How good are you at selling yourself? The right kind of self-promotion is crucial to building a successful second act as a freelancer or contractor. While lining up a contract or part-time gig isn't all that different from finding a full-time job, the difference is that you have to do it over and over again.
Here are seven tactics to help you promote yourself and your business and bring in new clients and projects.
Work the websites. Upwork.com can lead you to online positions; Freelancer.com to project-based work; and VirtualVocations.com to telecommuting jobs ranging from grant writing to graphic design to bookkeeping. On TaskRabbit.com, you can sign up for jobs ranging from handyman to personal assistant.
Setting up an account is free on these sites, but you usually pay a percentage of your earnings. Upwork, for example, charges fees of 20 percent, 10 percent or 5 percent depending on the total amount you've billed with the client.
Leverage social media. In addition to having a LinkedIn page, you might want Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter pages for your business. Canvass your peers to see which networks they use professionally. Photographers often showcase their work on Instagram. Pinterest is popular if you're in the retail or consumer goods business.
Mine your network. Let people know you're looking for temporary assignments. Be bold. Announce your services from time to time on Facebook or post word of a job you've just completed. Join industry groups on LinkedIn. Periodically send out mass emails to your contact list announcing your services. And continue to network the old-fashioned way, face to face.
Keep building your network. When you're engaged in a project or temporary assignment, collect names and contact information for all the people you work with. One project or temporary assignment often leads to others.
Be active in industry groups. If there's a certain industry you're interested in, join a local association or organization connected with it. Attend industry and professional meetings and conferences. Monitor the association job boards and let other members know you're open for business.
Reach out to nonprofits, too. They often hire project-based or contract professionals. You might even offer your services pro bono to get your name out there and gain references for future jobs.
Know what you're worth. Research the going rate for what you do. Many contract workers have websites where they post their rates. Or contact some of them in your field and ask. If they're reluctant to share, they might open up if you explain you're looking into entering the field and you don't want to undercut others on price.
Launch your own website. If you plan to make contract work your full-time occupation, you'll want to build a strong brand. It will help you build your clientele by establishing you as an expert in your field and someone who can be trusted.
The cornerstone in online branding efforts will be a website, blog or combination of the two. You can post articles to demonstrate your insight into the industry, share a full portfolio of your work, and include testimonials from past clients and supervisors. Low-cost options such as Wix or SquareSpace, where you can expect to pay fees starting around $10 per month, make it easy to customize your own site, adding photos and text, off of templates.
You can launch a single-page website with a professional photo, detailing your professional background and interests — kind of like a spotlighted résumé — and build on it later. If you need something more complex, you can always hire a professional, but you can expect to pay much more.
After you have the basics set up, it's a good idea to post new content regularly. Regular blog posts will boost your site's ranking with search engines, making your page more likely to be viewed by prospective clients.
Don't be shy. Some people are naturals at selling themselves face to face. If you're not, consider taking a public-speaking class at a community college. Most courses cover techniques for such things as managing communication anxiety, speaking clearly, and tuning into your body language. Sign up for an acting workshop or improvisational comedy. These workshops can help you build your confidence and stage presence. Or join Toastmasters. Groups of about 20 people meet weekly for an hour or two. You learn how to focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and audience. Finally, consider working with a personal career coach.
All of these steps will translate into enhanced creativity and communication in your future temporary workplace — and likely boost your general happiness, too. Good luck!
Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her books include What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.
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