Remote Reinvention: How to Find Freelance Work
We don’t like to sell because we are scared of being rejected. Email and instant messaging have propagated bad selling practices because they allow for a meek message to be sent and then forgotten about. Ultimately, though, we are all salespeople. While more obvious in our professional lives, we also do this in our personal lives—we upsell ourselves when we make friends, relationships, and so forth.
When setting up as a remote finance consultant, you will need to adjust to no longer having a boss that conveniently fills your inbox with work. You will have to go and find it yourself, which involves the “s” word.
In the first article of this series, I discussed “what” to do as a remote finance consultant. Now, let’s explore the ways that you can go about finding and managing this workload.
Financial consultant work leads come from inbound or outbound sources. Inbound refers to clients/work directly approaching you, and vice versa for the latter.
|Outbound||Social Media||LinkedIn InMail|
|Cold Calling||Previous clients/colleagues|
|Job Boards||Applying for advertised roles|
Try to maintain a balance between inbound and outbound; you will find that over time, inbound proves more scalable and fruitful. The negotiation dynamic is quite different when someone approaches you to work for them versus when you reach out cold to someone.
Branding Your Persona
To generate leads, you first need to professionalize your persona as a finance consultant. The reason why it can be hard for a finance professional to self-brand is that it can be difficult to define the tangible output produced from an engagement. While a developer and a designer can point to their respective completed apps and brand books, for the financial consultant, a cumbersome Excel model may not have the same resonance. Pitch decks can be a more appealing visual experience, but that draws attention more to the aesthetics than the more value-additive elements of a deck: the brainstorming, business planning, and negotiation.
Build a portfolio demonstrating what you do. Screenshots of a detailed, well-organized Excel model you created might start to paint the picture, but it’s more important to show the story of how this model helped your team/clients. Ultimately, the most effective way of demonstrating your value-add would be through a video case study, the kind that you would see on the website of an enterprise-level service.
Build a simple portfolio website to showcase your work. There is a range of popular DIY editors that can mock up a website, such as Wix and Squarespace. Over time, your site can evolve from starting off as a virtual resume to becoming your electronic home, full of dynamic content like blogs and case studies.
Use building a website as an opportunity to swap that old Yahoo email address for one linked to your professional domain. Not only does this show that you are taking your work seriously, but psychologically, it separates work from personal lives. One big drawback of being an independent financial consultant is that you always have to be “on” so at least create some mechanisms where you can mute work and focus on your personal life.
It may seem slightly meta to be writing a piece of content that is telling you to also write content, but if you will indulge me, writing content is an excellent way to put your name out there. Clients can learn far more about you from your writing than they can from a resume or a LinkedIn profile. When you write, you are expressing yourself clearly and candidly, and in most cases, a client will be able to visualize your output.
In terms of what to write, think back to the themes we have been talking about:
- What do you do?
- What is the tangible outcome of your work?
- How is there real-life context to this?
For example, if I was an expert budgeting consultant with some war stories about rebasing forecasts, right now, I would write an article about how to structure a rebasing of an annual financial forecast due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Budgeting as Remote Consultant
The hardest issue to contend with for a freelancer is the variance of income. In salaried professions, the relative security of job and income provides a bedrock with which to base life decisions off.
Being a remote financial consultant may initially appear to have a more erratic earnings trajectory than salaried work, yet it also has infinite earnings potential and absolute autonomy. If you take a sample of people that changed the world with an invention and/or have significant financial wealth, the chances are they didn’t get there by working for someone else.
Getting to grips with your outgoings and what you need each month to keep the lights on is the first place to start when managing finances. It may appear slightly overwhelming when starting out with no clients, and no amount of cliched phrases about snowballs, or learning to ride a bicycle, can mask that insecurity.
When you qualify projects, try to conceptualize the earnings potential into three buckets:
- Mules: Reliable engagements that will pay a steady stream of income.
- Geese: Work that is seasonal, in terms of only appearing for certain events.
- Unicorns: Big and lucrative contracts that appear out of the blue.
As you may infer, maintaining a blend between the three will be the correct middle ground between security and having incentives to work toward. Starting off with the more prosaic “mule” engagements is a great way to build momentum, confidence, and reputation.
Each country will have its own rules about how to set yourself up legally—for that, I would recommend consulting a local expert. There is usually some kind of tradeoff between more informal arrangements such as being “self-employed” versus more formal ones, where you set up a legal entity to act under. Each will have its advantages/disadvantages in terms of cost, client perception, and flexibility. Choose according to what your goal will be—for example, if you are looking to get back into full-time work quickly, choose the easiest to unwind option.
Integrity opens many doors. To grow and build a sustainable career as a remote consultant, you will need the scalable effect of the referral. Building this up requires give and take, both in terms of doing good by your clients and also helping other consultants out, with no strings attached.
Give before you take and try to build a community in your local area with like-minded professionals. Going it alone is a great way of being in control, but it’s usually easier and more fun having others around you.