Offering services online as a freelancer or business owner has been steadily increasing in popularity. In the US alone, 39 million people work online as of 2021, and by 2025 there is expected to be an 87% increase from pre-pandemic levels. However, while the statistics speak for themselves, many may wonder what the benefits of working online are and why you should offer your services online in the first place. Covid 19 is an obvious factor – in fact, the CDC concluded that you are twice as likely to catch the virus if you work externally to the home.
Working online also reduces costs (such as travel and food), is more flexible if you have a busy lifestyle, and increases accessibility for many people. As offering your services online clearly allows you to reap benefits, today we plan to advise you on how you can begin to offer your services online – regarding flexibility, increasing exposure and creating a brand/profile.
Flexibility and exposure when becoming an independent consultant
In terms of independent consultancy, the more flexibility and exposure – the better. This is especially true if you are a beginner consultant. While we don’t advise joining a marketplace, freelance platforms may be useful at the start to simply gain experience. Working on several platforms at a time may prove productive at the beginning, as this will increase your exposure to a diverse range of potential clients.
We also recommend being as flexible as you possibly can, as this will entice clients. The more time you have at your disposal to spend on a project or the faster you communicate with a client, the more likely they are to build trust. However, that being said, it’s important to set professional boundaries from the beginning to establish a sustainable business relationship and keep work life separate from your personal life. Flexibility is good – within reason. A 2019 UK study did find that independent consultants tend to prioritise work over their personal lives, which results in long hours and potential burnout – so remain mindful of this.
Establishing your niche as an independent consultant
While increasing your exposure is important, so is establishing your niche and place as an independent consultant in the online market early on. For argument’s sake, if you are offering health related consultations you aren’t going to join a platform designated for front-end developers. For this reason, it is vital to research your platform or market of interest thoroughly before offering your services. Otherwise, you may end up targeting the wrong market and confusing potential clients.
Niche construction theory is a theory that argues that constructing an environment that suits us is a biological trait we all possess. Biologist Lewontin theorised as early as the 1950s that humans tend to change their environment to suit their skills, rather than choosing a different environment. It is important to choose the right environment early on while offering consultant services, as to avoid upsetting clients.
Establishing trust and prioritising testimonials when offering your independent consultant services
Successful online work requires clarity of several factors – your consultancy service, working hours/capacity, price point and experience. According to social psychologist Adam Waytz, establishing trust involves the presence of four components – benevolence/kindness, integrity, competence and predictability. Consultancy clients cannot develop a first impression of you virtually as efficiently as they would face-to-face, so it is important to consider these four elements when advertising or offering your services to ensure that potential clients will trust you.
Benevolence can be detected through your direct communication – this may include some patience on your part, friendly language to put the client at ease, or empathy if they are struggling in some retrospect. Integrity can be assured by being very transparent with your client about your expertise, experience, price rates and capacity – and sticking to your promises. Competence is shown through the work itself – aka, doing your job correctly and delivering a satisfactory service, and predictability can be assured by explaining the process to your client and not diverging (unless necessary).
When choosing an online consultancy space, platform, or website to offer your services, we advise opting for one that allows for a testimonial, review, or previous success section. There is a huge body of research on the effect that reviews have on successful marketing and establishing trust, which we whole-heartedly support. In fact, 72% of consumers or clients will only contact the service provider after reading a positive review, and 92% of consumers read reviews or testimonials before purchasing. It’s rather logical – if a client can see clearly that you have delivered efficiently in the past, or have a successful background, they are more likely to trust you. This ties in with the competence and integrity components of trust also.
Overall, offering your independent consultancy services online (successfully, at that) requires a great deal of flexibility and trust – especially at the beginning of your journey. If you need a place to delegate and offer your services online, what better option than an all-in-one solution for professionals? Sign-up to Workee today and accelerate your business.