Tag: independent consultant
I recently had the pleasure of recording an interview for Kristin Anthony’s Dear Instructional Designer podcast. We spoke for about 45 minutes on moving into freelancing and consulting, positioning yourself in the market, finding clients, pricing strategies, and managing my business. Our discussion ranged from the practical topics of liability insurance and accounting software to the strategic topics of specializing in a niche and finding the right clients.
This season on Kristin’s show will be all about freelancing, consulting, and working independently. If you haven’t subscribed yet, now is a good time so you can catch the future episodes on this topic.
Although I’ve been self-employed for almost 5 years, I’m still regularly contacted by recruiters about full-time positions. Most of them are polite and professional, and I often refer them to other colleagues who I know are looking for work. Once in a while though, I hear from someone who just doesn’t get it. For example, I received a message on LinkedIn from a recruiter we’ll call “B.” He said he had an opportunity for me but didn’t provide any other details. I replied that while I’m not looking for full-time work, I’d potentially be available for consulting if he had a problem I could solve.
He replied with this message. In case you’re wondering, no, this isn’t one of my fictionalized stories–every mistake you see in the message below is exactly as “B” wrote it.
This is a Direct Hire position, I am confused as if you are looking for consulting work, wouldnt you be interested in W2 contract?
Besides the lack of professionalism in his writing, “B” demonstrates an attitude I have unfortunately seen in several recruiters over the years. They assume that consulting is a “backup plan” I’m using to fill the gaps while I’m looking for a “real job.” They simply can’t fathom that anyone would choose to work for themselves.
Personally, I’d be hard pressed to go back to working in a “cubicle farm.” Working from home and setting my own schedule makes me more productive, along with giving me the flexibility to spend more time with my daughter. I cherish being able to pick which projects and clients I work with; I can turn down prospects where I’d just be an “order taker” or tweaking PowerPoints. I don’t have to accept unreasonably short timelines or woefully insufficient budgets. I can focus primarily on the scenario-based projects I find rewarding. I never have time to be bored because there’s so much variety and so much to learn.
Certainly sometimes people go out on their own because they’re forced to when a regular job ends. Some freelancers are truly working independently as a stopgap measure until they find another long-term job. It happens, but I wish recruiters wouldn’t assume that’s what everyone is doing—especially when they’ve been running their own company for multiple years like me.
Many consultants are like me. We prefer working on their own and aren’t motivated primarily by those external forces. In their article Secrets of Star Training Consultants, Saul Carliner and John Murray explain that the people they identified as “star consultants” in the field were mostly independent because they chose this path:
For the majority, however, the forces pushing the participants into private consulting were internal. Some expressed a desire to move beyond a certain work environment. One expressed an interest in earning more money. And the most experienced of the participants expressed a desire to improve the effectiveness of learning experiences.
If you’re a consultant, what would it take to get you to leave consulting and go back to full time work? Once you’ve cut the strings, is there anything that would convince you to go back?
Image credit: (c) Can Stock Photo
I’ve gotten some great tips from others working as independent consultants or freelance instructional designers in comments on my Getting Started as a Freelance Instructional Designer and Tips for Starting to Freelance posts. I love having so many brilliant and generous people in my network who freely share the wealth of their knowledge.
My approach is to network with local organizations and groups that benefit me socially with like minded people, and gives me a sense of organizations needs and the niche I can fit into to help them meet their learning objectives.
I’m really only networking online right now, but reviewing the comments from last summer reminds me that I should be working on some face-to-face connections too.
I think the biggest thing to success in consulting is to cultivate your networks and keep them going. I make a point of regularly (at least one a year if not twice a year) to try and book a lunch with key contacts – these are people that are working full time for companies that I might want to contract with, or people that know people who might be looking for a contractor. I also use social network sites like LinkedIn to let my network know that I’m looking.
Several people here in comments and in LinkedIn groups mentioned the importance of a portfolio, including Judith Christian-Carter:
[U]se your portfolio because most discerning clients are looking for people with a good track record and ‘put yourself around a bit’.
One other thing I’d say about having a diversity of clients is to try to draw from different industries, areas of the country, etc. One thing I’ve discovered is that the more diversity in my client base, the better. You’d be surprised how many of the same financial and other issues impact companies in the same industry at the same time. It’s something we don’t always think about.
In addition to an accountant, meet with a financial planner as well. One thing #freelancers tend to forget is that thing called retirement. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, finding new clients/business and focusing on just getting up and running. Planning for the future, for retirement, should also be in the mix. Like liability insurance, it’s easily missed until it’s too late.
Contracts & Cash Flow
[S]et up your agreements/contracts with clients to include a deposit that must be received before you start on the project. Helps with the income gaps, especially with new clients.
Hello, I made the move about four months ago…and while it’s been difficult on many levels, it’s been a fantastic experience on the whole. A great book for me was Flying Solo (http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/). It focuses on the idea of being a freelancer (in any profession or industry) and offers strategies for soloists to make it work, to connect with others and awareness of the pitfalls. It was an easy, but eye-opening read. Good luck!
Taruna Goel shared her story of moving to freelance: From An Employee to a Consultant – A Story of Embracing Change. She is back to being a full-time employee now (along with moving from one continent to another–nothing like big changes!), but I appreciated her reflections on the changes.
I’m in a number of groups on LinkedIn, but lately I’m paying more attention to the Freelance in Instructional Design and E-Learning Industry group, a sub-group of the Instructional Design & E-Learning Professionals’ Group. (I’m not positive the link to the group will work. If it doesn’t, either search for the group name or look for the group at the bottom of my LinkedIn profile.) This isn’t the most active group, but it’s a good place for asking questions specific to freelance instructional design work.
Thanks to everyone who has shared their experiences. Seeing others who have made this transition successfully makes me more confident that I can do it too. I know I’m not alone, and I have this whole network of people out there who I can turn to when I need advice.