As more and more talented folks find themselves thrust into the role of an accidental entrepreneur… suddenly starring in their own start-up… here are some tips I’ve learned over a few recessions. I also invite even better insights from other accidental entrepreneurs.
1. Prioritize Skills. Brand You is an overused term but it is a good descriptor in this context. As a new brand, you need to consider all of your marketable attributes. Create a list of the skills and attributes you can offer clients. Then think about which of these skills are in greatest demand and put those at the top of your list.
2. Leverage & B’storm w/past Associates. Reach out to everyone you’ve crossed paths with over your career. In fact, you may find that many of your friends are in the same boat as you… and together you can brainstorm some great strategies or approaches that can lead to new opportunities.
3. Social Networking… not Social Notworking. Leverage every social marketing tool from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook to Classmates.com to tap into old friends and associates. Be direct about your search for a new opportunity and ask for referrals or other networking leads. Also use Yahoo and LinkedIn Groups to reach out to potential clients and associates. Just don’t get too caught up in the social aspects of it… as an entrepreneur your time is literally money.
4. Friends & Family. Reach beyond your own network to those of your friends and family. You never know who your Uncle Ned knows at IBM.
5. Pride. You gotta do what you gotta do. Some clients may just want basic media relations or a couple of press releases written. If the last time you pitched media was as a Sr. AE in the ’90’s, you may have to swallow a little pride and dive in. Think of it as an opportunity to build a relationship with a client… the strategic, higher level stuff may come down the road, but in the meantime you’re billing hours and making money!
6. Make the most of your time. You’re not generating income when you spend your time doing accounting, filing or shopping for supplies. Hire a reasonable and trustworthy bookkeeper and use an intern or family members to do some of the time consuming office tasks.
7. Online Presence. Create an online presence (website, blog etc.) and brand it in a way that is true to you and your service offerings. Don’t just throw up clip art, make it reinforce your brand. Being online also makes it very easy to share your work samples, past successes and services all in one place.
8. Team Up. You can also appear larger with a wider range of services if you team up with other freelancers with complimentary capabilities. This will also amplify your marketing efforts.
9. Create a Legal Entity. Do some research on what type of company you want to establish. Personally, I like LLC’s because they’re easy to set up and don’t require the paperwork of a C or S Corp while still offering legal protections. Companies also prefer working with freelancers who are incorporated because it’s less likely they’ll have issues with government agencies who want to classify you as an employee.
10. Cobbler Kiddy. Don’t be one…. make the shoes. PR freelancers should know how to promote themselves… just take the time to do it. This is one area where you need to spend the time and make sure you’re active and visible in the communities where you’re most likely to generate new business.