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Freelancing and consulting: Why buy yourself a job when you can create one for free?

Many unemployed or underemployed people—especially those over age 40—are in the market to buy themselves jobs.

Some decide to transform themselves overnight into the boss by signing on as franchisees of fast-food, service, or other businesses. The financial cost can be substantial, ranging from franchise expenses to possibly building a facility, hiring staff, building inventory, and more.

They may establish their own independent businesses, perhaps with their own costly storefront or complex technology for online services and sales.

They may join MLM (multi-level marketing) programs to establish their own down line of sellers while also selling directly to consumers, perhaps through a party plan.

All of these ideas may be fine for you, in which case go ahead and take the plunge (if you’ve done the research first). But for me, they all sound stressful, burdensome, and worst of all, boring. I’ve never seen a one that I would enjoy doing for longer than a week.

Furthermore, the idea of investing real money to get started is terrifying. If the concept under discussion does not capture my imagination, I would not want to sign a contract and put up real money simply so I can exchange the stress of unemployment for the stress of my own business for which I have no enthusiasm.

What’s the alternative?

The alternative is freelancing or consulting in the field of your choice. The best choice is to build upon past work experience.

Almost anything that can be done in a corporate job can also be done as a self-employed entrepreneur. Review what you have done for pay that you have mastered and enjoyed doing. Then consider how to translate that job task into your own service business.

Many administrative or technical duties can be transformed into self-employment specialties performed from a home office. There’s an umbrella title for these kinds of undertakings: virtual assistant.

A virtual assistant is someone who assists a client with a work function by computer, especially over the internet. Many virtual assistants develop close working relationships with their clients over the years yet never (or seldom) see the clients in person.

The beauty of freelancing and consulting is that you can often start for free or close to it. Of course it varies by specialty, but many types of work require no financial investment whatsoever, assuming you already have a phone plan with unlimited long distance and the computer, software, etc. necessary for your services.

You are under no lease, franchise agreement, or other ongoing obligation so you can change your mind or change your business model at any time.

What if you hate to sell?

The downside of freelancing and consulting as an independent is that you will have to market and sell your services for the life of your business. Even as it gets easier to stay busy with paying work thanks to repeat clients, you are never set for life.

Just as corporate jobs can fall apart at any time, freelance and consulting clients can depart at will. (And you can fire them as you choose!)

The good news is that marketing and selling your own services isn’t yucky like lots of other selling is. Here is why:

  1. You sell your own services, which you stand behind. You sell a service and a service provider (you!) that you believe in.

  2. You don’t work for a sales manager. You adopt and hone a selling style that feels right for you rather than having to give voice to high-pressure crap that makes your skin crawl. And no supervisor listening in on your calls or reading your emails!

  3. You are actually helping people. You contact prospects because you believe you can help them. It feels good to help people. You don’t have to follow up on leads that are not right for your business, no explanation necessary.

Originally posted 6-15-15

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