Categories
Gig Economy

How to Become a Contractor or Freelancer

Have you ever thought about a freelance career? As the gig economy keeps evolving, it may be ideal to find out if this path is for you. Below are helpful starting tips to become a contractor.

 

There’s no question that the freelance market is growing in strength and size, a trend that mirrors the continued growth of the gig economy and draws attention to the fact that today’s workforce is hard at work trying to maintain several sources of income in order to secure a better future, and more people are seeking out second jobs.

 

Should You Become a Contractor?

It’s back-breaking work, but there’s a lot of lucrative potential behind investing in yourself to become a contractor. But where to begin?

 

As the market grows, the internet looks less and less like the ideal opportunity to market yourself, and more and more like an endless sea of talent, growing every day.

 

Standing out from the rest takes a little luck and a lot of legwork, but with the right approach, you can carve out a name for yourself and start building an impressive client list. With these steps, you’ll learn how to become a contractor (and determine if it would work for you).

 

1. Keep Your Day Job 

Being an independent contractor or freelancer can be a lot of stress and isn’t necessarily something you want to jump into without any prior prep or clients.

 

Unless you’ve got the support and backing of a friend or loved one, or some other form of financial help, it’s not a good idea to quit your day job before you’re beginning to see returns on your time investment in developing a freelance business.

 

Like starting a company of your own, there’s a considerable amount of risk in venturing to become a contractor. A reliable source of income will be important, so you can focus on developing your reputation and doing quality work, rather than struggling to survive on day one.

 

2. Build Up Your Skills

It’s important to find your niche.

 

      • What are you good at?
      • What services do you provide best?
      • Where is your expertise?
      • What experience do you have?
      • What is it that you like doing best, and where do your talents shine the most?

 

There are plenty of different jobs that freelancers can fulfill, such as:

 

      • Creating art assets to managing short-term teams
      • Doing web development
      • Working on software
      • Being a hardware specialist
      • Building custom tech
      • Planning and executing social marketing tactics
      • Curating and creating blogs, and much more

 

But identifying what you’re good at or like doing is just the first step. You have to take a look at your competition and figure out what niche you could take advantage of first.

 

Where are clients being underserved when it comes to blog content, online marketing, and more? Finding the right angle to begin looking for clients is an important step.

 

 

3. Always Strive to Improve

Another important step to become a contractor is continuously getting better. You might be a great writer, but there’s no reason you should stop at that. Continue learning about ways to monetize your skill.

 

Figure out what kind of writing gets the most reads and clicks. Maximize your value as a professional and absorb as much knowledge as you can about honing your craft specifically for commercial purposes.

 

Diversify and add new skills to your portfolio. Pick up photography, if you know anyone who can help you get started or lend you professional equipment. Do voice work, learn video editing, put your talents and/or experience as an art student to use in designing and making digital art assets, and more.

 

4. Learn From the Professionals

It’s always a good idea to keep a finger on the pulse of your particular niche or industry and see how other freelancers in similar areas of expertise are making their money. Many freelancers continue to profit off their own skills by teaching others how to get started on their own, often for free.

 

Soak in the information and incorporate what you can, whether it’s about investing more time in developing your own portfolio or checking out new resources to help find clients. Profit off the experience and work of others.

 

5. Hone a Professional Reputation Online

There are countless tools to help you develop and hone your own professional brand and reputation and meld it with your own unique personality and interests. Don’t be afraid to combine what you do with what you love.

 

Are you a talented artist and interested particularly in insects and entomology? Translate that love into studying and learning more about drawing a wild variety of insects and producing interesting and informative visual content to help readers learn more about creatures they might find icky by casting them in a cool or cute light.

 

There are countless ways to create your own brand and leverage your unique interests to produce content that might attract both readers as well as potential clients looking for a subset of skills, or just a talented and resourceful worker.

 

Even if creativity isn’t your strong suit, places like LinkedIn and Twitter can be a great way to:

 

      • Interact with others online
      • Identify and build professional relationships
      • Find more work

 

The best part, of course, is that an interesting and fleshed-out online presence can actually help you find clients without actively searching for them. They’ll look for you, instead.

