Getting Paid For Your Expertise – Using Your Brain to Profit In Any Economy

Do you think of yourself as an expert?

Perhaps your expertise is already very clear to you and those you work with. You may incorporate your expertise daily in your career as a doctor, business consultant, lawyer, or teacher.

Or perhaps you use your skills daily at your job but your real expertise shines when friends come to you for help fixing their computer, or if you tutor students in algebra, or when you’re educating others on nutrition after your own successes with health and fitness.

You may be an astrophysics guru, or you may have several areas of expertise and are struggling to find a way to help them all work together for you.

Whether you are a deep-rooted expert in one field or your expertise spans many industries, there is great news:

You can make money from your expertise online, and you can do it in your spare time.

This guide will show you how you can make money in any economic climate using the knowledge and resources you currently have, and will help you to:

  • Establish your area(s) of expertise
  • Determine your hourly rate
  • Market yourself effectively to generate leads
  • Get started making money from your expertise right away as an independent consultant

By the time you have finished reading this guide, you will be able to put your knowledge and experience to work for you and begin turning a profit as an expert consultant with very little investment.

So let’s get started!

Establish Your Area(s) of Expertise

You can’t market yourself effectively if you haven’t clearly established your area(s) of true expertise! This is particularly important when marketing yourself online, because you want your target customers to be able to find you using appropriate keywords. Online marketing and social media make the barrier to entry remarkably low to begin profiting from your expertise.

The following exercise will help you establish not only your area(s) of expertise, but to refine them so that you’re able to target the right customers.

1. Ask yourself the following questions:

What do you do best or know the most about? What do people come to you for help with time and time again? Is there anything that seems second nature to you that others struggle with?

Start by making a list of your answers to these questions, treating each item on the list like you would a tag or keyword on a blog. You may find it helpful to ask friends and coworkers what they see as your areas of expertise as well. It’s not unusual to overlook a valuable skill or area of expertise because it comes so naturally to you that you don’t think of it as being anything extraordinary.

2. Next, look at your list and remove anything that you’re not interested in.

You want to make sure you’re offering your strongest set of skills and expertise, and that these areas of knowledge and experience for you are also areas of interest.

3. Of your remaining list, make any general terms more specific.

For example, if you wrote ‘marketing’, think of more specific aspects of marketing at which you excel. This will help you target the right customers so you don’t have clients needing help developing pay-per-click ad campaigns when your expertise lies in fine art marketing.

Use multiple ways to describe your expertise. For example, you may be a solar energy guru. So your list may include terms like “solar energy” and “solar power”.

4. Create your ‘Elevator Bio’

Taking your list into consideration, along with your career experience and, if applicable, your current job, craft a brief bio for yourself highlighting what makes you a valuable expert to consult with. Your brief profile should be one or two paragraphs. Include only the information that really highlights the most impressive aspects of your CV. This is your chance to get your prospective customer’s attention and convince them that you are qualified to help them.

Determine Your Hourly Rate

If you are an independent consultant, how much should you charge for your time?

If you work for a professional services firm, the answer is very straightforward — the firm sets your rates. But as more and more professionals are consulting full- or part-time, the question “how much should I charge?” is in the forefront of their minds.

There is no one answer that works for everyone, nor is there a secret formula that will give you the ‘right’ answer no matter what. However, there are a couple of methods you can use to help find an hourly rate that will work for you.

Market-Based Hourly Rates: What Is the Market Prepared To Pay For Your Expertise?

The easiest way to estimate a market-based rate is to use the rate set by other consultants with similar skills in the same industry as comparisons. Not all consultants display their rates openly on their independent websites, but there are expert directories with expert profiles that readily offer this information.

Let’s assume you are a next generation Battery Engineer. If you find a directory of battery engineers you can have instant access to rates that others in your field are offering. This can give you a good starting point for comparing your level of experience and expertise and deciding what an appropriate rate might be for you.

You may feel comfortable closer to the median, or depending on your level of expertise, accomplishments or other factors, you may consider yourself an outlier and be comfortable setting your hourly rate at a higher level.

Opportunity Cost-Based Hourly Rates: How Much Would You Make If You Did Something Else?

The second approach to setting your rate is Opportunity Cost-based. A simple way to calculate your opportunity cost per hour is to take your (most recent) annual income and divide it by the number of hours you work in a year (2,000 hour is 40 hrs/week for 50 weeks).

So if you earn $125,000, your opportunity cost is $62.50.

Needless to say, your opportunity cost should not be your consulting rate! You have to take into account additional expenses and effort like marketing, prep work and follow-up for each client. If you are hoping to replace a full-time job with consulting income, you will also need to consider several other expenses that occur with self-employment like health insurance, appropriate taxes, any business supplies you need, etc.

To convert your opportunity cost into a consulting rate, the general recommendation is to double it(in this case $125 per hour) which translates to your annual income divided by 1,000.

Your rate may vary from the example depending on additional anticipated costs, how many hours you expect or hope to work, your current life expenses and desired level of income, etc.

Which hourly rate methodology is best?

There is no method that is ‘best’ for calculating your hourly rate. Ultimately it comes down to your industry, your goals, your current financial situation, and really, what feels ‘right’ to you. While you don’t want to be increasing and decreasing your rate all the time, you may find that making your best judgment given the data you have available and getting started will help you determine what will be successful for you. Once you’ve gotten a few clients you can assess your rate and decide if you need to make adjustments. Just don’t sell yourself short!

