Mara is a fearless go-getter whose newest venture, Secret Code, aims to inspire young girls to challenge stereotypes and go after their dreams. Here she discusses the freelance lifestyle, her best work habits and what keeps her motivated.
Dreams can be powerful motivators, but they’re not reliable predictors of success. More people dream about side hustles than ever actually attempt to have one. Of those who do, many wind up lingering in the purgatory of occasional work, rather than turning their passions into full-time gigs.
Knowledge workers have a distinct advantage in that they can work from anywhere. At Workfrom, we’ve seen remote workers all over the world clocking in from public libraries, airports, neighborhood cafes, and coworking spaces. No doubt many of them are working to turn their side hustles into something more. Some may still be toiling in office jobs by day, only to make strides on their preferred professions during off hours.
Sure, some professionals prefer a guaranteed paycheck with the opportunity to earn some extra freelancing dollars. Others remain paralyzed by an imaginary goal: “If only I could reach X amount of income, I’d quit.” Those are the individuals—let’s call them the hopeful doubters—who I hope to reach with this post.
Side hustles are indeed businesses. To that end, there’s a point that fledgling tech companies often reach called the Trough of Disillusionment. It’s a period of waning interest—a lull that only the strongest (and most innovative) survive. It’s where the proverbial rubber meets the road. And it’s a point where those engaged in solo work outside of their primary job often stumble and run back to safety.
There are ways to cross that divide strategically, however. Here are five things every side hustler needs to believe to turn their passion into reality:
You’ve got clients waiting for you.
You already have a niche; you simply have to know how to define it. (Okay, so that’s the less-than-simple part.) Start with what you know. What specific experience do you have? What industries have you worked in, and in which parts of the world? What types of companies are you familiar with? What skills have you acquired along the way? Taking the time to answer these important questions will help you narrow down your pool of potential clients. This may sound counterintuitive, but the smaller your target audience gets, the more these companies actually need your services, leading to a concentrated group of clients who are very likely to sign on with you.
Your skills set you apart.
Positioning yourself as a PR pro with experience in high-tech startups, a seasoned gaming app developer or a fashion blogger in emerging markets won’t happen overnight. Thankfully, if one of these specific roles is your intended path, you (should) already have more than a few related projects under your belt. Analyze your past work, and take stock of your strengths holistically—especially if they demonstrate an unusual combination of competencies.
You know how to calculate your worth correctly.
Pricing intelligently is easier said than done, especially when you’re trying to win the job. But don’t put winning above all else; work that doesn’t compensate you adequately for your talents isn’t worth doing. Experienced freelancers who have performed spec work joke about “dying from exposure,” but the point remains that you need to be strategic about what you take on in the hopes of gaining more business out of it. Negotiating for an acceptable rate will not only get you off on the right foot; it will put a spring in your step as you seek out more clients.
Your network is bigger than you think.
Your network is not your posse; it’s not a tight-knit group that you hang out with on the weekends. These people can and should include your former classmates and professors, old and new colleagues, relatives from all over, peers in professional associations and volunteer organizations, and folks you’ve met at networking events (like industry conferences, for example). When you cast a wider net initially, you enable more remote connections and possibilities for work. Letting others know that you’re taking on new clients could be as easy as posting on your LinkedIn or AngelList profile, or dropping a quick DM to a few key contacts via Twitter.
You’re a natural salesperson.
You love what you do, and you’re good at it. If you believe that, you can convince just about anyone to hire you. Those who require too much convincing likely aren’t worth pursuing—a subject for an entirely separate post. Approach sales prospects as if you aren’t engaging in some deceptive endeavor; instead, consider it from the perspective that you are helping individuals and companies to solve their problems. Nurturing new leads and asking for referrals won’t be as difficult if you focus on how your services can improve others’ bottom lines. You’ll often find that others are happy to refer a qualified pro who ‘gets’ what companies need.
Every side hustler looking to make their dreams a reality needs the right dose of confidence and skills to achieve their goals. Once you start living the truth of these five things mentioned above, you’ll be on your way to a professionally enriching life.
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