This work involves businesses that exist to supply materials and equipment needed by other businesses, for example: internet service providers, bookkeepers, solicitors, specialist consultants, graphic designers, printers, event organisers, tradesmen and industry associations. Whatever the business is; there are always times when they need to outsource.
Scope of Work
Specialist service providers cover a large scope. These are mostly B2B or business-to-business providing specialised professional services which while important, do not warrant the business employing someone to handle in house.
Examples of this work are:
- Communicating with clients over the phone, via email, in writing or in person. It may involve regular or irregular meetings, in your office, at the client's premises, or another location.
- Researching Information - finding information for clients and interpreting it to them
- Representing Clients - experts such as solicitors and accountants may liaise with business associates or government authorities on behalf of their clients.
- Writing, Illustration or Editing - reports, letters, legal documents, plans, advertising materials, illustrations, etc
- Equipment Installation or Repair - eg. servicing computers, cars, air conditioning, power supplyProperty Maintenance
What You Need to Learn
- Specialist Skills - identifying gaps in the sector and using your specialist skills to meet them; your niche skill or content, e.g. writing, graphic design, trade skills, professional skills, etc.
- Business Operations -understanding of how the business works, costings, supply chains and logistics of production, profit margins, ROI, financial management, and more
- Communications - verbal and written skills for reports, admin work, and client negotiations. Creating presentations and pitching for new work.
- Marketing Foundations - understanding the driving forces in the marketing mix, understanding how to promote your product properly, how to work with clients when creating a marketing product for them
- Project Management - how to manage large scale projects, working to a client brief, adapting to changes and challenges
- Product or service knowledge - overall understanding of the sector, product or service use, points of difference, how your product/service fits within the marketplace
- Law and Ethics - general understanding of relevant laws (e.g copyright law) and ethics regarding development and use. Knowledge of when, where, and how to seek further information.
- Organisation - managing different tasks, timely completion, working to deadlines, effectively managing operations
- Scheduling - dealing with vendor and product delivery
Starting a Career
Many specialist service providers are self-employed. To move into this sort of B2B service, you need to develop your overall management and scheduling skills, bookkeeping, and specialist skills. Developing your specialist skills may take specialist training or interning, but other skills can be developed in a variety of places.
Ways to get started may include:
- Volunteering with a non-profit - this can help you build general project management skills, accounting skills, and client-facing skills. Speak with the volunteer coordinator about skills you want to develop, and how you can work with people in the organisation to build them.
- Internships or Part Time Work - Lawyers, accountants and some other professions commonly engage interns.
- Working for a company in your specialist niche - Any work in a chosen industry can be a start, even in admin, sales, or something else. It gives you a sense of how the business works.
- Look for small projects you can tackle yourself. If you're confident in your skills, start building your people skills, operational skills, and network. Use freelance gig services, existing networks, and more.
- Developing your network. Invest in learning. Identify gaps in learning, then study formally or informally filling in knowledge. Don't be afraid to ask questions online and in person, or to call up companies in your niche and offer to volunteer.
Progressing a Career
There are many ways to progress a career in specialist services or outsource. You may progress to departmental head positions in a larger enterprise; but more often self-employment is the best way to advance.
If you branch into self-employment, there are are several things you need to work on to progress your career:Sales and Marketing -- developing materials to get your name and brand out there. This can include a website, portfolio/samples, and advertising.
- Promotions -- thinking of ways to tap new markets and encourage leads to try you out. This could include discounts, referral offers, free ebooks, and more.
- Client retention -- once you've established a customer-base, you have to put some effort into keeping them. What can you do to keep your customers from trying out someone new?
- Goods and service provision -- this is the nitty gritty work, providing your actual service, and managing the business. You need a clear understanding of costing, supply, demand, and accounting before you set up shop on your own. Ensure you have the necessary permits and tax details sorted.
You will also need to invest in further learning and develop networks. Networks are a vital way to keep new business coming in, especially if it's clear you're up to date on developments and trends. Ensure you attend trade shows, conferences, seminars, and other industry events. Subscribe to relevant publications, or go to your local library to keep up.