Many people dream of working for themselves. Natalie Zfat, 31, is doing it. She founded her social media consulting business in 2012 and now she says she makes six figures a year. She says she charges anywhere from $5,000 to $150,000 per project and has big name collaborators and clients like Mark Cuban, Food Network and American Express. For Zfat, consulting is all about building relationships and doing good work. Here are her tips to success.
"[B]e your boldest self," Zfat tells CNBC Make It.
Zfat did just that when she saw Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban lounging poolside at L.A.'s W hotel in 2013. She went up to him with a couple friends and said, "Hey, I'm Natalie. I'm a social media consultant and I think you need to step up your game on social media for 'Shark Tank.'"
"Usually that situation gets old very quickly and I push to find a way out," Cuban tells CNBC Make It. "But in this case they didn't mess around."
Zfat told him the Twitter feed for ABC's "Shark Tank" needed more content and the show's social media team should start live-tweeting episodes to engage viewers.
Her risk paid off. Cuban was impressed with Zfat and they have since partnered on projects, including one earlier this year for the Council for Economic Education. Zfat curated a monthlong social media campaign in which high-profile names including Cuban shared money-saving tips for students.
Have confidence in what you do
Take again, Cuban as an example. Even though he is a successful billionaire, as an entrepreneur and expert who advises big companies what to post, Zfat knew that social media was the one thing she could teach Cuban.
"We often hear people questioning their own abilities: 'What could I possibly offer him or her?' Especially in the company of the influential and famous," says Zfat.
"I learned a long time ago that everyone has something to learn. And I have found that the most successful people I know are the ones who ask the most questions and are life-long learners."
The bottom line? "Know your worth," she says.
While you don't want to give away work for free ("There's a fine line between giving advice and someone taking advantage of that and getting a free consultation," says Zfat), you want to make people glad they hired you so they'll do it again. This ethos has helped Zfat land 20 new brands as clients over the past two years, she says.
For example, Samsung contacted Zfat after watching her online. "They wanted to shoot a scene of me using the devices in a way that looked 'homey,'" she explains. "And I was like, 'Why don't you guys just come over and film at my house?'" This led to her serenading the crew on the piano while the photographer shot B-roll footage in the next room before coming in to film her too.
In 2015, Zfat landed an account with apparel company Ted Baker. "Usually with social media, you post something and three days later it's at the bottom of the page," says Zfat of the temporary return on investment brands get when using influencers. But Zfat wanted to offer more.
She pitched the idea of a photo shoot in front of a hotel window with Central Park in the backdrop, in which bloggers and influencers would wear the company's fashions. Then the participants would receive the professional pictures to use as their social media profile photos — because profile pictures stay up a lot longer, giving Ted Baker more return on their investment.
"What I hope is that in any business relationship I'm in, they feel like they're getting more than was in the contract," she says.
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Disclaimer: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."