According to Fast Company, in 2015 15.5 million people were self-employed, and that number should jump to 60 million by 2020. Part of the reason for this trend is that there’s demand for the value freelancers provide. The allure behind independence is the ability to choose what you do, when you want to do it. And there are technology platforms, as well as spaces, that make independence more viable than ever.
A friend of mine recently introduced me to Michael, who provides a good example of what I’m talking about. He’s an independent insurance agent, and when I asked him why he’s going it alone, he pointed me to a site he uses with an article detailing how much insurance agents make. All told, in 2014 insurance agents pulled in $325 billion in revenue, with a profit margin of about 12%.
Michael said his profit margin is higher than that because there’s no middleman between himself and the leads. He uses the online lead generation, CRM software, and the flexibility of freelancing to pin down the most complex projects that yield the most lucrative returns.
An issue of space
The thing about Michael is, he’s mobile. After the initial phone calls, emails, or direct messages, he goes to his clients, wherever they’d like to meet, and does business with them there. He does all of his office-related activities from home. Do you need an office space to conduct business as an independent? Increasingly, the answer is no.
Not long ago, I explored how to run a business with nothing but a smartphone. About 10% of executives use only a smartphone to conduct their day-to-day business. When you’re an independent salesperson, you’re your own executive. A laptop or tablet are big helpers for mobile sales, but if you want to just use your smartphone, you can. Here are some tips. Oh yeah, and these apply to good ol’ fashioned laptops, too:
- Manage your time with apps such as My Minutes (iOS), Rescue Time, and Freshbooks
- Organize email and tasks with apps such as Mailbox (iOS, Android) and Remember the Milk
- Build a website or blog with a platform such as Joosee or DudaMobile
- Store documents on the cloud, create and edit them with iWork or Microsoft Office, sign, scan, and fax them with apps such as Google’s HelloSign, Cudasign, Evernote’s Scannable, and for fax, RingCentral Fax
Some of these tips are particularly appropriate for the salesperson who is selling a unique product, not contracting through one of the platforms I’m going to discuss. You may not need to build your own website if you’re contracting out your sales services to various companies. But having your own site is still a great idea for personal branding and marketing purposes.
Contracting platforms are plentiful. Indeed.com is a big one where you can post your resume and look for independent sales jobs. Right now, there are 11,084 jobs listed under “independent sales contractor”, all over the US. You can narrow it down by location.
The independent sales rep field is huge, and there are websites that help connect reps with manufacturers. RepHunter.net is one such site. On it, you can search for manufacturers and build lines in a wide variety of industries. Manufacturers can use it to search for you based on your profile. The service is free for reps.
You can also join an association such as MANAonline.org. They assist you with training, legal counseling, connections to manufacturers, and lead generation. It costs $299 to join.
As a contractor, make sure the commissions you work for are worth your time and hard work. Monster, a platform that connects businesses and job-seekers, recommends choosing your jobs based on what works for you. If you’re all about building the relationships and making the individual sales, look for individual sales opportunities with the highest possible commissions. If you’re all about building territory and a team, choose payment based on territory volume.
The freelance experience
Here are a couple of solid resources that will help save your neck as you experience what it is to do freelance sales:
Guide to freelancing from start to finish – This guide gives you the basics, such as how to market yourself and find clients, how to negotiate your fees, and how to manage your finances. From here you can jump to Intuit’s huge supply of resources for freelancers.
Building relationships with CRM – As a freelancer, if you build the right relationships, they will branch into huge opportunities for you. One account can lead to ten accounts. CRM isn’t just for the head of sales departments in big companies. It’s for anyone interested in managing a variety of contacts and covering a lot of ground. With it, you could soon have reps working under you.
Marketing yourself on social media – Wondering whether you need a social media presence? This article will help you understand just how valuable one is.
Ultimately, if you can make it as an independent salesperson, you’re incredibly valuable to so many businesses who need someone with your skills. You’re also valuable to clients, who can rely on you flexibility. Put in the work, use the resources, and you’re in business.