Decide what you want to do
We’re often under societal pressure to monetise every single interest or hobby and make it into a side hustle, but that’s not always the best way to go.
If you’re a professional caterer, for example, owning niche baking equipment makes sense as part of your business. But if you sell cupcakes on the side, you won’t benefit from being able to bulk-buy ingredients, and your expensive stand mixer will take a long time to pay off. Not everything you do has to be an income stream.
Figure out what you can do well that also pays well and you enjoy, invest in that, and make it your primary marketable skill.
Get the basics in place
Once you know which skills you’re selling, you need to brand yourself and become easy to find online. Decide what you want to be called, either using your own name or a creative one for your “organisation” – even if the said organisation is just you.
If you’d like, you can get a logo and identity design, or get to work on Canva and do it yourself, but it’s not strictly necessary. Set yourself up on the relevant free social media platforms for your industry – like LinkedIn, Dribbble, Behance or Instagram. Make sure you list all the services you offer and add your rate card if it’s appropriate to do so.
You can buy your domain name and set up a basic website too. Keep your name, bio and contact information consistent across all of your platforms so people know it’s all you, and keep your info up-to-date.
Once you think you’re all sorted, do a quick Google of your name and check that everything is showing up as it should, or troubleshoot if necessary.
Separate and group your skills
If you offer a range of vastly different services – and that’s totally okay: shine on, you multitalented star – it’s often best to group your services into similar fields and market each of those fields separately. So, if you’re a tutor, au pair, house-sitter and dog walker, those jobs play nicely together and will have a good client overlap. If you also take commissions for digital portraits, create a separate “persona” for that skill and market it separately.
You can link each of your professional profiles to the other – in this example maybe you walk dogs and one of your clients wants a portrait of their pup. But make sure that your primary skill set is front and centre of each persona, and that you look like an expert in your field.
Become an expert – and then tell people that
You don’t have to know everything about everything, but if you’re a social media manager, you do need to stay up to date on the latest algorithm changes and let people know you know. Depending on your field, that can mean signing up for free newsletters to stay informed and writing articles on LinkedIn showing off your knowledge. If that’s not for you, take some online courses – even free ones – and add those creds to your CV.
Decide what you want to stand for
Not every client will be a good fit for you, so it’s important to make sure you attract the right people. If you’re a writer with a formal style and technical background, make that clear on your website and in your portfolio. Maybe taking on a job writing horoscopes for a lifestyle brand wouldn’t be your jam.
Don’t be afraid to turn away work that doesn’t line up with your values and preferences. Over time you’ll create a niche for yourself and be the best possible freelancer for certain jobs, and your clients will know it from the way you market yourself and your body of work.
Invest in your skillset
When you’re employed full-time, companies often have budgets for training courses or employee development. When you’re your own boss, you need to invest in yourself too. There are three areas to focus on here.
First, you need to stay up to date on your field, as mentioned earlier. There are loads of free resources if all you can afford to invest is time, and plenty of paid courses, conferences, exhibitions and workshops. Find what suits you and learn something new, related to your field, at least every second year or so.
Second, you need to upskill your areas of weakness. If you can afford to simply outsource the tasks you’re worst at – maybe it's tax or accounting – by all means do that. But if you must keep doing the things you suck at, and let’s face it they’re probably the ones you hate doing, investing in learning how to be better at them will make you a better business owner and a happier person.
Third, see if there’s an additional skill you can learn that would complement your current job, investigate that. For example, if you teach yoga, getting certified in reflexology or sound healing could make you a more attractive teacher, both to studios and private or corporate clients. It’s a big undertaking to learn something completely new, but once you have, you’ll be one of the very few people skilled in both of those areas.
Be a show-off
Submit your work for press and awards. Pitch your bio or your knowledge to industry news websites and publications, and they may publish a piece about you. Once that article is live, you can post it on your website and all social media platforms, getting maximum PR out of the piece. Apply to be a guest speaker at an event or conference. Enter your work into all the awards – both local and international – you can find and afford. Even being shortlisted for an award is worth talking about, and if you win even one, your bio can read “Award-winning <insert your profession here>” for the rest of time.