Your Plan to Hire Yourself This Holiday Season

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Even though experts estimate the availability of as many as 500,000 to 600,000 temporary holidays jobs nationwide this season, some of which I shared here, plenty of people will have more luck bringing in extra cash by creating their own opportunities. The demands of seasonal chores present the chance to offer your time and talent as a holiday helper. The key is to start now.

Start now. Because there's a lot of groundwork to be laid before you start making money -- the money doesn't come overnight -- the sooner you start preparing, the greater chance of success. Use the month of October to develop and execute a five-pronged plan to get your business off the ground. Tackle one step per week, giving the time and attention each step deserves.

Step No. 1: Do your research. Spend a week asking 25 people what they like least about the demands of the holiday season. Also ask this, "If you could have any kind of holiday help, what would it be?" Make a list of the common responses and begin to assemble a list of services you could provide.

Possible services may include:

1) Suggesting gift ideas for everyone on a list
2) Shopping for all of the agreed-upon gifts on a list
3) Wrapping gifts
4) Shipping gifts to out-of-town recipients
5) Trimming a holiday tree and decorating a home for the holidays
6) Arranging exterior holiday lights and yard decorations
7) Planning holiday meals and parties
8) Pet and house sitting for vacationing families
9) Selecting, addressing and mailing holiday greeting cards
10) Returning or exchanging unwanted gifts after the holidays

Step No. 2: Find your target market. Determine exactly who you'll target with your services. Do you have access to men who hate shopping? Might you target busy families that lack the time needed for holiday preparations? Should you go after individuals or business clients? It's important to know who you want to target so you can map a strategy to reach them and develop your marketing message to attract their attention.

Step No. 3: Develop pricing. There are two issues to take into account here: What are you willing to work for, and what will people realistically pay in your area for your services. If you're unsure, ask around. You can use flat rates for some services or hourly rates for others. Don't out-price yourself, and don't underestimate what's involved in delivering effectively either.

Step No. 4: Make business cards and fliers. You don't have to spend a lot, but you want to develop something neat and creative. Professionalism counts big time because someone is hiring you for a highly personalized service. Include your name, contact information and an e-mail address.

Step No. 5: Start marketing to clients. Start with friends, family and Facebook. Don't say, "Hey, need some help for the holidays?" That's not likely to produce great results. Instead, be very specific. "For a small fee, I'll buy your holiday decorations and set up your tree." "Hate fighting crowds in malls? For a reasonable fee, I'll stand in line and do it for you." "Overwhelmed by putting on that big Thanksgiving dinner? Hire me to help you make it happen." "Terrible at wrapping gifts? Let me make your packages perfect."

When you're specific, you're more likely to receive favorable responses. The people you connect with will either say, "Oh, I'd love that -- tell me more" or "I know someone who absolutely needs you."

Take photos of your work and put them on Facebook. This may mean creating some props to show off your own. Gift wrap a box or two to demonstrate your handiwork. Display your own holiday decorations at home so a potential client can see what you're capable of. When you land a client, always ask happy, satisfied customers to suggest two referrals since word of mouth will be very powerful.

Tory Johnson is the CEO of Women For Hire and the Workplace Contributor on ABC's "Good Morning America." Tell her about your direct sales success at Facebook.com/Tory.

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