Virtual Work Provides Growing Opportunities

Virtual work is a smart solution when appropriate job opportunities in your area simply don't exist. I worked directly with one woman in Michigan to help her rebuild a once-lucrative photography career launched largely through assignments from the automotive industry, which have now all but disappeared.

This model applies to many areas of expertise – not just photography. You can provide consulting services, PR and marketing support, writing and editing, sales, bookkeeping, assistants, etc. from a distance. We maintain friendships that are long-distance. We have professional relationships that are long-distance — often with people we've never met. There's no reason why you can't get customers and clients who'll hire you long-distance as well. Carol lined up three clients last week specifically through virtual networking – she's never met them face-to-face. It's all phone and email – and it can be done. But it takes initiative. Nobody can do it for you.

Got a question for Tory? You can add your question or comments to this story and Tory will try to answer as many as she can.

Here's what we developed as Carol Gould's Virtual Work Action Plan.

Broadly define your capabilities. Just because you've only done one thing, that doesn't mean you're incapable of broadening your horizons to adapt to the realities of the marketplace. In Carol's case, she's spent her whole career shooting big-budget automotive projects, so she had to refocus her client scope. Carol can easily apply her creative skills far beyond cars — the three virtual projects she's doing right now are very diverse: photos for skin care products, design of a corporate brochure, and creative for Mother's Day cards. She can also shoot family portraits, corporate events, even weddings.

The same is true for other skills. Someone who has done public relations for a museum could likely do PR for an author. The same promotional skills apply. That publicist doesn't have to focus only on one type of client.

Adjust for economic realities of the marketplace. Carol is now doing projects for varying budgets, starting as low as a few hundred dollars. While she used to focus only on big-budget projects, the marketplace for that level has slowed considerably. As the economy improves, she can get back to some of that, but for now her pricing must reflect the realities of the marketplace.

Showcase talents in writing or create a Web site. Before someone is willing to hire you, you should create a simple Web site or have a crisp pitch to email around that really showcases what you can do. A buyer needs to know what they're getting and a website is an easy way to establish a professional identity that can really impress someone about your skills and abilities.

There are so many free online templates to help you build a basic website, so even minimal technical talent means you can do it. (Yahoo Small Business, Google Page Creator and 1and1.com are among thousands of options to explore.)

In Carol's case, she needed to showcase her exceptional photography and her range of creative capabilities. She bartered her photography services with the Web site development services of another small business owner. A Firefly Studio, a premier design firm for Web sites and print collateral, produced a sensational representation of Carol's work and her company, PhotoGal Enterprises.

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