 

6. Develop Your Personal Brand

Personal brand’ has become a buzzword in the age of social media, but it is an important concept.

 

While the sanctity of the steady, secure job within a larger corporate structure won’t disappear any time soon, it’s becoming more and more important for workers to advertise themselves in order to land better offers and find opportunities for work.

 

These are critical steps to become a contractor or freelancer, as your personal brand is exactly what you’re trying to sell. These tips are all about helping you begin to develop that brand, and the skillset needed to deliver quality work.

 

Conclusion

Choosing to begin freelance or contractor work is not for everyone.

However, with the gig economy transforming the way we work, it may be wise to begin some sort of contractor career. These steps can help you in this process.

 

Categories
Work Environment

7 Ways to Foster Creativity and Innovation (and Why You Need To)

Acknowledging the invaluable talent and qualities of your employees, which includes creativity and innovation, only brings greater success for everyone. Below explains why that is and the helpful ways to implement this healthy work environment.

 

Among the many qualities a company might seek in an employee, creativity and innovation rank among the vaguest. Yet once you understand the growth potential of working with someone who is flexible, forward-thinking, and built to think their way out of problems (rather than getting stuck on the limitations), you will quickly realize that these qualities are instrumental, especially to smaller organizations that need to quickly set themselves apart from the competition.

 

Yet in the wrong environment, creativity and innovation are swiftly stifled, and you’re left with talented workers who feel miserable and unable to live up to their fullest potential. By learning to harness and promote the creativity and innovation in each one of your best and brightest, you will be able to leverage an untapped resource of ideas for growth and development.

 

1. Offering Plenty of Space 

 

Both figuratively and literally, giving an employee space can make a huge difference, given you trust them enough to provide them with the freedom needed to innovate.

 

Furthermore, office space also makes a huge difference – we often think better on our feet and require visual stimulus to keep us thinking. A cramped office space is not conducive towards productive and useful ideas at work. Instead, it will often serve to bring morale down.

 

Make sure that your coworkers have the physical and mental space needed to bring to the table the results you expect. Rather than trying to micromanage their every move, give them the opportunity to prove their worth and give them the freedom to prove it in a way they’re best able to.

2. Through Light and Sound

 

Having enough space isn’t the only thing – you’ll want the right space, too. The way you design an office is about more than simple aesthetic appeal. While that’s important as well, office design can have an impact on worker productivity. More than just a matter of floor plans, the decorations, design philosophies, and even light sources that you decide to rely on can have an impact on how your coworkers think and feel.

 

You don’t have to go full hog on an expensive office of your own, if it isn’t going to be feasible for your operation. There are plenty of coworking spaces that specialize in boosting creativity and productivity by incorporating modern design philosophies and blending technology with nature, natural light, and a pleasing balance between ambience, silence, and excited chatter.

 

3. Promoting Individuality

 

Teamwork is important but be careful not to promote groupthink. An effective business is composed of a team that disagrees respectfully and promotes healthy arguments. There’s a fine line between giving everyone enough room to possess an ego of their own and letting those egos clash to the detriment of the company.

 

Everyone’s contribution gets a chance to shine, without shutting down ideas because “that’s not how we do things here”. Balancing on that line takes true leadership skill, but if you can find a way to promote individuality without letting petty bickering get in the way of progress, you have a recipe for success.

 

4. Work-From-Anywhere and Flexible Schedules

 

A flexible schedule is more than just a blind leap of faith. You can give your workers mandatory weekly hours but give them the freedom to come in when they need to (and still be reachable over mobile at certain hours of the day).

 

Better yet, adopting a remote work policy that gives your employees the opportunity to work from home, from a café, from a coworking space, or from the office (or anywhere else) not only gives them the ability to freely choose where to go for their own creativity needs, but also gives you the ability to expand your space virtually and leverage technology to build teams that don’t always need to work in the same physical space to get things done.

 

 

5. Encourage Breaks

 

Taking a break a few times a day is not the sign of a lazy employee. Breaks are necessary – the human mind can only concentrate on a single task for so long, and if we don’t take a few minutes to get up out of our chairs and do something else than stare at a monitor, we’ll quickly find ourselves depleted and out of ideas.

 

It’s also a good idea for your creative employees to find ways to disrupt their routine, try new ideas, apply new methods of work and productivity, and avoid becoming complacent in their roles (especially if you want to foster out-of-the-box thinking).

 

6. Prove That Ideas Are Heard

 

You need to encourage your employees to go out of their way to invest substantial effort into your business. Part of that is just being genuine – genuinely believing in what you do every day and investing yourself in your company and leadership.

 

But part of it is proving to your workers that their input is valued, especially when it’s lavishly crafted and carefully planned. Reward your workers when they come forth with good ideas.

 

7. Give Room for Failure

 

Every success begins as a potential failure. Even great ideas fail if they occur in the wrong moment or miss a single component. Avoid shooting everything down because it isn’t perfect, though, because it’s only through trying again and again with new ideas and different concepts that something finally sticks.

 

There’s an obvious limit to how long you can support an idea before you need to drop it. However, instead of saying “but…” to everything, take a page from improv comedy and start saying “yes, and…”.

 

The Challenges of Effective Leadership 

Creative and innovative minds within a team or business are only going to be as effective as those who are leading them. If you cannot translate and organize the ideas put forth by others, and follow up on them, you will not be able to utilize your team’s creativity. Similarly, not all ideas are appropriate ideas.

 

An idea can be good but mismatched to the current situation. You need to be able to filter through the input given by your team and determine which vision to adopt, what idea to observe and follow through with, and when to step your foot down. Unmitigated creativity and constant ideation are productive when a company has the resources needed to allow it, but when things are tight, you may have to step in and say no – and learn when to step back, and encourage continued innovation.

 

Categories
Business Trends

The Importance of Virtual Skills Training for Both Employees and Management

Virtual skills training for both employees and management is critical now more than ever. But also, we live in a world, where technology continues to play a vital role to help gain success.  Read below for detailing insights on this important subject.

 

We live in a day and age where technology rapidly evolves on a regular basis, best practices are constantly changing and shifting, and systems are undergoing daily optimization and frequent alteration.

 

A formal education is no longer as valuable as it once was, and even tech giants like Google, IBM, and Apple seek out individuals with exceptional flexibility, creativity, and adaptive intelligence, rather than academic accolades. Many are looking towards virtual skills training as an alternative to emphasize a continued education.

 

Workers today must make it a habit not just to absorb the basics, but to spend their entire careers evolving and contributing to a world that is never again going to sit still.

 

For employees, this means staying on the cutting edge. For management, this means investing in the means to help employees continue to learn long after school has ended.

 

Technology is Always Moving 

 

It must be said that the rapid expansion of technology throughout our daily lives in the Information age has successfully integrated with every industry on the planet. Countless businesses rely on cloud technology, VOIP, a consumer internet, the ubiquity of the smartphone, and the expansive use of big data collection and complex algorithms.

 

As businesses are encouraged to continue the integration of new technologies, employers must look towards efficient and cheap ways of getting their workers up to speed quickly. Most businesses do not have the luxury of hiring in-house instructors, organizing training manuals, printing and sending out entire volumes of instructions on a monthly or annual basis, and planning seminars to keep employees up to spec. Things have to move faster to match the pace of the world we live in. That is where virtual skills training becomes critical.

 

Skill Sets are Changing

 

Regardless of whether you run an SME or have a managerial role within a larger corporation, virtual skills training is relevant across industries. Whenever a new technological paradigm shift presents itself, businesses – small and large – scramble to adapt and outdo the competition, taking advantage of better, faster, more reliable services in order to attract greater audiences, improve their share of the market, and invest in the future.

 

But if a business moves forward without taking its employees with it, it is setting itself up for failure. Training programs must be swiftly rolled out to help workers catch up and integrate new technologies into their daily processes. Whether it’s something as simple as a software change, or something far more fundamental, such as switching delivery methods, streamlining into a totally digital business, or expanding vertically at a rapid pace.

 

Workers Aren’t Ready

 

In 2019, a study by SHRM Research revealed that 83 percent of responding managers had trouble finding the right talent for their business within the last 12 months. Over a third of respondents explained that this was because they didn’t have the technical skills needed for the job.

