a note via Twitter if you need a little encouragement. Until then, good luck!