Dear writers and designers: The world is your oyster. And today’s world is a digital oyster bed. A world in which an ambitious creative can build a thriving consultancy business, simply by leveraging digital tools and letting your skills shine through.
Like most things in life that are meaningful, the steps are fairly simple. It’s the quality of the effort you put into each one that can mean the difference between disappointment and delirious, life-affirming results.
In a very essential way, when you decide to become an independent creative consultant, you’re deciding to start a business. It sounds like a no-brainer. But this idea is core to understanding what it takes to become successful. You’re creating a business. It offers creative services. And you’re going to need all of the critical elements of a business to do really well.
What this boils down to is defining what you have to offer, getting the word out about it, and doing great work.
Step one: Define your niche
Writers write. Designers design. And there are a lot of them. Just Google them. To differentiate yourself from the sweaty masses of scriveners and scrawlers, follow this mental exercise to carve out a space that fits exactly what you have to offer.
- Think of what you’ve done well
Do you specialize in emails? Are you a designer who likes to illustrate? Have you worked with medical offices and gaming outfits? Maybe you’ve started out designing flyers for your church but you love typography? Or perhaps you’ve written direct mail for a local real estate agency but you also blog about fashion?
- Crystallize your key attributes in a few words or phrases
If you can summarize what makes you unique, then you’ll have a big advantage over the rest of those “struggling” artisans.
Step two: Create an online presence
Once you’ve defined what you’re offering - your personal niche - you’re ready to tell the world about it. You’re ready to create a website and begin cultivating your online presence. Today, there are a number of companies that offer easy to use site-building platforms. SiteBuilderReport have compiled a helpful review of the best ones.
Many of these sites make it drag-and-drop easy to create a beautiful website that showcases what you have to offer. So how do you decide what to put on your site? Here’s how:
- Gather together all your existing work
Or if you’re just getting started, create examples by designing your own interesting briefs. You could also offer your services for free to a non-profit, and add that work to your portfolio.
- Decide on an organizing framework
For example, you could create sections within your website organized by the type of marketing (emails, websites, etc) or the type of industry (consumer tech, health insurance, etc).
- Create a sketch of your site
This should include an outline of the sections. These will create a map for your navigation menu and your secondary pages. You should also plan a creative approach to your home page and secondary pages.
- Use a site builder to build your site
Most site builders offer highly attractive templates - pick the one that supports how you’ve organized your content in the your site sketch. Take special care to be clear about how you operate and how to contact you. Most templates offer forms that make it easy for your prospective clients to detail what they’re looking for.
Step three: Get the word out
Your site is up. And it’s beautiful. Now, it’s time to tell your friends. And your friends’ friends. And so on until your calling card - in the form of a website - reaches your next potential client.
Word-of-mouth advertising works. But it may not work for everybody. You may find yourself seeking ways to get your name beyond the circle of your current network. And that means advertising.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to advertise online - and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, many online advertisers only charge when a potential customer clicks on your ad and lands on your site. It’s called PPC (or pay-per-click) advertising.
- Most PPC advertisers provide fine-grained filters that help you zero in on just the right customers
- Native advertising outfits like Infolinks offer a form of free PPC advertising called native advertising, which surfaces your ad alongside websites displaying content that’s relevant to the filters you select
- One of the best things about native advertising is you’re reaching people with ads woven into the content of what your potential readers and customers are already interested in
More about Infolinks: This free native advertising platform offers a range of advertising formats, including InFold (native advertising that marries the power of search with above-the-fold advertising) and InText (which scans a page’s content in real-time to deliver your most relevant ad).
Step four: Plan your project management
You’ve defined your niche. Created a site. And got the word out. You’ve honed your skills for years. Now, it’s time to shine. There’s nothing to say but to ask yourself to reach for the stars. Try and stay humble. Listen more than you talk. There are a number of great project management tools - like WorkflowMax - that can help you keep your tasks organized. If you do great work, you’re gonna need some help keeping all your projects in order.
WorkflowMax can also help manage your leads, client databases, quotes, invoices, timesheets and job costing. It’s a complete cloud based project management solution, offering all the tools a small business needs to get up and running.
Step five: Promote your great work
Your work is amazing. Your clients love you. But you’re still struggling a little to keep the digital doorbell ringing. Sometimes the best way to drum up more business is to brag a little about your current and recent work (the great thing about this is the work is already done). Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
- Share your work with businesses in the same industry as your current clients
- Post your work on creative portfolios like Behance
Now’s the time!
You’re a skilled creative consultant. Your network is primed for cultivation. And you’re eager to see projects - and profits - start rolling in from your creative efforts. If you’ve been thinking about going independent, now’s the perfect time. Everything you need to create your business, get the word out and keep your work organized is simply a few clicks away. Hopefully, you’ll take the blueprint you’ve just read and put it to work. After all, the world is your oyster. Are you ready to seize it?
With a finely tuned ear for the felicitous phrase and an eye for visual goodness, Nitzan Gursky is the Marketing Team Leader at Infolinks.com, one of the largest monetization platforms in the world today. Infolinks enables more than 200,000 publishers worldwide to create additional revenue from their sites’ unused ad space, with a suite of advanced ad units powered by real time intent targeting.