As a work-at-home entrepreneur, freelance writer, and startup consultant, I'm often asked where I find time to start new businesses or seek out writing gigs. It wasn't until recently that I realized I do something that not everyone else does – I double dip when it comes to ideas and resources in order to save time and energy.
Like many work-at-home professionals, I have a very diverse skill set; I can do graphic design, web design, writing, editing, marketing, social media marketing, event planning, project management, and more. Because I believe strongly in working smart instead of working hard, I look at every project as an opportunity to apply multiple skills and contacts to maximize profit.
What do I mean by that? I'm including three tips for how I work smart, not hard.
1. Is there an opportunity for additional work here?
Seeking out work and finding clients is time-consuming. The whole process of sales for work-at-home professionals warrants a book rather than a blog post; which is why I prefer to do as little sales work as possible for the most amount of profit.
For example, I recently found a post on a networking group for someone who needed a logo designed. I reached out with my portfolio and pricing and then went to work selling myself and my services. After a quick call, I landed the job and started work on the logo. During the information gathering process, I asked the owner of the company what she did and how she was planning to use the logo (social media, websites, printed material, etc.). She told me how she was doing a website redesign and was working to improve her social media presence, the first step of which was revamping her logo.
At this point in the conversation, it would have been easy to accept the information and make a killer logo for her new website. Instead, I made the logo and then explored the opportunity for additional work. Through a few questions, I discovered that she was planning to do the rest of her design work herself but had no idea where to start. I gave her a great price and was able to land an ongoing consulting and design gig that helps to build my monthly income base.
This is something I suggest everyone do. Selling can be a huge time suck. If you successfully sell one client on your services, think if there is any way to turn a one-off gig into a recurring contract or a project of larger scope. If someone needs help with a single blog article, find out if they have any future articles on their to-do list. If you're selling widgets, give a discount to customers if they purchase additional items or ramp up your emails to past customers to encourage them to purchase again. It's much easier to get more money and work from a client or customer you've already sold than it is to find new clients or customers.
2. How else can I use the knowledge I gained during a project?
I find that as a work-at-home professional, I'm in a constant state of learning. If I'm researching for an article, I may spend an hour or more learning about a new topic. If I'm consulting, I often find myself learning bits and pieces of the business or philosophy of the company with whom I'm working.
Because I enjoy learning, this is something that happens naturally. However, I prefer to maximize this knowledge by applying it to additional projects. Every time I learn about a new topic, I stop and ask myself, how else can I apply this knowledge to other projects or outlets?
For example, I recently spent an inordinate amount of time learning about printing processes for infant bodysuits. When speaking to one of my partners who has a holistic products company, we started discussing how various acupressure points on an infant's body can help with things like colic. Because I had already done the research on manufacturing, I was able to suggest a design for bodysuits that would visually instruct new parents on how to manipulate those points without any lengthy instructions (and earn my share of the profits from said bodysuits). During the design process, I learned more than I expected related to reflexology and acupressure for infants and children, so when I came across a job listing for a freelance writer with knowledge in alternative medicine, I landed the job. I was able to leverage the knowledge gained from a single project to get two additional jobs with no extra time spent researching.
3. Make the most of every contact and resource.
I'm a big believer in personal connections and partnerships. As a work-at-home professional, I crave social interaction which causes me to regularly attend networking events and join any Facebook group that is remotely related to work that I do. With each connection I make or resource I come across, I apply the same principals as above and ask myself, “How else can I use this person or resource?”
Recently, I ran into an old friend at a networking event and found that he needed help building his Instagram following as well as launching a website for his new yoga class. I offered to help in exchange for yoga lessons. After working with him for a few months, I began another consulting gig for a Social Worker who regularly speaks on holistic and alternative therapies. She was looking for partnerships, so I was able to connect both her and my old friend to do a webinar on yoga that included meditation breaks. Because neither had ever hosted a webinar in the past, they hired me to help promote the event via social media.
In a reversal of roles, I reached out to the same friend when I was in need of references for local event spaces and was able to find a yoga studio that was willing to work with me because of his recommendation.
Had I just helped him with his Instagram and then moved on, I would have cut myself out of additional work and resources for future projects. Instead, I keep in touch with all professional contacts and constantly think of how I can use those connections to benefit each other and, eventually, me.
Overall, I'm a huge advocate of leveraging resources to get the most out of your time. If you are going to do something anyway, think of how else you can use that experience to get more work. Before long, you'll find yourself making more money for less time.
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Nikki Yeager is an entrepreneur, writer, and startup consultant. She currently sells non-gendered children's clothing through her clothing line, Every Bean, and handles the sales and marketing for The Relievery, a holistic products, and education brand.