When he was in college, Kyle Elliott needed to finance his daily Starbucks habit on a student budget. So he started a side hustle on Fiverr, the freelance services marketplace, charging $5 to review resumes and LinkedIn profiles. He never had any intention of continuing the gig beyond college but, he says, “over time, it just kept growing and growing.”
In grad school, he began charging $25 for a resume review, then when he landed a full-time non-profit fundraising job in the Bay Area, Elliott said, “okay, I’m done with this side hustle. But then mostly through word of mouth, people just kept reaching out to and I kept growing to where I was doing 20 to 30 hours a week on top of my full-time job.”
Eventually, it became clear to Elliott that he was destined to be his own boss and he quit his job. He continued his focus on resumes and LinkedIn for a bit, charging higher rates as demand increased; his original $5 fee has skyrocketed to $1200. As more and more clients came to him for career advice, he found himself making a natural transition into coaching.
Elliott has no formal training as a coach, but he takes an approach that he believes distinguishes him from others in his industry. “Everything I’ve done is learned from recruiters and hiring managers out in the field,” he says. “I’ve chatted with thousands of them, so anytime a client of mine wants to work somewhere or is interested in something specific, I’m reaching out to recruiters and hiring managers and asking, ‘what does my client need to do to make that happen?’ That’s where I get all my knowledge and it’s helped me so much.”
What’s in it for the recruiters, since Elliott doesn’t send them potential candidates? He admits he was surprised at how open they were to having conversations with him, but now believes that recruiters are tired of getting poorly-prepared job applicants and are willing to share information with Elliott — even going so far as providing interview questions — so that they ultimately get higher quality job-seekers.
“I feel like I’m being coached and I’m not paying $500 an hour for coaching. It’s been amazing.”
Two-thirds of Elliott’s clients come to him via word-of-mouth, he says. He does a lot of content marketing on LinkedIn and posts not only about career issues, but about his personal life — a non-traditional approach, he says. “I like sharing things that people aren’t sharing on LinkedIn,” he says. “Like me and my fiance at Pride in San Francisco, me at Disneyland, or at Starbucks. A lot of people go through life wearing a mask but I feel comfortable without that mask. People appreciate the authenticity and they say, ‘oh, help me do that, too, in my job search.’”
Elliott encourages his clients to think not just about the kind of job they want, or the specific company that they want to work for, but about “the connection between their work and their life. One of the first things I do when we’re coaching is figuring out life goals and values, and working backward from there. So it’s not just about what you want to be doing every day at work, or what salary you want.” Sometimes he’s compelled to give his clients a reality check, and insist that they remain accountable to their own goals. “If you tell me that family is important and then say that you want to work for a certain company that is known for having no work/life balance, I’m going to call you out on that,” he says.
Running a business on your own can be isolating, which is why Elliott joined Forbes Coaches Council in 2017. “I really wanted peers I could connect with,” he says. “There are times when I want industry insights or to share best practices, so the biggest value of it for me is the online forum. I feel like I’m being coached and I’m not paying $500 an hour for coaching.” He says that a group of council members formed a peer-to-peer coaching group that met once a month outside the forum. For a year, he’s been meeting with one of those coaches every week, and they take turns coaching one another. “It’s been amazing,” he says. “That alone is worth the membership.” From those conversations, he’s learned how to package his services, how to have better consultations with clients, and how to market and brand himself. “It’s helped double my revenue,” says Elliott.
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