Should You Offer A ‘Free Consultation’?

This is a tough question that many independent consultants face when building their business online. Is it worth your time to offer a free consultation to prospective clients? While nobody can answer the question for you, here are a few recommendations to keep in mind as you form your decision:

  • If it seems like there is a bigger opportunity behind the initial call, then YES.
  • If the Client is someone who you really want to develop a relationship with, then YES
  • If the full extent of the consult is a market research call (unless the other criteria apply above), then NO.

A healthy compromise if you like the idea of offering a free consultation but fear getting bogged down or taken advantage of might be to look for alternatives to a standard one-hour call:

  • Offering a free half hour consultation to address one question or give a brief introduction (and to help you assess whether the prospect you’re talking to will be worth entering a consulting engagement with).
  • Offering a free email consultation, giving a brief answer to one question with opportunity for paid follow-up.
  • Creating a downloadable white paper or information sheet for interested prospects,  offering a discounted initial call once they’ve submitted valid information for downloading the document with a supporting question or reason for contacting you.

Market Yourself Effectively to Generate Leads and Build Thought Leadership

You could have more expertise than anyone in your field, but it won’t do you any good if nobody knows about you! Thankfully, reaching your target audience can be quite easy when applying the right techniques to social media and Internet marketing.

Don’t worry, if you’re not already an expert at online marketing, you won’t need to become one to see great results from your efforts!

Here are some effective tips for helping to market yourself online, establish greater recognition as an expert and thought leader in your industry, and, ultimately, get your target customers to come to you for consulting.

Contribute to Industry Blogs

If you’re an expert of any kind, there’s pretty much guaranteed to be blogs in your industry. A great way to gain authority as well as links to your website or profile is by contributing to an industry blog as a guest blogger, or allowing a blogger in your area of expertise to interview you and feature you on their blog.

Of course, you could have your very own blog as well! But if you find that you would rather focus your time on serving your clients (or perhaps you are marketing yourself as an independent consultant on a part-time basis and are currently holding a full-time job as well), being a contributor to another blog is a great way to funnel your target customers to you without having to build and maintain a blog.

You may also want to look for opportunities to write more in-depth industry articles for publication, or take on offers to participate in an “experts round-up” with other leaders in similar industries to yours. This presents a great chance for a burst of social media promotion and networking with other experts.

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

In order to put your ‘best face forward’ and begin presenting yourself to your audience as an expert, be sure to include a photo of yourself on your social media profiles. Future customers want to feel confident that they’re approaching a real person, particularly if they’re considering paying you to help them.

Include links to places that you can be found on the Web throughout all of your social media channels. If you have a Facebook page, twitter profile, or a profile on an expert consultant database, be sure to include those links in your profiles, email signature, and blog post bylines. You increase your likelihood of target customers getting in contact with you by offering an assortment of ways to get in touch with you. By having a presence on several social media sites, you allow your client to use whatever method is most comfortable for him or her, and also present yourself as transparent, trustworthy, accessible and approachable.

Remember your keywords

Remember the keyword exercise you did when establishing your area(s) of expertise? Make sure that you use specific keywords to describe what you do anywhere you’re present on the Web. From your professional networking profiles to blog post bios, you want to reinforce the phrases that describe your strengths so that people searching on those terms will find you easily (just don’t go overboard, particularly with things like blog post bios. One or two keywords at a time is just fine).

Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Referral

At times, you may receive inquiries that are related to your areas of expertise, but are not exactly on-point. You won’t likely know the perfect person to refer these in all instances, but sometimes, you may be able to refer the prospect to a colleague or friend.

Why would you want to do this? The next time one of them encounters an opportunity that may be a good fit for you, they’ll be much more likely to send some business your way.

Referring incompatible prospects strengthens your network with other professionals and keeps others aware that you’re open to accepting and giving referrals. You can also develop incentive programs to encourage current and prior clients to send referrals to you, such as offering discounted consulting services to both the client and the referred party, a free hour of consultation, etc.

Zintro, Inc

Zintro  is a “Search and Connect Engine” that makes it easy for clients (expert-seekers) to find and connect with experts for projects (ranging from one half hour phone consults to multi-month on-site engagements). Some of the uses include:

▪   To engage in phone consults with experts for primary market research or to get challenging business or technical questions answered
▪   To source consultants or vendors for projects
▪   To identify candidates for full-time employment

Zintro has over 40,000 experts (browse) across every single industry sector. These experts have opted-in to receive system-matched inquiries from our almost 15,000 clients. Over 1,000 inquiries come in every month.

For Experts (client-seekers): Are you interested in marketing your services to Zintro’s Clients? It takes just a couple of minutes and is free to sign up as a Zintro Expert. Relevant projects will automatically be emailed to you. Click here to sign up.

For Clients (expert-seekers): In under 90 seconds, you can contact hundreds of relevant business or technical experts within any industry sector. Click here to post an Inquiry (free & anonymous).

Or, do you want to learn more about how Zintro works? Click here to view Zintro’s knowledge-base.

Zintro has experts in every industry sector, across every job function, in every geographic region. Recently, some of the following topics have seen inquiry activity: