Finding New Sources of Work and Income
For self-employed IT professionals, or for those with a share in their employer’s bottom line, finding new sources of work and income is always an important concern. These days, motivation often sadly comes from a need to replace former customers who no longer partake of an organization’s or individual’s offerings, as much as to ensure that business growth and career development can follow a steadily increasing line.
Given that finding new sources of work and income is always of interest to savvy IT professionals, what kinds of strategies can they use to realize this goal? Please note also that new sources of work don’t always equate to new sources of income (but only rarely do new sources of income require little or no work). An initial realization must therefore be that adding to one’s workload or income generation usually requires more time and effort—first, for the finding (which I cover here), but also for the ongoing requirements necessary to maintain customer relationships and related income streams.
A vital truism of business is that the people with whom you already have good business relations are the same folks most likely to give you more business, if and when new business opportunities arise. To some extent, finding new sources of work and income therefore hinges on developing new offerings, products or services that you can then take to existing customers to increase your mutual level of engagement. This should lead to more work and, ultimately, to more income as well.
For old customers and new ones, new business offerings must be properly researched and properly promoted. Proper research helps purveyors ensure that such offerings fit desired customer profiles, meet specific customer needs, provide good value for the money they cost and so forth. Likewise, proper promotion enables purveyors to maximize the odds that the right people not only hear about new offerings, but also that they have every chance to “get” what’s in it for them and their organizations if they decide to partake.
Developing new customers can occur without new offerings, though the relevance and appeal of existing offerings is probably more important to them than it will be for existing customers who are more likely to understand what they get (and pay for) through their relationship with you. This explains why clear communications about what you have to offer, how much it costs, why it’s worthwhile, how it compares to competitive offerings and so forth—the very essence of marketing, in fact—are imperative for developing new customers. Choosing your vehicle(s) for communication—e-mail or snail mail, printed or media advertising, telemarketing or direct sales, or other methods—must come from your understanding of which prospective customers are most likely to be interested in what you have to offer and how such customers may best be reached.
Individuals and small businesses can obtain significant traction by participating in local business or professional societies, groups or associations. The IT connection can be helpful when users’ groups, trade associations, chambers of commerce or other commonplace venues for like-minded professionals to meet and greet are scheduled and IT topics are on the agenda. Likewise, even certification-focused groups or activities can provide terrific opportunities for networking where new customers are as likely to be found as new potential colleagues, co-workers or business partners.
But involvement in business development activities requires a keen sense of priority and a sharp appreciation for the value of your time and effort. It’s important to contribute and perhaps even to provide the occasional brown-bag seminar or promotional presentation to keep yourself in public view and get the word out about what you can offer to the membership. But you’ll want to keep track of which meetings or presentations produce the most (and best) leads and which produce the least, and do as many of the former and as few of the latter as possible. The same is true for volunteer work of any kind, where the cost of volunteering has to be offset by long-term payoffs for such work to be allowed to continue.
In general, if you look at those with whom you interact in professional settings outside normal sales encounters as potential customers anyway, chances are good you’ll make customers out of some of those contacts. By using your professional networks, relationships and interactions to promote and develop your business, you’ll be able to find new sources of work and income while also providing the same opportunity for others and developing knowledge and skills that should help keep your career evergreen.
Ed Tittel is vice president for IT certification at iLearning.com and contributing editor for Certification Magazine. E-mail Ed with your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.