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If I were starting from scratch today, here’s how I’d build a freelance career

I’m super excited to give you these ideas as, in a way, I feel like I’ll be living vicariously through you in the process.

See here’s the thing … I’m a serial entrepreneur and one of my big regrets is there just isn’t enough time to do everything I do with my current clients and businesses and also follow up on all the ideas I have.

While I love what I do, I can’t help but notice other opportunities that I see pop up in the industry. Many times, I see these opportunities because they’re things that I find myself hiring for as a part of the work I do for clients.

I remember very keenly what it was like to feel lost when I began freelancing.

I felt like I had no valuable skills and didn’t even know what I could offer clients. Fast forward to today and I see opportunities EVERYWHERE!

So, if you’ve ever wanted to give freelancing a whirl but have waffled on where to start, well, this post is for you!

I’ll be letting you in on some of the big opportunities I see right now in the freelancing world — these are the niches that I’d carve out for myself if I were just getting started TODAY.

Then, I’ll pick one of those niches and do a deeper dive into it, showing you how I would go about making myself into an expert, packaging my skills, and pitching clients. I’ll even take it a step further and give you a quick look at how I’d grow the business over time.

Part 1: 4 freelancing opportunities I’m excited about right now

Let’s dive right in now and talk about some of my favorite niches. Here are 4 that have caught my interest lately. They’re summarized here but you can read about them more in-depth in this post. (NOTE: There used to be 5. The 5th was driving organic traffic using Pinterest but that platform has since become consumed with ads and I no longer think it’s a good opportunity.)

4. Client generation for other freelancers

My targets would be other freelancers who need steady work coming in but are afraid (or don’t have time, or energy, or a system) to go out and find new work. I’d swoop in and show them how working with me would equal a steady stream of amazing clients.

3. Social media management

Many companies know they should be doing it but there are just so many other pressing things they’re focused on. If you can swoop in and show them why they need it and how you can do all of the work for them, many will jump at the chance to be making progress on it without actually working on it themselves.

2. Advertising on the big networks (Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube)

Anything that helps your client make more money is going to allow you to charge more money. So if you’re not particularly leaning toward one skill over another, why not take a look at making yourself an expert on one of the various advertising platforms.

1. TikTok Strategist

There is a huge opportunity to get into TikTok as an early adopter. While tons of people have jumped onto the platform, a very small percentage are thinking about how to use it for business. This provides an easy opening for you to swoop in and teach clients how to use it to grow their business — and way earlier than everyone else.

Part 2: If I started freelancing today, I’d do this …

If I were just getting started today, I’d hang my shingle out as a TikTok Strategist.

Why Tik Tok?

Some quick stats:

  • The average daily time on TikTok is estimated at 45 minutes
  • Android TikTok users spent 68 billion hours using the app in 2019
  • TikTok monthly average users are estimated at 800 million
  • Approximately 60% of users in the U.S. are female, 40% male
  • TikTok’s biggest age group in the US is 18-24-year-olds, which account for 42%. That’s followed by 13-17-year-olds at 27%.
  • To learn more about TikTok stats click here and here.

Let me be clear. I’m not a singer. I’m not a dancer. And in my personal life, I try to stay away from most social media, especially something with a huge time-suckage potential like TikTok.

But I’m also a businesswoman, and with TikTok, I see HUGE potential.

1. You get to be an early adopter

Do you ever get exhausted trying to stand out on platforms like Facebook or Instagram and wish you’d gotten started sooner?

Or do you look at bloggers (especially travel bloggers) and wish you had been smart enough to get started back in, say, 2006, when it was so much easier to be a standout voice. Now it seems like everyone and their grandmother has a travel blog (Guilty! 🙋‍♀️ I started one too!).

The early folks had the advantage of being early adopters. They plugged away at it before it was cool and eventually had the status of being “in the biz for 10 years or 15, or more.”

Have you seen some of the travel blogs started by some of the original famous names in the game? I won’t name names but some of them are hideous. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is they got started early.

This opportunity exists now with TikTok. Yes, there are an estimated 800 million people on the platform. And that sounds like way too many for you to be able to get in as an early adopter. But when you think about the billion that use Instagram every month or the 1.7 billion that use Facebook, you’re still early to the game my friend.

Also, it’s important to look at the WAY it’s being used. For most, it’s a way to pass the time. Many aren’t even thinking about using it as a business tool. You do that and you skip 10X ahead of everyone else.

2. It’s still very new so there are very few experts

You can call yourself a TikTok expert really quickly. Why? It hasn’t been in the mainstream that long so it won’t take you that long to really dive into it and learn everything there is to know.

A key thing to remember is that you only need to know more than your clients. They’ll be coming to you because they’re NOT experts, but they need to know how to use this for their business. If they’re starting at zero, and you’re a month into your deep dive into everything TikTok, you do have expert advice to give them.

Just one quick note, and something I ask of all my readers and students. Actually DO the work! Put in the time. Look to become the best you can be at what you do so that you are actually offering clients massive value.

Please don’t be that one jerk who reads this like, “Oh Mashon said I can call myself an expert really fast since there aren’t many other people doing this so I’ll just put up my expert sign and start charging clients without really knowing what I’m doing.”

Guaranteed, someone will try that shortcut. But it doesn’t work in the long run. The best way to always have clients at your door and be making more money than you thought possible is to: Do. Great. Work.

3. Not a lot of people are using it for business purposes so there’s a huge opportunity to jump in and teach clients WHY they need it

Out of the estimated 800 million people using TikTok only a very small percentage of businesses/marketers/brands are.

Even in my entrepreneur friend circle, there’s a general feeling of: “Ugh, I know I need to get on this. It’s not exactly right up my alley but the chance to be an early adopter is so big! But where will I find the time.”

I agree because that’s exactly how I feel. (Confession: I’m not on TikTok as a brand yet. 🤦‍♀️ )

You can take advantage of this to search out clients who are feeling exactly like my friends and I are, demonstrate to them the results that TikTok can generate, the urgency of starting quickly, and show them how working with YOU will achieve that!

Are you starting to see the opportunity here? In the next section, I’ll give you the lowdown on exactly how I’d get started.

Part 3: TikTok seems interesting… but how to get started?

OK, so now let’s talk about how I would go about starting my TikTok strategist career.

Research

I’d start with research. Heavy research. I’d gather all the stats I could find on TikTok. Some of these would be for my own knowledge, and some I’d set aside knowing I can put them into nice charts for clients later when I’m pitching my services.

I’d dig everywhere:

  • Facebook groups to see what people are saying about the platform.
  • I’d exhaustively watch everything I could find on YouTube.
  • I’d follow other people who have begun using TikTok as a marketing tool.
  • I’d follow TikTok users who are successful across a wide spectrum and look to see what makes them successful. (Here, it’s important to look for accounts that are successfully doing stuff other than the viral dance videos. For the most part, clients aren’t going to be looking to do teeny-bopper dance stuff, so I’d dig to see what other types of success can be achieved on accounts that would be easily adaptable for various clients’ businesses.)

Hands-on learning

Next, I’d get ON TikTok:

  • I’d play with all the features.
  • I’d make sure I understand how everything works.
  • From adding text, to filters, to saving my favorite music, to how to find and jump on trends (both video styles e.g. “Yep/Nope,” as well as using trending songs to my advantage to get more views).
  • I’d be sure to take notes as I went, polishing those notes into step-by-step SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that would come in handy down the road. (We’ll get to that in a later section).

Learning from another expert

Once I had a good understanding for myself, I’d look to buy a good course on TikTok. Why? After all, I’ve just done a ton of research on it myself, so why look to buy a course? Well, you know the saying: “Two heads are better than one.”

By the time I take the course, I should know plenty. Most of the course should be reinforcing what I already learned, but I would likely pick up a few more nuggets along the way. Even just one valuable tidbit I missed could be gold and could add lots of 0000s to my bank account.

It’s also a good way to check out my competition. (Yes, there’s plenty of TikTok Strategist real estate to go around at the moment but it doesn’t hurt to see how much some other expert out there knows, and how much they’re selling courses for.)

Once I’d truly made myself an expert on all things TikTok, I’d start to figure out how to package up my services for clients.

Part 4: Getting down to business

Let’s recap quickly. So far we’ve:

  • Chosen to set up a TikTok Strategist freelancing business
  • Gone over why TikTok is a great opportunity and the advantages of getting in today
  • Talked about how to do research and set yourself up as an expert on the platform

Now, on to the next steps in my strategy …

Packaging my services

Once I’ve absorbed enough knowledge to truly be able to help clients gain from using the platform, it’s time to package up my services and find clients.

I’d create low, medium, and high pricing tiers as well as a “custom” option. I’d have these as my base, but I would be flexible at the beginning — remember, at this point, I haven’t actually worked with a client and I might find that there is a need that I’m missing and haven’t included in my packages.

The high and custom tiers would be very “hands-off options” for the client. As in, with these packages, they sign the contract, pay me, and I take care of everything!

For the clients who just want to sit back and relax, this is key.

As for the lower tiers, remember those detailed SOPs I wrote back when I was researching the platform?

Well, for clients who aren’t in a position to pay for the top dollar higher tiers, I would work up several lower tiers where they get on a call with me to go over their needs, then I give them a one or two-page write-up of the steps I would take, and give them the matching SOPs so they can go in and do it for themselves.

Over time I would ruthlessly systematize these into around 3-5 “paths” that any client could be sorted into and I’d make it all very streamlined. A client might buy my lower tier for $400, yet I’m only putting in 1-2 hours of work to deliver their “step-by-step guide.”

Finding clients

Alright, now that I know my TikTok stuff, and I have an idea of how I’m going to package my services and what I’ll charge, it’s time to go off and find clients.

Luckily, since there are still many businesses that aren’t using TikTok, I’ve got plenty to choose from.

