How to turn skills/experience into a business?

by leo1
16 replies
Hey everyone!

I currently work as a freelancer and have been quite successful for the past few years. I have a couple of well-established profiles on freelancing platforms and have developed a couple of long-term business relationships. But scaling is the main problem with freelancing, i.e. you’re trading your time for $$$. Also, competition is dragging rates down, especially in my field. My work primarily involves translation/localization (I speak several languages) and other related services, including writing, DTP (Desktop Publishing), editing/proofreading, Voice-overs, transcription…etc.

I tried to scale things up by creating my own website and then buying AdWords traffic. I even enlisted the services of a PPC expert, but it wasn’t successful; perhaps due to poor website design and short duration of PPC campaigns. I also tried SPI (Site Build It) and a few trial programs here and there, but didn’t make much out of them either. Should I try PPC again? Or find another alternative?

Beyond freelancing portals, I don’t see individual freelancers in my field venturing out on their own. But there are many agencies that seem to be ok when it comes to customer acquisition and the fees they charge. I work with two of them and they consistently receive huge projects. Yet when I conducted some keyword research a couple of years ago, the results were not very promising. In my attempts at competitor analysis, I still couldn’t figure how the agencies manage to secure such projects. The other problem is that our clients are small- and medium-sized businesses, so I’m not sure whether the traditional “give freebies” approach used in B2C-type MMO (i.e. affiliate marketing) is applicable here. I’m also not sure how to create an info-product around this. Any suggestions please?

Right now, I have two main objectives and a number of secondary ones:


Firstly: Determine whether current field can be scaled and made more profitable and convenient through:

(1) More clients (2) Better rates (3) Independence from freelancing platforms.


Secondly: If the first goal cannot be achieved, move on to another option.

I considered a teaching/tutoring business or providing one of the other freelancing services through my own website. This is because, apart from programming, freelancing services generally pay low. I also thought about creating an info-product about how to be a successful freelancer (I’ve helped a couple of people build their profiles and earn their first $$ online!).

Could you please provide suggestions on what I've been getting wrong so far? How should I go about achieving the above goals? How to quickly find whether my current domain is a winner or not? Is there a way to create a product of some sort with my skills? Sorry about the lengthy post.
#advice #freedom #freelancing #seeking
  • Profile picture of the author ContentPro22
    Unfortunately, this is the exact reason why I got out of freelance writing back in 2013 or so. There's always a "cap" on the amount of money you can earn. If you want to earn SERIOUS money, I recommend building an online business of some kind. In fact, email marketing is my "go to" method for making money online. It's easy, there are few expenses, and you can start with little to no experience. Good luck.
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    • Profile picture of the author leo1
      Originally Posted by ContentPro22 View Post

      Unfortunately, this is the exact reason why I got out of freelance writing back in 2013 or so. There's always a "cap" on the amount of money you can earn. If you want to earn SERIOUS money, I recommend building an online business of some kind. In fact, email marketing is my "go to" method for making money online. It's easy, there are few expenses, and you can start with little to no experience. Good luck.
      Thank you for your reply and I can certainly relate to your experience with freelancing.

      Regarding your suggestion to build an online business, that is actually my main goal. But after reading dozens of threads here on WF on how to start an online business, most of the responses boil down to: what do you do now for a living? What are you good at? What works for you? Can you do more of it and scale it up? Stick to what you know and make a business out of it...etc. But how??

      My biggest problem now is understanding how agencies (i.e. competition) acquire clients. If I could find the right number of clients at the right price, I could outsource the work to others and work on quality control and management side of things by leveraging my experience. I have done that a number of times in the past. But mostly the pay is not big enough to pay the other freelancer and still keep some of it.

      Any suggestions please on this particular point guys?
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      • Profile picture of the author ksmusselman
        Hi leo!

        I had my own transcription business for a while and stayed away from sites like oDesk and eLance because of the same reason - cheap competition and people looking for cheap workers.

        Here's what I did, which helped me secure clients who would only work with US-based independent contractors and paid very well.

        1. Build a WordPress website to highlight your experience and authority in your field.
        2. Write articles about what you do, how you do it, etc.
        3. Do videos talking about what you do, your education, experience, etc., and embed them into your blog posts.
        4. Provide tips for client prospects for preparing the raw work to send to you.
        5. Visit the websites of your competitors and sort of "spy" on how their websites are set up, then do yours better!
        6. Market the heck out of your new blog!!!
        7. Check out computer gigs on craigslist.org and only contact those who aren't saying "limited budget." You want to get paid what you're worth.
        8. Place an ad for your business in craigslist Services section in and around your local area. There are people who search CL outside of their local area when they're looking for remote contractors.
        9. Create a press release and distribute it, as well as adding it to a Press Release section on your blog. Then create quarterly press releases and distribute them too.
        10. Write a weekly or monthly newsletter and have a newsletter mailing list opt-in on your site too. And then set up a page for newsletter archives so new clients and prospects can read them.

