The greatest truth about Freelance consulting is that it is a marketing business. If we expect to be successful, then we must artfully package ourselves and our services and promote to those with the money and motive to award us high-paying projects. The ability to view yourself as your ultimate product, creating and executing self-marketing strategies, requires a good amount of self-esteem and a dollop of fearlessness. Not everyone has what it takes. To be successful in this business, it is necessary to model yourself as a consulting company of one and learn to swim like the big fish do.
Let’s first get our self-esteem on track. Learn to fully own and value your skill set and communicate your self-worth to one and all (in a healthy way). You’ve acquired an impressive array of competencies over the years. That knowledge base is your calling card, your brand, your intellectual property. Never position yourself as subordinate to the client. The Freelance consultant is a peer. We have a particular expertise that the client does not possess. That is why we’re needed.
Second, let your business practices reflect your self-worth and stop billing hourly for your work. Alan Weiss, author of “The Consulting Bible” (2011), recommends that Freelance consultants bill on a project basis only and avoid billing hourly. In fact, Weiss advises that you not work with a prospective client who insists upon an hourly rate, because the amount of time it takes to produce the deliverable is not the issue. The impact of that deliverable on the organization is the issue and the two must not be confused.
So when you’re in your next prospective client meeting and you’re talking turkey, reach a mutual understanding with the client regarding the project’s objectives and clarify how your success will be measured. Ask your prospect to explain the impact that meeting those objectives will have on the organization. Let the answer determine your project fee.
Weiss also says that if your intellectual property, i.e. your work, will help an organization save a significant amount of money or measurably improve its marketing position and/or sales, then the Freelance consultant should receive 10% of the value of the gain. In other words, billing on value = billing on outcomes + impact, hours be damned. If your client is too obsessed with hourly rates, nickling and diming on costs, then find another client.
Third, let’s take a look at marketing and promotional strategies. Revisit my May 10 post and get inspired to write a book, whether you create your own book deal and self-publish, or manage to finagle a traditional publishing agreement (Weiss did the latter). Weiss insists that a book deal does wonders for your credibility and gives your consulting career a major boost.
He also claims that it doesn’t matter how many copies you sell, just get your book into print. I’m afraid that I must respectfully disagree on that last point, however. Being on The New York Times best-seller list has got to make a huge difference in more ways than one!
Additionally, Weiss points out that speaking at a trade association meeting is yet another consulting career-booster, as are teaching, blogging and writing a newsletter (as I’ve mentioned countless times). All of those strategies give a competitive advantage, leading clients to view the published Freelancer as a thought leader and a cut above. Clients will consider you an expert and they’ll be more likely to seek you out to discuss upcoming projects. The axiom “publish or perish” is no longer limited to academia.
Finally, do not be shy about approaching friends, family and former co-workers to discuss new business opportunities. Spell out to folks what it is you do, the clients you usually work with and the projects you like to take on. Always keep in touch with your network and remember to help them out, too, because it’s good karma.
Thanks for reading,