I like to have control over things, whether it’s planning a trip, or deciding how to go through the grocery store when we have a big list of items.
I get anxious when there is something in my life I can’t control like the way other people drive (I’m eagerly awaiting self-driving cars).
But there are some things that fall in a grey area. Take jobs for instance. You have little control over whether you get fired. Even if you are the best employee in the company, if there is no money coming in then you’re on the chopping block.
You might think to yourself, “well what can I do about that? It’s out of my control.”
I used to think that. But I realized that I can do something to take control of that uncertainty.
One of my more boring-sounding hobbies is building my skills. I try to figure out ways I could make money if I ever lost my job. Sounds like fun, right? That’s what happens when you are an introvert and don’t like to go out.
It’s something I think a lot of people want to do, but they find it hard to keep up with. And there are still many other people that should probably start doing this in their spare time but find other (more fun) things to do.
If you’re not future-focused, you may not consider how best to mitigate the potential downsides of losing a job.
I already like to learn. I have a curious mind about many things.
Right now, I’m fairly skilled in conversion optimization and email marketing and marketing automation, but I know I can continue improving in those skills still.
And there are plenty of other marketing skills I don’t have: paid acquisition, content marketing, SEO.
Aside from marketing skills, there are other broad skills I am learning like speaking to clients and sales.
Narrowing down what to learn
There are so many skills out there to learn, but I can’t learn everything at once. I try to see what are some valuable skills companies are hiring for.
I look at sites like:
- We Work Remotely
- Dynamite Jobs
- Reddit /r/forhire
Looking at these sites you can see what jobs companies are hiring for (Remoteok.io and other job boards) and what types of projects companies need help with (UpWork, Fiverr, r/forhire).
I don’t just go based off of these sites, because I also want to learn something that’s exciting to me. If a lot of companies are hiring Facebook ad managers, but I’m not interested in that topic then I’ll try to look for another skill companies are needing.
You can even look at Google trends and see what skills are trending upward.
The search term data analytics has been trending upward the past 5 years within the US. (For the curious: Those big dips are around Christmas each year)
You can even look up trends in particular platforms or tools you may want to explore and specialize in.
It may pay off to specialize in Shopify which is on an upward search trend, as opposed to squarespace which is remaining steady but is below Shopify in popularity.
But, if you look at this trend another way, this may also present an opportunity to niche down into Squarespace if you find that everyone is doing Shopify marketing and web development because it is becoming so popular. You can identify areas where there is still demand, but isn’t necessarily the most popular thing at the moment.
I mentioned below that I specialized in a certain marketing automation tool. I had used this at a previous job so I just happened to fall into it. But you can look at software review sites like Capterra, G2Crowd, or TrustRadius to find software in your industry that people are actually using (you don’t want to niche down into a tool that nobody likes or uses).
If you want to specialize in website tools such as JustUno, OptinMonster, Hotjar, etc. you can look at data from sites like Built With, which lets you see what sites are using these tools. If you pay for an account, you can get more access that might even help you identify sites to reach out to when you’re looking for clients. (You can get limited free data on Built With)
The next step is to document those skills you choose to learn. I don’t only want to document what I’m learning on the side, I also want to document what I’m working on at my current job.
I have a section on this site about skills I’m learning so you can see what courses I’m taking, where my A/B testing progress is at, etc. I could even start adding cool case studies of things I’ve done at work, but remove any identifying info from the clients.
I want to show what I’m learning and try to practice it. Right now at work we’re heads down on email marketing with Klaviyo. I may write a few articles on here about cool things to do with Klaviyo or email and pop up strategies. Maybe I can make a video walking through the tool.
Use this documentation to bolster your resume for a future job or to show to potential clients. As you do more work with new companies and clients, document that too.
Get some clients
In marketing, it’s not too hard to start out as a freelancer, at least in my case. When I made a profile on Upwork offering marketing automation services using Sharpspring, I got a few clients without even needing to show any prior work.
The tool has a learning curve and companies that sign up don’t want to learn it. There aren’t many freelancers offering Sharpspring services so I filled a need (like the Shopify v. Squarespace trend mentioned above).
That’s something you start learning as you put yourself out there. I didn’t realize how many people needed help with this particular marketing automation tool, but once I did then I was able to niche down and offer only Sharpspring services rather than general marketing automation help.
Getting clients was scary for me. I had that imposter syndrome feeling and fears that I wouldn’t be able to help the client with everything. But I was able to learn as I went. There were times when something came up that I didn’t know how to do, but I figured it out or wrote into customer support. That’s the best way to really start putting your new skills to use.
Don’t wait until you master the skill 100% to start getting clients or you’ll never feel ready to put yourself out there.
Repeat the cycle
Learn a skill, document it, get clients, repeat. As you continue getting more clients, document those results and use them as case studies to get more clients.
Doing this on the side will help ensure you have more control over your income. If you get laid off, you have clients or at least know how to get some. You also have case studies and documentation of the skills you’ve learned and work you’ve done to help you get another job if that’s what you’re looking for.