        I would try to do an article and a video every day for a month first, and then start sharing it across social media sites - especially on LinkedIn since that's a networking site for professional business people.

        And then continue to add at least one article with a video once a week consistently.

        I believe if you do this, you can maintain a solid freelance business in your field of expertise. Eventually you may have businesses searching you out instead of you having to go look for them.

        Good luck!!

        P.S. I did this when I launched my transcription business and it eventually earned me an interview with our local newspaper - photo in the paper included! It was pretty cool!!!

        http://www2.readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=89678
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        • Profile picture of the author Steve B
          Leo,

          You are right about scaling freelancing work . . . you only have so many hours in the day and often prevailing rates by competitors (especially world-wide competitors) keep your potential earnings down.

          One alternative is to qualify your market and only cater to those that are willing to pay premium rates. To do that, you will need to be very good at what you do and offer unique and custom services that others don't offer. By being unique, you avoid all competition.

          Of course, it takes time to establish yourself as being worth a premium wage and if you are not able to prove your worth you may never be recognized as an "elite" service provider.

          A better alternative, IMO, is to become a product creator. There are lots of product ideas that could easily work for a writer/desktop publisher. Create a product once and sell it over and over again . . . that's how to scale your business and leverage your time.

          When product #1 is completed and selling, go to work on product #2, then #3, and on and on. It's a model that has worked for thousands of others and it can work for you. Focus on building a list of subscribers and buyers so that you can sell your coming products to folks that have already experienced your initial offerings. It's way easier and more efficient to sell to people that are already users of your products.

          The very best to you,

          Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author jbsmith
    I think, in a way, you have answered your own questions in your post. To me, it is simple, you have two options:

    1. You put all of your energy into forming a model where you can go up-market - this would involve possible forming your own "agency" by combining the efforts of 2-3 other freelancers into up-sell packages. For instance, I just launched a very ambitious video training program where I needed to hire 3 different freelancers - one to help convert written products I had into PPT presentations with graphics for recording the main meat of the training program. Another to record the course (voice over specialist) and still another to package, edit and render the videos. Even with this, I created the content myself and did all of the web work myself where this could have been 1 or 2 other freelancers. The real point though is that I spent weeks looking for a one-stop-shop that would handle all of this - found 1-guy that simply was in over his head. So, I wasted weeks managing all of this. To me, there is a place for turnkey freelance "agencies" that serve the middle market (higher end than you are used to, but not Corporate level high-end if you know what I mean)

    2. Instead of doing #1, you focus everything on training freelancers with information products. Here you become the course publisher and marketer - you can outsource many functions but ultimately you MUST know what freelancers want to learn most AND you must know how to reach them with exactly the right message. Again - there is a very big opportunity here as well as this market exists but is always ripe for better products.

    Given these are both very viable commercial opportunities it comes down to where your heart lies - which business do you want to drive with 125% energy over the next 6-12 months?

    Jeff
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  • Leo,

    Is there a particular set of industries that you're offering specialized translation services for?

    For example --
    There are many multinational corporations, established companies and promising start-ups in B2B and B2C electronics and high tech industries of the US, the EU, Canada, Australia and other English-speaking countries that are planning to expand their market reach to non-English countries like Germany, France, Japan, Spain and others ...

    And, most of those that for example want to expand to Germany are having problems sourcing out fluent bi-lingual English and German-speaking professionals in the US (or in those other English-speaking countries) with significant specialized knowledge and real world expertise in those industries and in country / culture-specific marketing communications ...

    And, most of them probably won't want to go through all the trouble of registering and establishing offices in Germany ...

    This means an option is for you to find those groups and identify their current needs. Then:
    Formulate an irresistible custom service offer for each of them, and contact the key descision makers in the relevant departments of those institutions (LinkedIn InMail and phone follow-ups work well for this) to negotiate your proposals; and
    Give them significant real world results, enough for them to realize on their own that they should scale up your contract so as to get more real world results from you ...