 

This is a recurring problem in several different industries: a lack of upskilling, wherein many companies are finding themselves trying to meet the ever-growing demands of modernization without investing in resources to help existing and new employees learn the skills necessary to perform their tasks, after their formal education has ended.

 

Let’s face it; while education is important, it’s just as difficult for schools to stay on the cutting edge, and curriculums cannot be updated as swiftly as technologies evolve. Many in the workforce today are too busy or lack the resources needed to acquire new skills and must rely on management to help bridge the gap between yesterday and tomorrow.

 

Furthermore, many older workers suffer the most under a lack of effective training or poor training, and one in four American workers believes that they lack the technical skills necessary to perform the job they already have.

 

How can virtual skills training address these issues?

 

 

Distance Nullified

 

The first big problem when trying to create a training program to scale to the needs of today’s workforce is that you just can’t get to everyone. The experts needed to compile, write, and disseminate these training programs exist, but they can’t be in all places at once.

 

Virtual skills training completely eliminates this real world problem by taking things into the virtual space. This is by connecting via VOIP, cloud editing tools, and online classrooms. Experts and coaches around the world can help businesses leverage existing technologies to educate workers on existing and upcoming tools.  And thus, help them become more valuable and effective workers.

 

Lowered Costs

 

Aside from cutting short on distance, virtual skills training cuts down on cost. It is estimated that virtual instructor-led training cuts down on training costs by as much as 70 percent in some cases.

 

Of course, at a reduced cost, businesses might appear more eager to begin overtraining their workforce, but trying to push workers to complete too many tasks at once will backfire just as much.

 

Yes, effective and useful virtual training can considerably improve employee satisfaction. Many workers value training because it gives them greater career options and allows them to play a greater role in the company.

 

Swifter Implementation

 

It’s fairly clear to readers at this point that hard skills change fast, and workers need to be up-to-speed on matters of data accumulation and processing, artificial intelligence, VR, and other emerging technologies that are becoming relevant in many different industries. However, it isn’t just the hard skills that are changing.

 

Those in the front-end and customer-facing parts of the industry must also learn how current technological leaps are affecting business, in order to help answer customer queries and offer actual solutions to recurring problems.

 

Furthermore, as automation continues to take humans out of the equation in simple, repetitive tasks, workers must learn to leverage that which separates them from the machines – their humanity – to better serve customers and coordinate with management. To keep up with this, training programs need to take place, which virtual skills training enables.

 

Virtual Training is Not Easy to Implement

 

Yes, virtual skills training is more effective than video or text-based learning materials, because it connects employees to knowledgeable instructors who can answer questions, clear confusion, and offer better guidance than normal reading or viewing material could. However, it is not always easy to implement.

 

Not every business has the infrastructure to begin implementing online training for every employee. There are also types of training that are far more effective when given in the real-world, rather than over video or VR.

 

Instructors train several people at once, which means they cannot always spend a disproportionate time trying to provide unique teaching styles to address every employee’s needs. Technical problems can cause delays in training, from losing internet access to a downed server.

 

Businesses must be aware of these issues and work on addressing them to get the most out of virtual skills training, and help their employees be the best they can be.

 

Categories
Business Trends

The Best Virtual Resources to Grow Your Business from Home

With the current crisis leaving many companies seeking remote solutions to coordinate with workers and continue providing crucial services to their existing and growing customer base, now is a better time than ever to reorient yourself as an entrepreneur or small business owner, and consider how best to utilize virtual resources to grow your business from own home. 

 

We are long past the nascent stages of the Internet, and there exist a slew of virtual resources to help resourceful business owners begin to and continue to grow their business from home. By leveraging an interconnected world, a vast talent pool, and the ability to market to clients all over the globe, these resources can help you grow and expand your business idea.

 

What Are Virtual Resources?

When working virtually, simple every-day tasks must adapt to work as well, if not better than your current strategy. If you’d find yourself often collaborating in person with your team, you may find yourself utilizing virtual technology to accomplish that same goal.

The virtual resources we list below are by no means exhaustive, but they can help you start growing your business remotely and setting up a virtual workforce that can continue to work from anywhere in the world.

