Consultant Thursdays: Getting Noticed On The Cheap

Let’s suppose you just got laid off or worse yet, fired. Or even worse your primary focus is financial services software. The recession has finally reached into your pockets. You’re without a job, and you need a way to get your shingle out there to pay for rent which you look for a full time gig.

Here’s a few tips to get started without spending a lot of cash:

Don’t spend a lot on new computer equipment

Clients don’t care about shiny, they just want the job done, so a lot of times it’s better to bite the bullet and use what you have before making a big investment in the latest and greatest. Look for services that are more expensive than owning, but less of a cash outlay up front until the cash flow kicks in. Ironically, some of the web-based services are more expensive and more time consuming than real-world based services.

Start a blog

You should start one before you have to hit the pavement because it is personal branding, but one of the great things about WordPress (the blog software this blog uses), it’s free, it’s an excellent content management system for small websites, it’s easy to use and very easy to install.

Even if you don’t have a webhost, many of them, including Dreamhost, have wonderful one-click installs and upgrades that are easy, and Dreamhost is cheap — around $120 a year for as many domains (read blogs) as you want.

Get business cards

When you’re going to all those wonderful events, you need something to hand out, right? VistaPrint does a great job of providing four-color business cards from either a set of templates or a design you provide on your own, and they deliver them in a resonable time. It’s cheaper than Kinko’s, and you can design them in your shorts (while you’re enjoy your unscheduled vacation.

Look at the market is a good starting point, because there are a ton of jobs on there that can get you some quick cash. We’re not saying you should be doing websites for $50, but you can at least gauge what the supply and demand is for what you do, and plan your search for gainful employment accordingly. Going after gigs on some of the freelance sites is more successful than you would think, and it’s free.

Price your services accordingly

If you have to work 40 hours a week as a consultant to match the same hourly rate as a full-time employee, don’t do it. You should price your hourly rate at least 30 percent higher than what a full-time employee makes to take care of all the benefits and other things you have to do yourself.

You also need to leave yourself time for marketing your services — if you have to work 80 hours a week to make ends meet, you’re probably doing something wrong.

Figure out your value proposition

If you’re just another counter person at a fast-food restaurant, you don’t have much value other than how they train you. What makes you special? What’s work that you enjoy?

I’m not saying go out and start a second career, but something along the lines of what you are currently doing, especially if you’ve been doing it for a while, would be your best bet. There’s always something in your resume that makes you stand out from your competition.