Before making the leap to be a consultant, it’s important to consider every stage of the process. My tips below don’t include the pre-work…the dreaming, the planning and the decision. Instead, these are things to keep in mind once you’ve decided to give it a go:
Get everything in writing. Have an agreement and make updates as necessary. If it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t count – no matter how close you are with a client.
Protect yourself with out clauses. These give you time to plan as a client chooses to shift directions. If you have a minimum of 30 days to find a new client, it minimizes the stress and helps keep you from being…or appearing…desperate.
Give an incentive for longer term. Everyone has their floor rates, or at least you should. But if you’d like long-term agreements vs one-off projects, give clients a reason to do so. Perhaps it’s a trial. Maybe it’s decreasing rates for more commitment. Determine what works, and give options right from the start.
Be flexible, but don’t sell yourself short. You may find clients think your rate is too high, or they don’t have budget for you. That doesn’t mean you’re overpriced. If you go below your minimum once (see #3), you may begin to believe that’s all your worth. It’s great to work with clients to find a mutually beneficial agreement, but don’t sacrifice long-term success for short-term.
Always be…prospecting? Some people prefer to say “always be closing”, but I don’t consider myself in sales even though I have to sell myself. (Selling something you believe in is always easier!) Build relationships and keep your eye out for anyone who could need your services – now or in the future.
Ask for referrals. Don’t be shy. Your reputation is your most important asset…build it and use it wisely. Everything is give and take, so don’t be greedy – but if you know a client is happy with your services, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral or let them know you’re open to new projects.
Don’t give up. This one seems cliche, but it’s true. You could try to get a “real” job at any time, but if you really want to make it work, commit. Some days you’ll question everything and others it will seem like the best decision you’ve ever had. That’s ok.
Lastly – remember that it’s a constant evolution. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be learning every day. If you’re looking for inspiration, please feel free to send me a note. I’m a big believer that you can do anything you want to do and it’s my mission to help others realize that. You are your own biggest fan and adversary.
“…Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it…Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs