Tag Archives: freelancers

The ‘Boxy’ Problem with Job Descriptions

Staying in the same job for too long can often make you feel like you are stuck in a box. In fact, a former boss once told me that “you can actually become de-skilled if you stay in the same role for more than a few years.”

Since January, I’ve spoken with a few former colleagues who are currently searching for a new full-stuck in a boxtime job. ‘Tis the job hunting season as it is a new year!

I’ve noticed that one of the most common complaints that they have is that they feel like they don’t have all of the skills required in the listing for a job. Or, that the job description seems limiting somehow and/or it omits some of the skills that they wish to continue nurture in the future.

I know that this isn’t the typical topic that I post on my personal blog. But it is a big reason why I became self-employed in the first place.

A few years ago, like many of my friends who are now searching for jobs, I felt like my current job skills didn’t match up with the job that I wanted to do. Also, many of the job descriptions for which I was applying felt too limiting and I knew that I would want to do more than what was outlined as my future roles and responsibilities. So, I did what seemed like the only reasonable thing at the time – I hired myself and made up my own limitless job description.

Of course, it’s important to be focused as an entrepreneur or freelancer. But the bonus is that your job description doesn’t have to fit into a box – nor does your current level of expertise have to tick all of the boxes required to get the job that you wish you could have. That’s because you can continue to evolve and learn new skills on the fly as an entrepreneur. In fact, you have to do that or you won’t succeed. 

For anyone out there looking to change careers or to find a job that they keep getting told that they are not yet qualified to have, why not consider hiring yourself? You may just be the best boss you ever had!

Tip for New Freelancers: Be a Niche Detective

Last week, I had coffee with a friend who is looking to start her own web analytics consulting business. In addition to giving her operational advice about what tools she’ll need to get started, I emphasized the need to find her niche.creating your own vision

She asked me what the top three things she could focus on to serve clients in the web analytics space. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer in my opinion. That’s because it all depends on the type of business, what tools a company has (or is lacking) and what customers they are serving.

It also depends on where my friend’s expertise lies and how she will differentiate her skills from those of other web analytics consultants.

So, here’s what I told her to focus on to get started:

    • Be a niche detective. Starting a freelance business is like solving a mystery. You need to unravel the clues as to where your skills will be most useful and which customers will demand the most of your time and expertise. So, I told my friend to go out and have coffee with everyone and anyone she considers to be a possible client or industry expert. Each meeting will give her insights to lead her closer to the niche to which she is most suited.
    • Focus on your preferred niche. It’s fine to say that you should follow the path to the money. Unfortunately, as a freelancer, you must also find projects that you enjoy doing the most. That’s because you will be more likely to succeed using the skills and expertise that you enjoy. And that will ultimately lead to getting more and more work in the future through satisfied customers and positive word of mouth.
  • Be picky. I read this article from The Next Web last week about why freelancers need to be picky about clients and projects. I couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t mean that you should turn down a lot of projects early on. But once you have gathered some experience and confidence in the skills you wish to sell, it’s important not to burn yourself out or spin your wheels working on projects that take you away from the work that you enjoy doing.

Are you a freelancer or consultant working in a very specific niche? Do you agree? Please share your thoughts below.

Tips for freelancers on staying connected

I’ve had a few conversations with freelancers and small business owners in the past week about staying connected. Freelancing or running a sole proprietorshipphoto illustrate networking - tin cans with a string  can get lonely sometimes. You don’t always have people to collaborate with or ask advice. But there are ways to manage this problem.

Below are some of the tactics that work best for me.

1. Reach out to others with social media. This one should be obvious. However, if it’s not then here are some tools that you should be using to find the right people to get the feedback and collaboration that you crave:

  • Twitter: It has been said that Facebook is for staying connected with the people you know, and Twitter is for finding the people you should know. Get that Twitter profile started and begin searching with tools like search.twitter.com for the people who are Tweeting about topics that are related to your business and to your interests. Start conversations with these people online, but make sure to take these conversations offline as well. Meet for coffee or set-up a quick phone call to get to know them better. After all, that’s why it’s called social media.
  • Quora: If a customer calls with a question that you can’t answer, try posing it to the experts on Quora. I’ve found that within a day or two after posting a question, I usually get a very helpful answer. This is a great replacement for those mass e-mails, or wiki posts, that you used to send out to your team at a larger company for an answer.

2. Coffee and lunch meetings are a must. I make an effort to book at least two or three coffee or lunch meetings a week. It’s sometimes tough if you’re on a tight deadline for a project, but staying in touch with other colleagues face-to-face helps to keep your sanity.

3. Pick-up this old-fashioned thing called a telephone. Ok, so smartphones aren’t old-fashioned. But we live in a world where people sometimes get freaked out when you call them rather than texting, e-mailing or instant messaging them. However, it’s amazing how much more you can get accomplished in a quick phone call, rather than a long e-mail or text string of exchanges. Plus, the human voice on the other end is another great way to feel connected to the real world if you’re working alone.

4. Skype-it-up. If you’re on a shoestring budget as a small business owner, and have to call someone long-distance, make sure that you set-up a Skype account. That way, you can choose to also speak to the person face-to-face via webcam and feel even more connected. But this does require that you make yourself presentable – in case you’re one of those people who works in their pajamas every now and then.

5. Co-working spaces and coffee shops. Need a change of scenery, or want to be around people for a day? Why not go to a Starbucks or Second Cup and take advantage of the free wifi? If your local coffee shop is wearing on you, why not look for co-working spaces that you can rent by the day or by the hour? There are always lots of other small business owners there and you never know who you’ll meet. Check out my blog from last week about some of the spaces that are popping up in Toronto.

Have another tactic for staying connected? Please share what has worked for you in the comments section below.

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