We have built some systems and skills. Thus, we have some things we can now trade for money. Your business idea may be one that will allow you to generate cash flow, but maybe your new skills can provide revenue on their own. Now we can start to look into some ways to connect with people and businesses that desire your skills and how to contract with them as a way to create revenue.
The modern world connects via the Internet. That means that, although our skills may be desired on-site, these new abilities can be provided from across town or the world. Therefore we can build a full-time job out of the comfort our home if we desire. Even better, we can quickly create a part time job using these skills. In this class, we are going to look at ways to connect and sell to customers along with how to negotiate and fulfill a contract.
What are the problems we want to solve by taking this class?:
- How do I sell my skills?
- Where do I find Customers and win jobs?
- How do I determine out what to charge
- How do I ensure completion of a job and full payment?
- What can I do to expand awareness of my skills and offerings?
- How do I turn a satisfied customer into more work?
What we will cover:
- Project sites overview
- Building a profile
- Finding jobs
- Bidding on a job
- Refining your profile
- Marketing materials
- Getting feedback
Class Goal: Create an account and profile on at least one work site. Customize our template to make it your template for proposals.
Work Sites Overview
Finding a technical job, whether full-time or part-time, is similar to anything else. Job seekers can either announce their availability and wait for people to come to them, directly seek out employers, or find a third party to connect job seekers and employers. Thus we have three approaches to look at, and there are ways the Internet helps us do all three with a surprisingly small amount of effort.
The first path to find work is through our marketing site and blog. Content is put out on the Internet and readers can contact us to help them. The second and third approaches (direct and third party) often can be combined on job sites. In particular on contract and consulting sites. Therefore, when we look at a few such sites, it will become apparent quickly that they are very similar in what they provide.
- Ability to create a profile that is easily viewed and searched for by job providers
- Certifications, tests, and other ways to validate your skills and experience
- Feedback, reviews, and references to build confidence in prospective clients by showing off how happy your past clients have been with your work
- Tools to search for and offer proposals for available jobs
- Payment options
- Work/Project tracking tools
Work sites are numerous and easy to find on the Internet. When you are comfortable with one or more of the sites we discuss in this class, do a search based on your skills and interests. Then select a site or two that work best for you.
Building a Profile
Potential customers want to find the best people to get their projects done. Thus most work sites have a large number of vendors. The customers are looking for service providers that stick out from the crowd. When you build a profile, your goal should be sticking out to the potential customers. Once they know your company exists you can convert them to customers. The online profile is a resume of sorts, but it should be “louder” and more focused on what you can provide. The focus and emphasis will lead to “window shoppers” spending more time reviewing your skills and considering how you can help them. Thus, we have these goals for a profile:
- Introduce Yourself or Your Company
- Get Their Attention
- Provide a compelling reason to choose you (or at least add you to their short list)
- Focus on skills and services you provide
Register with a site
We will start our process by registering and building a profile. Guru.com is our starting point. Follow these steps to get your account registered and your profile started at Guru.
- Go to http://guru.com and click on the “Join Now” button
- Click on the “I Want To Work” button
- Enter your name, email address, and a secure password
- Click on the “Join Guru” button
- An email verification will be sent, click on the link to go back to Guru
- Enter your address information
- The “Add a Service” screen will be shown, but click on the Edit Profile menu. We will return to services later
- Create a screen name and provide your website address. Usually, you want to give your marketing site as the address.
- Leave your profile Hidden for now.
- Take a look at the Overview section and fill it out if you are comfortable with what you want to enter, otherwise, make note and come back later to fill it out with well thought out data
An account has now been created, thus we can move on to thinking about our profile data.
What Makes a Good Profile?
We have set some high level goals so lets looks at what a good profile will provide to achieve those goals. Many of the sites have arranged their profile sections and questions to lead providers in the direction of professional and attractive content. The problem is that answering the question and filling out the forms is only part of the equation. Here are some points to keep in mind to achieve the goals of your profile:
Introduce Yourself or Your Company
- Describe where you are based and your target market(s)
- Share your vision and/or goals
- Give them ways to contact you directly
- Tell Your Company Story/History (briefly)
- Give an example of your process and/or approach
Get Their Attention
- List your strengths and/or differentiators from the competition
- Describe how you solve their problems
- Give them a reason to think you understand them and can relate to their problems
- Provide references or a portfolio (where possible)
Provide a Compelling Reason to Choose Your Company
- Highlight your key differentiator (price, skill, market understanding, etc.)
