Ever wonder what it would be like to work for yourself? You’re not alone.
We are living in an era of entrepreneurship and the “gig economy”: a phenomenon of more and more workers taking on part-time flexible work. According to Forbes (2018), more than one third of U.S. workers (approximately 57 million people) make up the gig economy.
Self-employed workers (including consultants, contractors, and freelancers) are an important part of the public health workforce. They take on discrete projects that run the gamut from grant writing to program evaluation. This work structure can provide substantial benefits for both parties. Public health organizations can bring in specialist skills and fill unmet program needs, while self-employed public health professionals can enjoy a career path that provides flexibility and independence to pursue projects and topics of interest.
Over the past six years as a public health consultant, I can tell you that technology has been essential to the growth of the consulting workforce. Technology helps to expand our opportunities for training, networking and collaboration, and product and service delivery.
When you work for yourself versus an employer, you often have a much smaller budget for travel, conferences, and trainings. At first, I was concerned about how I would continue to access opportunities for professional development to stay updated in the field and meet the continuing education requirements for my certified health education specialist (CHES) credential.
Luckily, I have been happily surprised with the affordable and high quality training opportunities available with eLearning technology. A few examples include:
From fellow consultants: Data visualization courses from Depict Data Studio and Infographics101 from PH SPOT
Networking and Collaboration:
Working as a solo consultant (often from home or another remote location) has the potential to be isolating. You add that to a small budget for travel, and it can be hard to meet other consultants and potential clients! Enter the wonderful technology of social media for individual and group connection.
For the past 4.5 years, I have been leading a private Facebook networking group for established public health consultants. I have watched the group grow from four consultants I knew personally to 70+ members representing five countries. I am constantly surprised at how this technology allows members to (1) connect with others who have similar geographic/topic/skill niches and/or complementary services, (2) hire each other as subcontractors, (3) collaborate on proposals, (4) help promote each other’s products and services, and (5) provide peer support for common challenges like managing difficult clients.
Social media also offers a variety of communication channels to connect with new collaborators and potential clients. I like Twitter for connecting with public health colleagues and participating in more academic discussion. I like Instagram for building a personal connection through stories and photographs. With tags and retweets and reposts, social media makes it easy for followers to promote your products and services and/or provide a testimonial for your work.
Product and Service Delivery:
Technology has made it easier than ever to work remotely with clients in any location. Having a permanent “office” has become so unimportant that several of my consulting colleagues are taking “remote years” and working remotely all around the world. To make this possible, we rely on data/file sharing and virtual meeting technology. Favorites include:
Virtual meetings and webinars: Zoom
Technology has also opened up product possibilities for those of us in service-based businesses like consulting. In addition to time spent on client work, we can also have our own virtual stores to generate passive income by selling templates, eBooks, and online courses.
In February 2019, I launched my first online course: Contemplating Consulting: A readiness guide to help public health professionals decide to hit the brakes or take the leap. The technology available on Teachable’s online platform allows my course to be available to public health students and professionals around the world 24/7.
In celebration of technology and public health for National Public Health Week, I’m having a one-day flash sale on my online course! Here are the details:
Coupon Code: NPHW2019
Savings: $20.00 off
Coupon Expires: Friday, April 5th 2019, 9am Eastern Time
Discussion: I’d love to hear from readers! What else would you add to this list? What are some other ways that technology has helped to expand opportunities for public health training, networking, collaboration, and product/service delivery?