    That's what I did with my specialized expertise in particular industries, with my eyes closed, literally (I'm completely blind) ...
    Google my name to learn more from published feature stories of the top news media agencies and various government offices of our country, and from published documentaries of prominent non-profit institutions like the Asia Pacific Development Center of the United Nations, the World Bank, Resources for the Blind and so on ...
    Here's basically what happened ...

    Two years after someone gunned me down twice, which left me completely blind, permanently --
    My wife and I started in 2005 as independent subcontractors; and
    We used our combined specialized skills, knowledge and expertise to provide real world results to various overseas commercial groups in highly competitive industries ...

    Barely a year after starting out and working with many corporations, companies, small businesses, start-ups and individual affiliate marketers --
    A prominent corporation in Canada signed me up as their global ICT consultant; and
    They offered me another contract where we needed to scale up our freelance team of four work at home moms and dads into a registered global ICT consulting company with 2 head offices, 9 provincial city offices, 140 regular employees and independent subcontractors combined ...

    Barely a year after this --
    We were recognized by our national government as the first company in our country to employ persons with disabilities in more than 20% of our workforce ...

    A year after getting bigger, better and longer contracts with other international corporations and overseas companies, most of which are referrals of existing clients --
    I was awarded by our national government as the 2008 Most Inspiring Entrepreneur of the Philippines ...

    And, last year --
    I was recognized by our national government as one of the top 25 technopreneurs of our country ...

    Right now --
    We're a 9-year old certified Microsoft Partner that operates a multi-lingual call center, a technology development department and a multimedia advertising / marketing agency; and

    I'm a global ICT corporate consultant of prominent international brands, multinational non-profit institutions like the Asia Pacific Development Center on Disability of the United Nations, and local government offices here in our country like the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Labor and Employment ...

    It takes time. It takes hard work; and
    Above everything else -- It takes innovation, creativity and vision ...
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  • Profile picture of the author gjabiz
    Booklets.

    No affiliation to the following, presented here as examples.

    Tips Business Booklets Small Business Promotion Publicity Paulette Ensign Business Card

    Paulette Ensign, the Booklet Baroness...may have a partial answer for you. And as a translator, one tips booklet could find several audiences...and/or you could contact others with tips booklets and translate them.

    Jimmy Krug's Guide to - Easy Self Publishing To Build Your Author, Publisher Brand.

    Jimmy Krug did one small booklet and made over $ 100,000.00 in about 90 days. He has some great info which you may find useful.

    From what you posted, I'm suggesting the second option. And you are perfectly suited to become an INFOPRENEUR. If you want a free little report on this, send me either a PM here or an email, gjabiz at yahoo.

    I feel you're jumping over dollars to pick up pennies, just my opinion.

    gjabiz



    Originally Posted by leo1 View Post

    Hey everyone!

    I currently work as a freelancer and have been quite successful for the past few years. I have a couple of well-established profiles on freelancing platforms and have developed a couple of long-term business relationships. But scaling is the main problem with freelancing, i.e. you’re trading your time for $$$. Also, competition is dragging rates down, especially in my field. My work primarily involves translation/localization (I speak several languages) and other related services, including writing, DTP (Desktop Publishing), editing/proofreading, Voice-overs, transcription…etc.

    I tried to scale things up by creating my own website and then buying AdWords traffic. I even enlisted the services of a PPC expert, but it wasn’t successful; perhaps due to poor website design and short duration of PPC campaigns. I also tried SPI (Site Build It) and a few trial programs here and there, but didn’t make much out of them either. Should I try PPC again? Or find another alternative?

    Beyond freelancing portals, I don’t see individual freelancers in my field venturing out on their own. But there are many agencies that seem to be ok when it comes to customer acquisition and the fees they charge. I work with two of them and they consistently receive huge projects. Yet when I conducted some keyword research a couple of years ago, the results were not very promising. In my attempts at competitor analysis, I still couldn’t figure how the agencies manage to secure such projects. The other problem is that our clients are small- and medium-sized businesses, so I’m not sure whether the traditional “give freebies” approach used in B2C-type MMO (i.e. affiliate marketing) is applicable here. I’m also not sure how to create an info-product around this. Any suggestions please?

    Right now, I have two main objectives and a number of secondary ones:


    Firstly: Determine whether current field can be scaled and made more profitable and convenient through:

    (1) More clients (2) Better rates (3) Independence from freelancing platforms.


    Secondly: If the first goal cannot be achieved, move on to another option.

    I considered a teaching/tutoring business or providing one of the other freelancing services through my own website. This is because, apart from programming, freelancing services generally pay low. I also thought about creating an info-product about how to be a successful freelancer (I’ve helped a couple of people build their profiles and earn their first $$ online!).

    Could you please provide suggestions on what I've been getting wrong so far? How should I go about achieving the above goals? How to quickly find whether my current domain is a winner or not? Is there a way to create a product of some sort with my skills? Sorry about the lengthy post.
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  • Profile picture of the author writeaway
    Looks like you have all the RAW INGREDIENTS to becoming a SOCIAL MEDIA STAR in your niche.

    No joke.

    Take a look at some highly influential IM personal brands on social media.

    They leverage their years of expertise and credibility into solid social media brands.

    Why is this type of BRANDING essential? You're building a PASSIVE INCOME ASSET.

    Your brand can reach a high level of credibility that people will ink to you almost without you asking. This means greater traffic and less sales work to get people to convert.
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  • Profile picture of the author leo1
    Wow! Thanks everyone for the awesome and extremely useful replies. I'll take note of every one of them and try as much as possible to put them into practice. I think I will stick around for long in this forum after receiving this kind of help!
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  • Profile picture of the author Slade556
    I have no idea how the big corporations get their many clients, but I did pick up on the "recipe" of starting a business (sort of): start by freelancing (which you already did), as you go, create your portfolio and take your clients out of the old system and into the new (aka, your business).
    You get your first clients this way, who just recommend you to others (for instance, by telling them you'll offer discounts if they bring in someone new).

    Of course, this might not work for everyone, it's just something I picked up on over the years (and I'm sure I'm not the only one)
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  • Profile picture of the author icoachu
    Have you tried writing a basic outline then passing it on to an outsourced writer.

    The writer fleshes out the outline into a book.

    Sell the book on Kindle for PASSIVE INCOME.

    Turn it into a series.

    Turn the first page into lead capture system by linking to your squeeze page.

    The possibilities are endless.
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  • Profile picture of the author angry cowboy
    freelancing work is good but u have to spend much more time in it...and other hand online marketing have a decent money with a less time spending and the rest of time you can do others work...that will be good na?
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  • Profile picture of the author xembergg
    Did you try email marketing mate? Its good rather than freelancing. You cant earn much from it.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kurt
    Another option is to learn SEO. SEO for non-English languages is far less competitive and offers a good opportunity, especially for the Spanish speaking markets.


    This is an additional service you can offer, or monetize it for yourself using affiliate/cpa offers.
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  • Profile picture of the author Eagle07
    You can turn your skills and experiences into a profitable business. With the growing number of people going into freelancing services, you can create steb by step how to guide and sell it to these people.

    It is actually an evergreen business for you since every year more and more people would be looking for a job and their other options would be to dive into freelance services. Your step by step guide is a great help for them.

    Make sure to collect their emails too and while you are selling this guide, look for other related affiliate products that can be of help to your previous customers and recommend this product to them. Make sure you explain to them how the product can help them achieve what they want.

    Even if you sell the guide at kindle for $0.99, you will still be able to scale your business with your customer base by selling other affiliate products in your future promotions. You need to do this with email marketing. You can actually build your list with this strategy. Imagine selling a million copies of just this $0.99 and then selling affiliate products to these customers in the future... I think you can define Scaling in this way too.
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanbiddulph
    Hi Leo,

    As a freelance writer I am HUGE on blogging, to brand me. This frees me from any platform, exposes me to more, higher paying clients and also helps me charge maximum rates. Really, as your rates go higher, no cap exists. Only in your mind. I will say that blogging, and branding yourself like a boss, with super in depth, helpful posts, helps you to charge higher rates and also, it'll help you attract a more discerning, well-heeled client.

    I'd think strongly about branding yourself through a self-hosted WP blog with really in-depth, thorough posts, to show off your writing skills. I publish one 6,000 word blog post weekly and also, a bunch of eBooks. No matter your freelance niche you can rocket up your client base and also, rates, by doing stuff that few people do in your niche.

    I have landed one job from Problogger ads. Other than that, all clients have come to me through my blog, and that's way cool because I set the rates, and I call the shots, and also, I can be nice and picky about what articles I write and which clients I take on. Do the legwork of running a super informative, inspired, resource type of blog and you will instantly turn your skills into business, and increased online profits. Or, check that; maybe not instantly, but within weeks, you'll begin to attract inquiries into your work, which will be really sweet because you won't be depending on any platform to drive business for you; you'll be doing that.

    Ryan
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