 

1. Customer Base Info

Data is critical, and one of the most important data sets for any small business is the information they can gather on their most loyal and well-paying customers. If you can identify exactly who your best customer is and why they’re investing in your goods and/or services, you can tailor your marketing and products more specifically towards them and others in their niche, and grow more effectively than if you were to continue to spread your efforts and try to capture a much larger market with far stiffer competition.

 

There are rules and regulations in place for how much data can be collected from customers and in what way, but there are ways to figure out what kind of offering is most popular.

 

      • Figure out who’s buying from you, why they’re buying from you, and what else they might need.
      • Once you understand who your best and most loyal customers are, you can start to list all the problems and headaches they might be experiencing, and your tailored solutions towards eliminating these problems.

 

Another way of figuring out who is most likely to check you out or even buy from you is to start putting out content, and seeing what kind of content is pulling the most page views per month, whether it’s blog content or your website or video content on YouTube.

 

2. Job Boards & Remote Hiring 

Arguably the most challenging aspect to growing a remote business is finding the right talent to fit your needs and company culture (as well developing a company culture to begin with). Businesses that seek hires locally and go through a physical interviewing process can risk less, as a more extensive hiring process can help weed out incompetent applicants and narrow down choice to those most experienced and suited to the job.

 

However, the virtual hiring process has been greatly refined by the presence of several high-level hiring and outsourcing platforms, quality job boards that weed out unserious or fake applicants, and a large repertoire of effective tools to help gauge a potential employee or contractor’s personality, availability, and skill.

 

If you want to leverage the world of remote business effectively, you must identify a preferred job board or platform, and get your hiring process down to a T. Pick a platform or site with stringent moderation and quality assurance, rather than spreading your efforts thin across a variety of networks or job boards. Job seekers scour several different platforms and boards at once, so there’s often little sense in focusing on more than one or two quality avenues.

 

The internet is also suited towards helping you find quality flexible talent, connecting you with contractors that you can hire on a per-project basis rather than signing them on as part-time or full-time workers. This also gives you the opportunity to negotiate rates based on what the project demands, rather than offering a wage. This can also be an attractive route for testing a potential hire’s talents before giving them a more financially appealing offer as a full-time member of your crew.

 

 

3. Referral Programs

For small businesses online, word of mouth is still one of the best ways to grow organically. You want customers that don’t just buy your products and services – you want customers that love your products and services. You want customers that voluntarily talk to their friends about your products and services.

 

And once you’re achieving that, you want to start rewarding it. Don’t just think of referral programs as a sleazy incentive for some low-quality businesses to inflate their numbers. When leveraged as a reward rather than just an incentive, referral programs are, like other reward programs, a way for you to say thank you to your best customers for the value they have brought to your business, not just as purchasing consumers, but as avid fans who continue to recommend your services or products to others they know.

 

This way, you can continue to grow your business virtually without having to deploy a physical marketing effort or invest in expensive ad campaigns that may not necessarily be affordable right now.

 

4. Reward Customer Loyalty 

Other ways to reward customer loyalty are also a great way to retain and build upon your existing customer base but focus on long-term rewards rather than shorter campaigns. Don’t think of customer loyalty as something you buy – again, it’s something you reward.

 

Try not to use a customer loyalty program to encourage new customers to make their first purchase so they can start availing of some of the benefits of being a customer – think of it as a special offer that rewards those customers that have been around for the longest, thanking them for the value they have provided. That may be through several freebies, better or special rates, or a lucrative status as “founding customers” or something similar.

 

Focusing on your best customers is important for any small business, particularly one that wants to grow virtually. It’s difficult to build a lot of rapport with customers you don’t necessarily see face-to-face, but you can emulate some of that good customer care that you see between a traditional butcher shop and a long-time customer by including personalized notes and special freebies in deliveries, and adding a custom or caring touch to every transaction with your most loyal clients or customers.

 

There Is A Lot More

From consistent weekly content capitalizing on niche search terms your customers may be looking for that your competition isn’t focusing on, to effective and well-organized mailing campaigns that work, an efficient sales funnel, and other virtual resources and solutions, there are countless different things small businesses can leverage in today’s virtual economy to capture new audiences and grow exponentially.

 

However, it always starts with the same basic core: a competent, hard-working team, and a service or product that truly differentiates itself from the competition in a great way.