Becoming the Bob’s: Freelance HR & Coaching Gigs

Editor’s Note: Our next story comes from a human resources consultant who has found a unique niche trying to help small companies manage their workforce – and guiding displaced workers towards a better career.

I am an Organizational Development Consultant, which involves a myriad of different services under one umbrella. I am a certified Career Coach and provide a few different corporate training modules on an as needed basis.

Typical Services Offered

The best selling point to employers is that I can handle the unpleasant tasks that they prefer not to address. This may be in the form of general corporate training like OSHA guidelines, sexual harassment, diversity in the workplace, etc. It may also include a quick overview or a detailed analysis of recommendations to improve processes. There are several canned responses to ways that employers can save money and improve efficiency. I usually recommend some version of the following

  • Recycling efforts
  • Team-building exercises
  • Vision and mission statements
  • Training and on-boarding procedures

High turnover in specific positions is another challenge for most employers. I offer general tips for training and on-boarding processes that can be purchased individually or as a set. If using an online video service to prepare these sessions, keep in mind that they only have to be recorded once and can be reused for multiple companies. Employers often need help with required reporting services. This may include gathering labor statistics, tax reporting efforts, and unemployment claim information.

Employers are especially eager to turn these mundane tasks over to an outside consultant. Business analysts often encourage outsourcing various HR functions. The hourly rate I charge for these items has steadily increased, from $25.50 in 2004 to $85 in 2019. Use statistics and current news trends to your advantage when marketing your services. The more information you have at your disposal, the easier it is to justify a higher price per hour or project.

Employers will generally share their budget items with me, which makes it easy to personalize these recommendations. A quick glance will indicate where most of their money is being spent and give red flag indicators as to where funds could be mismanaged. Outsourced printing and technology services are usually culprits of unnecessary spending. Trade magazines that are available for free online may require subscription fees for the printed version. These are small costs, but they add up quickly and often go unnoticed.

Finding Customers

Not much ingenuity is needed here, because literally every business is a potential customer. In the beginning, a little mass marketing is helpful – which is completely free on LinkedIn and other social media sites. Post a menu of services on local online bulletin boards and join groups like the Chamber of Commerce on social media. You do not need to purchase email lists or pay for membership subscriptions to become a successful Organizational Development consultant.

Staffing agencies are a great starting point, because they always need help with simple human resources tasks such as verifying employment history, administering skills evaluations, and recording data such as pre-employment drug screens. All of these tasks can be completed remotely and create a history of your expertise as an independent consultant. There are usually at least a handful of of temporary agencies and staffing companies in any given area. This should be the first call when looking for customers. Build out a customer base from there, using referrals, and social media leads. Remember to update your online profile or website with recent projects, success stories, and fun facts that let potential customers know you are active in the field.

Getting Started

The most important part of being an Organizational Development professional is to establish a presence. Social media outlets, especially LinkedIn, helps do this quickly. It is vital to have a business card for marketing purposes, and a website is also helpful. Even a free web hosting service will help build credibility, and a dedicated email address that links to a professional or business name is necessary.

Most states do not have regulatory authorities in place to govern Organizational Development consultants, career coaches, and other supporting advisory staff. Licensing will most likely not be required, but that does not mean the field is saturated. There is plenty of work to go around for those in the business, especially freelance and part-time consultants. However, I found it helpful to have at least some sort of formal training in place when I choose to make this a career choice. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) offers a whole range of programs and also features networking opportunities and support with finding clientele. If you are considering this as a long term career move, this organization is worth the investment. For strictly part-time work and remote assignments, it is probably not necessary to obtain a certificate or complete selected coursework.

Coaching For Employees

I market myself as an expert for both the employer and the employee portals – this is a quick way to more than double your money for each client. You can perform individual coaching or “role” coach, which is providing advice for anyone who performs a specific role within the company. I also help with coaching employees who are on a performance improvement plan or are otherwise struggling with productivity. This is a great marketing tool because the in-house Human Resources group does not want to deal with these types of situations due to the high probability of future litigation. As an Organizational Development consultant, you are not required to maintain errors and omissions insurance. Outsourcing these coaching opportunities, additional training, and even difficult conversations takes the liability off employers.

The hourly billing rate here is upwards from $100 and can be customized to include specific services that you want to offer. For example, I offer resume writing services ranging from $25-$50 per hour depending on experience and other factors. Since I have templates pre-made (from previous clients), I can generally complete 4-6 resumes per hour.

Additional Services

Some companies hire individuals to complete routine applications for them. Becoming familiar with ISO application policies and best practices will help you increase your marketing strategy. Likewise, many small businesses need support registering for and applying with various government agencies. Minority Business Enterprises and several other government contract incentives have one application that is used across multiple industries. If you become familiar with their processes, you can earn more than $1500 per application that you complete. Businesses want the benefits of these GSA contracts but are simply unable to designate the resources to review and complete all that daunting paperwork.

Just for fun, I also take teaching contracts with multiple learning institutions. I started as an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania many years ago and typically take one or two courses per year. There are tons of opportunities to apply for and teach online courses through One World or similar programs. The hourly breakdown here is less than $50, but the networking opportunities and ability to keep up with current business practices is well worth the effort. I also teach online courses through Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning. Skillshare is a similar site that offers online learning, but I have not worked with them. Most of these positions require at least an undergraduate degree, but some will consider all applications. I strongly encourage this platform because of the leads they open up. Also, I create one syllabus and one curriculum that I use repeatedly. It takes a few hours to create these and the video introduction. Most institutions give the option to have print or video presentations. Either way, you create it once and use it repeatedly for the life of the course. My eight hour time investment yields several thousand dollars (depending on enrollment numbers) every six weeks.

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