Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Leaping Into Solo Business With Elance As My Net

Some years ago, one month after moving to a new city for the job, I got laid off. Cost-saving strategies at the Fortune 500 firm I worked for had taken hold that pretty much axed any kind of marketing function in my business unit.

So there I was, new to town and with no network. The idea of going out on my own didn't seem workable, so I sent out resumes and started interviewing.

It took me nearly nine months to find a new job in a small software firm and one more year after that to realize once and for all that this wasn't the road for me anymore. Far from the autonomous life that I had had in the large corporation, I felt suffocated by the constraints placed upon me by my boss.

I had tried to make it work but had gotten more and more out of synch with myself. I no longer wanted someone else to control my destiny. I wanted to continue in my field, but I wanted to make my own rules.

The resistance to starting my own business faded in the light of what felt like indentured servitude. I needed to take the reins and steer my own business, even if I ended up making less money initially. Failure would be my failure, success would be my success. Either way I was willing to be accountable. I was determined to succeed.

I knew that my skills and attitude would spark business. I have talents that small and medium businesses need for successful marketing. The question was how I could structure a marketing consulting business that allowed me flexibility, mobility, and time for the rest of life while at the same time pulling in a 6-figure income?

I very deliberately thought through what to do to make my vision a reality. Financially speaking, I had an absolute minimum that must be made every month; I owned a new house, and the related expenses created a monthly nut that had to be met. Further, my nontraditional marriage required a high degree of mobility.

My retired husband lives aboard our boat, and I needed to have both the time and the money to travel back and forth between house and boat. I also needed work that didn't require a lot of client interaction, so that I could literally work on the road-have WiFi, will travel, in other words.

I pondered the issue for several days. Then I had a forehead smacking moment. During my unemployed days after the corporate layoff, I started a web site centering on my sailing knowledge as a way to stay productive.

I intended to generate income from it, so I studied up on how people were making money from the internet. A coach I signed on with suggested getting help through a site called Elance to buy the copy writing so necessary to an online business.

I hadn't really listened to that part of the advice; I am a writer, so I could do all that myself. Now, though, as I wrestled with the question of how to launch a business, I remembered Elance, and it hit me. Why not try selling my writing services there?

I checked out the site and found that writing wasn't the only service area that I could try. There was also a sales and marketing area that fit the type of marketing I do. I read through the details about how to set up as a service provider.

I knew from my first business that there would be stiff competition, with quite a few "bottom feeders" offering services as ridiculously low prices; I also knew that this trend would be even stronger on Elance, because it is a global web site attracting service providers from countries like India where hourly rates are far lower than mine.

Finally, there was a good chance that the kind of clients I wanted-owners and CEOs of small and medium businesses-might not be comfortable with buying services sight unseen off a web site, so Elance might not be a vehicle to my target market.

With a high probability that Elance would only be comprised of providers charging far less than I for projects that didn't hit my target market, I wasn't expecting a lot. Still, I thought, it's worth a try.

I could swing a six-month subscription for both the writing and marketing service areas, so I decided to make the investment and reevaluate at the end of the period to see if I wanted to continue.

At the very least, I figured, Elance would allow me to bridge between soul-sucking job and successful marketing consultancy, and that was great. In I went, then, and started posting bids for projects that seemed appropriate for me.

The results blew me away.

By the end of my first two months as an Elance provider, I had booked $20,000 in projects. And before I hit the six-month mark I was among the top five revenue-producing providers in the writing area-the other four being providers who had been around Elance far longer than I.

I found out very quickly that my target market has in fact discovered Elance, and those business owners and CEOs are very willing to buy services sight unseen when the deal works for them. And they are "value buyers" rather than "price buyers," so I had no problem competing successfully against the "I will work for nearly nothing" bottom feeders.

I quit my day job a month after I started bidding on Elance, and haven't looked back. The work I have been awarded there, along with referrals I've received from my Elance clients, has built 4-R Marketing into a 6-figure business. All projects are conducted via internet and telephone.

With my business number on my cell phone and my Wi-Fi enabled laptop, I can work anywhere that I can get a signal. I have worked at the marina where boat and husband live, in RV parks when we've gone van camping, and in Starbucks stores in London.

I work on my patio, at a local restaurant, and even spent St. Patrick's Day at a "free WiFi" Irish pub, working on projects while listening to live Irish music.

And remember the 60-40 split in my first business? In 4-R, the split is more like 80-20-eighty percent billable time and twenty percent business management! The internet has spawned so many tools and options for business owners to cut down on overhead tasks that I can stay on top of finances, marketing, and selling in a fraction of the time that it once took.

I get paid fast, through Elance or my own online shopping cart, and I don't miss the days of waiting for the check to arrive in the mail.

Oh, and my work day now averages eight hours, rather than the 12+ of my previous business.

None of my clients are in my own city, so I have no need to drive the highways to meetings or networking events. In fact, my car stays in the garage most of the time. My work clothes are shorts in the warm season and sweatpants when it's cold.

It's been so long since I took anything to the dry cleaners I can't remember where they are located. I have time to visit with friends, travel to the boat, take my dogs for long walks, read books, and do crossword puzzles.

What a deal!

By : Trish_Lambert

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