Calling all “doers”!   Calling all “doers”!  In today’s virtual workforce, there is certainly an abundance of doers.  In fact, a quick search on oDesk for “administrative assistant” displays over 27,000 possible candidates.  We’ve already established it’s better to be a thinker than a doer; however, if you’re a doer, what options do you have for standing out in the ever-growing crowd?  How can you win new business?  This article reveals a few secrets for doing just that.

Secret #1:  Take Specialization to the Extreme

Let’s assume that you have a marketing background.  Simply telling the world that you’re a marketer isn’t going to cut it.  Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client.  If I’m looking for someone to set up my rss-to-email in MailChimp, I’m not interested in finding a marketing generalist who will have to learn how to do it.  Instead, I’m going to search specifically for a specialist who has done similar projects for other clients.

Now, let’s assume that you’re a contractor who knows everything in the world about rss-to-email and MailChimp.  If I’m you, I would optimize my oDesk or Elance profile so that I appear for this specific search concept.  In doing so, you immediately reduce the number of competitors and begin to identify yourself as an expert in a given area.  Given our example, here’s how specialization can help you reduce your competition:

Search Results from (October 4, 2012)Marketing Strategy Contractors

  • “Marketing” – 119,959 oDesk Contractors
  • “Email marketing” – 32,489 oDesk Contractors
  • “MailChimp” – 1,214 oDesk Contractors
  • “Rss to email” – 845 oDesk Contractors
  • “MailChimp rss to email” – 32 oDesk Contractors

Secret #2:  Get Some Credible Certifications

I’ve hired a lot of virtual workers.  One of my biggest frustrations involves recruiting and hiring team members. I find that many people like the idea of working from home, but few have the discipline to consistently provide outstanding services.  Many contractors talk a big game but eventually disappear from the virtual workforce.Certifications Virtual Workers

As a doer, you have the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the majority.  Consistently providing the marketplace with outstanding services is key.  However, to win new clients and thrive in the long run, you should also look at picking up some relevant certifications.

For example, recently, one of my clients was looking at switching from Joomla to Umbraco’s content management system.  It turns out that Umbraco is currently more common in Europe than the US.  As such, we started our search for a developer by referring to Umbraco’s list of Certified Partners.  Many software providers offer a similar certification program (such as Salesforce, Hubspot, Google Adwords, etc.).  Certifications can help improve your virtual resume and help you gain additional visibility from prospects.

Secret #3:  Work for Free!

Yep, you heard me.  I’m not going to elaborate on this one very much.  Basically, think of this as a “virtual internship”.  Find some successful people on oDesk or Elance, reach out to them, and offer to do a project for free.  In doing so, you can get your foot in the door with some possible referral business.  Which leads me to my final point….

Secret #4:  Partner with a Thinker

As we discussed in a previous article about thinkers,  the nature of client-thinker relationships tend to be ongoing and strategic.  Thus, as a client’s needs evolve, a thinker is often in the position to recommend doers for projects.  If you can be a thinker’s “go-to” contractor for a given type of task, you’re in a great position.  I’ve even seen situations where thinkers and doers work out some type of referral arrangement.  In exchange for referring a doer’s services to a client, the thinker has access to the doer for his or her own business needs.

Executive in Sweatpants is the upcoming book from marketer and author Matt Keener.  The book is a how-to guide for launching and growing a successful work-from-home consulting business.  Sign up to receive future blog postings and news sent directly to your email inbox.


Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and

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