- Talk about time frames for delivery
- Focus on quality and completeness of delivery
Focus on Skills or Services Provided
- Provide a clear description of your products and services
- List the industries you serve
- Describe your ideal customer
- Offer demonstrations and/or examples
Finding Jobs and Revenue Opportunities
Providers sometimes wait patiently for someone to find a site or profile, become interested in services, and send a statement of work to sign. Unfortunately, that often requires more patience than we have, and it is not a great way to get customers. Instead, we need to go looking for jobs and projects.
Your list of skills and talents has grown since you started this course. However, you had skills and experience before you started this class as well. Take inventory of what you can do and what you like to do. From that list, find a focus and pull out some key words that describe them. Those key words become our guidelines for finding work.
We are going to use our Guru account as an example, but these steps will be nearly identical on any site you join. Thus, the menu options and information returned may differ slightly but the core steps always exist.
Searching in Guru
- Login to your Guru account
- Go to the Jobs Search menu
- Enter your key words as search terms
- If you do not have any results drop a term or two that might be too specific, you can always narrow your search later
- Start browsing the results. Do these seem like jobs you would like to do?
- Don’t be afraid to push yourself. If something seems do-able but difficult, that may be a great job. A mix of challenge and growth with something that fits your competencies is perfect. You always want to be growing in your ability to offer more services and/or higher quality
- Look for requirements that you do not have. If they seem core to delivery then pass on the project, if they are secondary it might be worth a bid. Maybe you will learn by doing these stretch projects.
- Build a short list of jobs or projects
- Order the projects based on which seems the best fit for you and start working through them with proposals
Bidding on a Job
Once you find a good job, you are going to want to bid on it. Providers new to a job site (such as yourself) often struggle with what to bid and how to bid it. Thus bids can be all over the place and hard for customers to properly assess. The best approach is to make it easy on the customer. Therefore, a bid should be specific and include milestones or deliverables and a time frame.
What They Provide
Most sites are setup to provide some text, some monetary values and maybe some dates. There is also an option to attach/upload a file in most sites. This is an opportunity to distinguish your bid from the others. Write up your bid in a document and attach that to your bid. You still will use the other bid properties provided, but treat them as a summary. A good bid will provide the summary details on the site and will include the details (branded and pretty in format) in an attachment. We have included a sample for you to work with and make your own (colors, logos, fonts, and adjust the format to suit you). The sample gives us a great list of features for a bid, so open up the sample and we can walk through it together.
Guru Sample Proposal Page 1
You can make this template your own, but I recommend a cover page. I don’t know why, but it seems to add a sense of professionalism to a document. Here are some of the important features:
- Provide a title that describes the document, maybe with a customer name and topic. In this case, I just used the Guru project title and of course it’s a proposal
- Include a prepared by or author section. This information should be smaller font so it is not too obvious. Note that I added a small logo and effect to help brand the page
- Typically page number is not included on a title page, but we have it setup in the sample if you want it
Guru Sample Proposal Pages Two and Three
There is no need for a lot of introductory text so we go right into the proposal. A longer proposal might have a table of contents or basic copyright page. On the other hand, a small project likely does not need it. The sample takes two pages to provide the bid so we will focus on the sections rather than a specific page number.
- Start with a summary that states your understanding of the project. The summary should contain all of the key features and functions that were stated by the customer and any additional features you know will be needed. In the sample, the point about Valid/Rejected Invoices Reporting has the label “assumed” beside it to note that I added that requirement.
- Follow up the summary with the milestones and/or deliverables for the project as you see them. This section is important to you and the customer. This is where you get to the statement of work details and lay out what your bid includes. If additional work is required, then you will have a document to point to why you are asking for more money. Added work often will impact delivery dates as well.
- Note also that we have a total elapsed time estimate along with the time frame for each milestone. We want to guide our customer to a timeframe when the project should be done.
- Make sure your deliverables and milestones include the often overlooked parts of a project including documentation, testing, deployments/installation, training, and support. You may not always need these, but it helps to specify that you have or have not taken these items into account with the bid.
- We then move to the details of the estimate. Milestones are key and we start with a list of those. Note how the milestones list is what we use to build our list of dates for the project plan.
- When it gets to cost and payments you probably will have to start out delivering work before you get paid. It doesn’t hurt to ask for some payment in advance. It helps you avoid fraud and deadbeat customers. A regular revenue stream from milestones also helps reward you for your work along the way rather than waiting until its all done.
- This is where milestones again are valuable as tying payment to a milestone is often easy for the customer to accept and it limits how much you do before you get paid. Working a week and getting stiffed on the bill is a lot less impact to your revenue than an unpaid bill for six months of work.
- Note at the end that the sample shows a way to describe support. Be sure not to promise open-ended support for free
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Make sure you take part in classes discussions to find great ideas and suggestions to improve your bidding process.
