Earning a living as an independent worker is usually pretty straight forward: You’re likely providing some sort of service (writing, editing, graphic design, web programing, bookkeeping) in exchange for a paycheck. That’s all well and good, except for the fact that you are always trading time for money, and that can limit your earning power. Sure, you can give yourself a raise by increasing your rates, but you still have a finite number of hours and only so much capacity to work.
If you want to increase your earning power, it’s time to get creative about alternative revenue streams. If you have an expertise that people pay for when they hire you, there are other ways you can capitalize on that expertise. Here are some ideas:
Write an eBook: Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, writing a short eBook is an excellent way to package and showcase your expertise. Think of it is as a long-form business card that showcases with your story and ideas. These days, self-publishing on Amazon is super easy and an eBook doesn’t have to be a traditional full-length book. Anything around 10,000-15,000 words (that’s about a 50-page Word document) is sufficient and can be sold for $2.99 or less. Once published, not only do you have a piece of work demonstrating your knowledge and ability to finish a project, but also merchandise constantly generating revenue without your time attached to it.
Offer a workshop: Offering a workshop is a way to maximize the earning potential of your time in a group setting. Let’s say you offer a two-hour session on how to use Facebook for businesses: If ten people sign up, you’ll make more in those two hours than you would in two hours of one-on-one time. The workshop also becomes a way for you to network with potential long-term clients. It creates a low-risk opportunity for people to meet you and learn about your services without spending a ton of time or money.
Create a product: Oftentimes service-based independents don’t think of themselves as product creators. However, creating products—posters, stickers or buttons – does a couple of things for you and your business. Let’s say you’re a graphic artist. Posters could be an ideal product for you because they show off your work from other people’s walls, where potential clients can see your name just by walking by. You can sell posters from your own website, or at pop-up markets and local art walks.
Even if you are not a graphic artist, you can use this idea to show off your personality. If you’re a bookkeeper or a virtual assistant, you can make stickers with a whacky catch phrase that helps people remember you and the service you provide. Use your product to give people something fun and memorable that is a low-risk point of entry to your business.
Produce digital content: If you have a workshop, why not record that content and make it available online? The recording can be video or audio only and sold through your website. This strategy allows you to expand your client base from local and face-to-face to global and virtual. Potential clients get a better idea of who you are, and a feel for what it would be like to interact with you in person. Options include setting it up as a one-time download, a series, or a special offering of your eBook plus audio content for a premium price. However you set it up, you have just created another continuous revenue stream.
Book speaking engagements: Speaking engagements are an excellent opportunity to introduce yourself to a large audience. Not only can you generate additional revenue if it’s a paid gig, but also you can use the opportunity to sell your products and services. As soon as you have an eBook, you are more attractive to groups and organizations who may have regular monthly meetings and are always looking for speakers. Your local chamber of commerce or professional associations are a great place to start, but don’t forget the smaller niche-groups such as The Editorial Freelancers Association. You never know where you might find a roomful of folks in need of your skills, so bring your eBook, information on you workshop series, digital content, and even your posters or stickers (which can be used as giveaway swag).
Today’s job market is always changing. In order to succeed as an independent worker, you have to get creative and think beyond sitting at your computer churning out blog posts or web code. Turning your skills into merchandise can take you from worker bee to independent business owner.
Casey Marshall is hunched over his phone, furiously scrolling through his Twitter feed in search of a photo of Waste Management’s promotional robot, whose broken axle he fixed back in March. “Someone came into the Hacker Lab and needed his robot repaired,” he says, grinning, “and I was like, ‘I gotta do that.’”
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I own a design firm, and we regularly employ freelance designers and photographers. Some work for us sporadically and others work for us on a regular basis. What are my responsibilities regarding liability and workers’ compensation?
Whether you are a starving or established artist, we could all use a little mailbox money. Here’s how to get started: