I little while back I recently wrote and published a post titled, ‘A List of Side Jobs that Don’t Suck (and Pay Well’). I was surprised, and happy to get a lot of great feedback on my post. One thing that came up over and over again as readers responded to me was a desire to learn more about getting online gigs.

In fact, I received so many queries that I decide to write this post as a result. Not only is it possible to get an online gig, it is possible to get an online gig and use that as a stepping stone to a technical career. Even better, you can get started without having prior technical career experience.

Assessing Your Talents

The fact that you have never worked in a technical job is not an indication that you do not have technical skills or abilities. Today, the world is full of app developers, software installers, Microsoft Office experts, PC repair technicians, and website developers who have never been paid a dime for any of these skills.

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So, before you begin searching for your first gig, take a moment to write down a realistic summary of your skill set. Don’t feel the need to exaggerate your skills, and don’t worry if your list of skills is very light weight. There are paths to a technical career no matter where you begin. Try to answer some of the following questions to get an idea of where you stand.

  • Do friends and family members approach me for help when they have issues with their computers, printers, or devices?
  • Do my coworkers do the same?
  • Am I comfortable installing and uninstalling software?
  • Am I capable of downloading and installing upgrades?
  • Have I ever set up an in home network?
  • Have I ever written an app?
  • What if any languages can I code in?
  • Have I ever developed a website from scratch?
  • What is my level of expertise with regard to Microsoft office?
  • Am I familiar with Linux?
  • Do I understand how a PC works?
  • Have I ever installed new memory or a new hard drive?
  • Have I ever reset a computer back to factory seconds?
  • Have I ever had to restore a computer from a backup?
  • Have I ever cleaned up a computer that was infested with a virus?
  • Have I ever updated, installed, or uninstalled drivers?
  • How comfortable am I with the control panel?
  • How comfortable am I with troubleshooting hardware issues?

Many people reading this may find they know more than they realized.

Assessing your Job Experience

Even though you don’t have technical work experience, you may have experience that will help you getting an online gig. Here are a few questions:

  • Do you have customer service or call center experience?
  • Have you ever utilized an online help desk app?
  • Did your duties ever include social media management?
  • Did you use Microsoft office or any other utilities as part of your regular duties?
  • Did your job require good verbal and written communications skills?
  • Were you expected to meet tight deadlines?

Thinking about your Goals and Interests

Hopefully you’ve put more thought into what you would like to do other than, online technical work. After all, there are a huge variety of career options available. However, since many people may not know all of the options available to them, here are a few that might interest you:

  • Online Technical Support
  • Website Testing
  • Writing and Editing Documentation
  • Beta Testing Software
  • Web Design
  • Photoshop Design
  • Social Media Maintenance
  • Programming
  • App Development
  • Technical Writing
  • Data Entry
  • Online Computer Literacy Training
  • Computer Configuration and Consultation
  • Remote Administrative Assisting
  • Help Desk Technician
  • Information Security
  • Video Game Design
  • Graphic Design

Getting an Education

If you are chomping at the bit to start your new career. Don’t worry, there are still ways to get a job before getting an education. However, having a degree or certification from a respected institution can certainly help. If your potential clients or employer knows that you are working towards a certification or degree, or simply just taking classes, they will view that as a positive. The best way to start is to research schools and ask to speak with an advisor. If they have a program that works with your schedule, interests, and career goals, go for it! You may even be able to use the school’s job placement services help you in finding some great internet based opportunities in your area.

Creating your Marketing Plan

At this point, you may be wondering when it is time to work on your resume. The answer to that question is possible never. It really depends. Some clients may wish to see it, others won’t care. In either case, designing your resume will be just a small piece of creating your marketing plan. This plan includes defining who your target customer is, creating an online presence for yourself, determining how you will contact potential clients or employers, and finally putting together a resume, brochure or pamphlet, or both.

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Don’t be overwhelmed by this. It is not as intimidating or complicated as it sounds. You can use WordPress to create your web presence and then supplement that with social media accounts. Your local office store has employees who will happily help you create a brochure and help you print out copies of your resume if need be. Your effort is going to be in targeting consumers and selling yourself as a freelancer or an employee. If you are unsure of where to begin, here are some suggestions:

  • Small and medium sized businesses who need home based tech support
  • Job boards dedicated to freelancers and technical positions
  • Community centers, libraries, and other places where you may be able to post for your services
  • LinkedIn contacts
  • Free online community job boards

When you are getting started, don’t be afraid to approach friends and family members to become clients. Even if you charge them little or nothing for your services, you can use your work for them to develop your portfolio.

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Now let’s talk about cold calling. There is little doubt that you are going to have to do some cold calling to get work. If you don’t, consider yourself lucky. The first step you need to take when you cold call a business is to not cold call that business until you have researched the company and have an understanding of their needs.

You should be able to speak intelligently about what they do, who their customers are, any recent newsworthy events, and most of all what you can do for them. Then, you need to give them details about how you can help, and possibly offer an incentive. If you are wondering if this makes a difference, consider these two examples of email inquiries sent to an online retailer of fine wine, cognac, and single malt scotch.

Dear Retailer,

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My name is Jake Detwiler, and I perform website testing. If you give me the opportunity to work with you, I can perform a thorough test of your website to ensure that it is functioning correctly. If you are interested, please contact me, and I will provide more details.

Thanks,

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Jake Detwiler

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***

Dear Retailer,

My name is Evan Slate, and I own a small business that performs website testing. I just read your recent press release that you were now working with five new wineries in the Napa Valley. Congratulations on the expansion of your business! Chances are, because of this new development; you probably have much more website traffic than you did a year ago. This traffic can cause slowdowns and other problems with your website.

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If you would like, I can give you a discounted rate off of our standard pricing. I’m attaching a brochure with more details about our pricing structure and services.

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Thanks,

Evan Slate

The Paperwork

If you are not working for another entity, you’ll have to do some administrative stuff to keep things legitimate. This means purchasing liability insurance, insuring your equipment, registering your business with your local chamber of commerce and the Secretary of state, opening bank accounts, creating a PayPal account, creating your LLC, and obtaining a business TIN.