Refining Your Profile
When you built your profile, you only had your skills and experience to help you. Once you start searching for (and bidding on) work you will have “real world” experience and feedback to help you improve your profile. Although the results and reasoning for a bid are not often available, the complete bid posting is. This is where we will focus for now.
Although we sort of breezed through the profile setup section, the more complete a profile, the more likely it is to land customers. Even if you don’t have everything right away (a portfolio for example), it is worthwhile to spend time on completing those pieces sooner rather than later. If you haven’t done work for hire then pretty up your website and do some work on it that you can highlight. Even a simple and small portfolio is better than none at all.
Learning from Project Requests
- Look for common problems: If you see a lot of requests for work to solve a specific problem then make sure your profile points out how you would solve it. If you can add an example of a solution to your portfolio, even better. For example, if you see a lot of requests to customize a WordPress theme then write up how you modified the theme on your site and use that as a case study.
- Look for “hot” technologies: When job posts often request experience in a specific tool or technology that you know, then make sure you list that in your profile somewhere. This might even be a good thing to make prominent in your profile or included in your title.
- Review budgets for projects where possible: If the average or typical budget for work is above or below your bid then you might want to adjust accordingly. This is not always the case. You might have a good reason to be higher or lower than normal, just make that clear in the bid.
- Keep in mind that you are new to this whole project thing and experience will initially be a weakness. You might want to address that directly and offer your desire to make customers happy as a strength. A discount is always an easy way to do this, but showing an eagerness to succeed and provide quality is a great way to land work
Portfolios have been touched on, but there are subtle marketing materials you will want to provide as well. These are not required, and often are not even expected, but they make a great impression. This list will provide you a number of things you can do to add to your profile and improve your chances of landing that ideal job.
- Create a “flyer” or short document highlighting your services and why you are a great hire. Include details about how you work and any processes and procedures you typically follow. Flyers are great to attach to any bid and add a level of professionalism that can make a big difference when starting out.
- Create a references or projects page on your website and include that in your profile so they can look beyond your portfolio on the job site. This gives you a place to show off your past work without having to go to multiple sites to make the updates.
- Provide sample status documents and describe how you provide regular feedback
- Provide a detailed document for each of your services and offerings including things like pricing, time frames and what problems you typically solve with that service
- Build an online resume, ideally on your website, that highlights the skills and experience you want to sell
Add To Your Value
- Take skills tests and show off your good scores
- Show off some of your source code. The end result is nice, but sometimes it helps to show code that is clean and properly documented.
- Point to some of your blog articles or create a whitepaper. Even a paper of a few pages in length can be impressive to customers
I know some of this seems to be redundant, but each item is different in approach and context. The more you plaster your profile and site with information that describes how “awesome” you are and professional materials, the better.
The last thing we need to cover is feedback. Once you have a job and have completed it, its time to get paid and get feedback. Even when you are sure the feedback is not going to be good, get it anyway. Feedback is going to be the most important thing you get out of a project early on. I still find feedback one of the most important outcomes of a project even decades and hundreds of projects into this.
Give to Get
Most job sites have feedback built in. They provide a form of built-in mechanism for entering feedback. Customers as well as providers are asked to fill it out. If you want to get, then you must give. Provide feedback on every project even if the feedback is not positive. You can soften the blow of negative feedback, but if you had trouble getting paid or the customer kept changing the requirements, make sure you note that. Future providers may use that feedback to avoid a bad project of their own. The customer will also be able to grow from the feedback and make their next project a smoother and more pleasant experience.
Feedback is not always automatic, and may not have much content beyond a rating scale. Do not be afraid to ask for further details about the feedback. The worst that can happen is the customer says “No.” Once you have feedback, consider it along with your thoughts about the project. There will often be aspects of the project that validate your skills and approach and there will be some that point to how you can improve next time.
- Complete your profile for Guru.com
- Take a Skill test on Guru. You can find these at the bottom of the profile page and they may cost up to $5.00. Pick any topic you think you can do well in and don’t be afraid to have Google open in another browser. That can allow you to get a quick answer in some cases. Taking a test is a good experience and if you do well feel free to post it on your profile.
- Find a job and create a proposal. Send the instructors the text of the job (or a link) and the text of your proposal along with any other details. This will be used to provide you some suggestions on how to land the best jobs for you.
- Create a plan for building out your marketing materials and share it with the facilitators
Bonus: Find a second work site and create a profile. You should be able to re-use a lot of your Guru material. Send a link to the facilitators and make sure you link to it on your marketing site.
When you are ready, it is now time to move on to the next step: Personal Brand Building – You are the Brand.