Richard Greenwald, writing in the WSJ, outlines five keys to success for freelancers.
The image of the freelancer is too often that of the struggling journalist or writer, who needs to wait tables to pay the rent. No doubt there are many such examples still out there. But there also are plenty of consultants and freelancers who are earning real income and enjoying real success in their careers (as well as redefining what it means to be a success).
So, what do these thriving solo artists have in common? What is the recipe for their good fortune? My research points to five ingredients to keep in mind.
Think Long Term
Too many freelancers see their condition as only temporary—one that will go away as soon as economic conditions improve. It’s just a stage between jobs, they figure. Some of them may be right. But the odds are that most are wrong. They’re going to be on their own for a long time.
Typically, consultants keep their edge by attending workshops or training courses. At first, it sounds counterintuitive to train others to do what you do. After all, you’re creating more competition for yourself in the very community in which you work. But teaching offers four big positives for consultants. First, it provides some income, though admittedly not much. Second, it’s a way to network, because sometimes students can become clients or lead to clients. Third, the teaching looks good on a résumé, giving consultants credibility in the marketplace and a way to stand out from the crowd. And fourth, if you’re going to teach somebody the latest skills, you better have those skills yourself. So teaching forces consultants to stay current and sharp themselves.
Join a Network
The image many of us have of the lonely consultant toiling on his or her own is touching. And dated.
Most successful consultants are in a network or community of consultants. These networks are important sources of new clients; most consultants, in fact, say they get as many clients from these networks as they do from client referrals. What’s more, an increasing number of consultants share work, taking on bigger projects that require more hands.
Have Your Own Space
We have long been told that one of the joys of working on your own is being able to putter around in your pajamas and bunny slippers. And such flexibility is, no doubt, an attraction of consulting. But there’s a limit, and successful consultants say that having a work space separate from your living space is crucial. Clients do not want to have an important phone conference interrupted by a nagging two-year-old, a TV in the background or the sounds of street traffic.
Think Like an Entrepreneur
Here’s probably the most important ingredient that distinguishes the most successful consultants: They think like entrepreneurs. Too often, freelancers drift from project to project. That’s a mistake. They need to have a business plan or mission statement. If all they do is take everything that passes over the transom, they will be viewed as a nonspecialist in a world of specialists. Consultants are known for the work that they do, and this often means the work they don’t do. With a mission statement and business plan, they can decide if a certain job is worth it. Sometimes the short-term gain in income becomes a long-term loss in reputation.
Photo by spekulator.
From Business Opportunities Weblog.