And from my (previous) research into a wide variety of types of TikTok accounts, I have an idea of what clients to target. Let’s randomly say that I noticed that I could easily adapt successful TikTok accounts to work well for clients in travel, fashion, and selling musical instruments (yah, random I know but I’m thinking off the top of my head here).

Well, those are the people I’d go after.

Where do you find them?

Everywhere! Google, Facebook groups, searching them out on Instagram. The idea is to get very clear on my target client.

I want to find businesses that are small enough that they’re probably open to new ideas and innovation, yet doing well enough that they can pay for my services.

Let’s start with fashion for example. I might go find mid to large-sized Instagram accounts for fashion influencers.

In this case, I’d look for people with a good bit of personality that they could inject into their TikTok videos. Many times, influencers get paid differently for advertising posts based on the size of their following — so growing their Instagram followers allows them to charge more.

I’d work on showing them how many potential followers they could gain through being on TikTok. I’d gather sample videos I felt could work for them, maybe the idea would be that they copy some of the trending stuff while wearing whatever fashion product they’re advertising at the moment.

Or maybe they don’t want to do the trendy dance videos but they’re interested in creating quick tutorials or something like lookbooks, which don’t require them to be on camera at all. These ideas all come to me as I’m scrolling through various influencer accounts on Instagram and making notes on their current business, their likely needs, and what I can help them to achieve with TikTok.

Once I’ve amassed a list of potential clients — remember, they need to be successful enough that they’ve got the budget to pay you, but ideally, not so big that they’re mired down and it will take months to decide to hire you — I’m going to grab my trusty pitch template (the one that’s earned me over $400K) and modify it to the clients’ needs.

I can’t stress this enough! Customizing the pitch is so important.

You can tell when you’ve received a generic pitch email and they typically go straight into the trash, (I know! I receive tons of them).

So take your time and really get to know the client that you’re pitching and do your best to anticipate what their needs are and craft the best possible pitch. (Be sure to check out this blog post: 5 of the biggest mistakes I see when pitching clients.) OK, just one more section coming up. There, we’ll be talking about growing this new niche into a full-blown business.

Part 5: Fast forward to your successful new TikTok agency

Today, I want to fast forward a bit and show you how I’d grow this business to the point where I’m getting paid for my brain — not for doing much in the way of work. (This is the best kind of pay 🤑)

Ok, let’s jump months ahead.

I’ve got ongoing clients now and I’m doing amazing work for them. I’m tracking my results and throwing their testimonials up as fast as I can get them (on my website, on social media, in my email signature).

The results I’m generating for their businesses ensure that tons of people are coming to ME!

I don’t even have to look for clients anymore. Instead, my clients are so happy with the higher followers/sales/traffic that they’re gushing about it to anyone in their circle who will listen, and those people are intrigued and reaching out to me to find out what I can do for their business.

But here’s the thing. I’m tired.

I’ve worked hard to build my business, working my tail off, nights, weekends, skipping parties, wearing pajamas for days on end, all of it.

And now, I don’t want to do some of the boring tasks anymore so I’m going to hire help. In a nutshell, I’ll set up my own small agency.

I want clients to hire me for the strategy, the thinking, the planning, the customizing for their brand (aka for my brain), and I’ll hire full or part-time contractors to help me do all of the nitty-gritty work to make it happen.

Remember those SOPs I initially wrote? They’re still coming in handy! I’ve used them over and over and now it’s a simple matter of training new hires on the steps that Mashon, Inc. uses to make clients successful on TikTok.

But where do I find people?

I do this by hiring on two different platforms I’ve found to be very useful over the years: Upwork and Acadium.

Upwork is a very well-known freelancer platform. You can post a detailed job description, use tons of filters to narrow down the candidates you’re looking for, set up interviews, and manage payment all inside the platform.

My favorite thing about it is that it connects me with people from all over the world yet they take care of the money. That means I don’t have to worry about taxes when it comes to hiring someone on the other side of the world. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have hired hundreds of freelancers on Upwork over the years.

Acadium is an internship platform. You pay a flat fee of around $250 (at the time of this writing) and then you’re able to “hire” an intern interested in various marketing fields for a 3-month stint doing about 10 hours a week.

In exchange for mentoring them and teaching them new skills, they work on various tasks for you. Ideally, if they’re amazing and your business is growing you’ll be able to hire them on full or part-time after the internship ends. (If you’re interested in signing up, please use my link and you’ll get $50 off your first purchase!)

So there you have it!

From no idea to starting a TikTok empire, errr, business. Doesn’t seem too hard when broken down into baby steps, does it?

Almost makes me want to get started myself!

But alas, I have no TikTok and I know I should so maybe I’ll work on my own before trying to build yet another business.

But what about you? Do you have the time?

You’ve certainly got the steps — and way more than I had when I started, figuring out how to grow my business from scratch.

Drop me a line down the road and let me know how your new business is going. Did you decide to get into TikTok? Or did you apply these same steps to a different field? Let me know @liveworktravelig!