Overcoming Income Inequality

Happy Halloween! Today, we’ll take a look at one of the ultimate Trick or Treat scenarios, the business model known as the Global Economy (the most recent version, that is—trade has been global at least since the glory days of Timbuktu) as well as other factors that will impact your income.  The Global Economy as we know it began about 20 years ago, midwifed by the internet.  There is plenty of evidence to show that the vast majority of the world’s 7.6  billion souls have received only a global Trick, while a fortunate “1% of the 1%” has received a nearly endless supply of economic Treats.  Most of the candy is in the goody bags of the 2,043 billionaires in the world, 233 more than there were in 2016.  In aggregate, they are worth $7.7 trillion USD. (Forbes Magazine, October 2017)

Earning a living isn’t getting any easier for the 99.99%.  In the October 8 and 15, 2017 issues of The New York Times, lengthy articles appeared and told sad tales about blue-collar workers.

From Indiana came the story of skilled factory workers who until recently earned $25/hour.  Those workers have now joined the growing ranks of low-wage and  underemployed workers, in the aftermath of the ball bearing factory’s move to Monterrey, Mexico.

Factory leaders appealed to the Indiana workers to train their Mexican replacements.  Despite significant peer pressure from most of their colleagues a few agreed to do so, primarily to receive the $5000 bonus that was promised to those who cooperated with the transition.  But once the replacements were trained,  factory leaders reneged on the $5000 bonuses.

Workers south of the border are paid less than $6/hour for their skilled labor.  Most of the former ball bearing factory workers in Indiana have secured other employment, but nearly all have seen their wages cut in half.  Financing their housing costs is an issue for many.

From Oslo, Norway, came the story of construction workers whose labor has remade the skyline of that city, capital of a nation that has become wealthy on profits from North Sea oil that was discovered in the 1960s.  Pay for construction workers remains generous, thanks to a strong union, but workers haven’t seen a pay raise in five years or more.  Further, workers from eastern and southern Europe are now being hired by local construction companies and factories at considerably lower wages than Norwegian citizens receive, so that the companies can compete successfully for projects that are put out to bid by national or global firms.

The global economy has caused workers everywhere to get low-balled on wages and benefits, whether we are blue-collar skilled labor or white-collar professionals.  Most companies fear losing a contract to a competitor; their strategy has become to keep internal expenses low, so that project proposals can include not only lower prices for the prospective customer, but also more in-house profit.  To minimize the heft of payroll, which is usually the biggest expense on the P & L statement, companies send jobs off-shore, recruit and hire foreign-born workers who desire a residency visa and are willing to accept a lower salary to obtain one , or clandestinely hire illegal aliens at bargain-basement pay.

Meanwhile, citizens who are employed at well-paying, full-time, benefits paying jobs are loath to complain or quit, because what are the chances of doing better financially at another company? For most, it’s smarter to grin and bear it.  Maybe you can rent out a spare bedroom on Airbnb or drive for Lyft or Uber to make extra money?

Another factor that depresses wages and impedes hiring is what appears to be lingering discrimination against 50% of the population.  Honeybook, a company that provides administrative support to the various specialties that service the special events and conference planning industry, in a 2017 report on the gender pay gap reported that on average, women earn 24% less than men and in the finance and insurance industries, women earn 29% less than their male counterparts.

Female Freelancers in the events and conference planning industry fare even worse. Honeybook analyzed 200,000 of the client invoices they prepare for affiliates from October 2016 – October 2017 and found that women who Freelance earn 32% less than men in the industry.  Female photographers make 40% less than their male counterparts and female event planners make 24% less than their male peers earn.  Regarding annual earnings, 42% of men earn more than $50,000 per year, while only 20% of women are paid at that rate; 20% of men earn at least $80,000 annually, while only 8% of women are able to do so.

Things are even more dismal for women at the top of the self-employment food chain, the venture capital funded start-ups.  The start-up database Crunchbase confirmed that globally, 43,008 venture capital-backed start-up enterprises were founded from 2009 – 1Q2017 and 6,791 (15.8%) of those companies had one or more female founders.

Crunchbase reports that in 2016, start-ups founded by men received a total of $94 billion in seed (angel) investment fundraising, while start-ups that had even one female founder received a total of only $10 billion.  Start-ups with one or more female founders raised 19% of all seed investment rounds, 14% of early-stage venture rounds, 8% of late-stage venture rounds.

Yeah, OK, so do we continue to cry into the champagne, or maybe do something substantive? The Honeybook crew strongly suggests that women (and men) who are Freelancing to negotiate rates and in fact, to come in with a project fee or hourly rate that reflects the quality and value of your work in the marketplace.  This is not exactly easy, however, and requires some courage. No one wants to lose a contract to a competitor, or to be challenged by a prospect.

Regarding negotiation, Freelancers have an advantage over the traditionally employed because fee negotiation is not unusual.  To succeed in a negotiation, it’s necessary to do a bit of research in advance to learn more about the project.  The process is quite simple—talk to your prospect and ask a few basic questions.  If you learn that your work will bring the client a significant ROI, or if a deadline looms, let that be reflected in your project fee or hourly rate.

If the client balks at your pricing, do not lower your fee.  Instead, adjust the scope of the work you’ll do.  If at all possible, avoid allowing a prospect to dictate your pricing terms.  Ask how much has been budgeted for the project and then decide how much work you can afford to perform for the money available.  Address the client’s most urgent needs and make him/her feel good about the value s/he will receive when your superior expertise and work ethic are applied.

Regarding female entrepreneurs, Crunchbase notes that there are now several angel investor networks funded by female investors who welcome women who lead venture capital backed enterprises.  Access to capital when it’s needed is crucial to a start-up venture’s success.  Women helping women is how we can climb the mountain.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

The Fendi sisters (l-r) Alda, Paola, Anna, Carla (who passed in June 2017) and Franca took over the business founded in Rome by their parents Adele and Edoardo in 1925.  Led by Carla, they transformed Fendi into an international brand that is now owned by LVMH.                               Photograph: REX (1988)

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Freelancers Hiring Freelancers

Are you preparing to submit a proposal for a big assignment you hope to win and know that the project specifications will cause you to subcontract some of the work? Congratulations! You will have the pleasure of hiring one or more of your Freelancer peers. Together, you will become a team whose mission will be to produce the client’s deliverables by achieving outcomes of the highest quality, on or in advance of the project deadline and on budget.

You, the external team leader, must understand the skills that the project requires, know how much it will cost to secure the services of your Freelancer team and write a winning proposal.  Project management is an everyday reality for Freelance consultants and the bigger the project, the more planning is involved. Your reputation is forever on the line and when subcontracted work is involved, you must be diligent in your search to identify the best talent to bring on board.  Read on and get some helpful advice on how to assemble a winning team that will enhance your brand and your billable hours, current and future.

Get budget estimate

Get a reliable project budget estimate from your client, if possible.  If the client prefers playing possum with that amount, then make sure you are able to accurately estimate both the quantity and quality of work the project requires so that you can first, calculate your own labor cost and target profit margin and next, understand what you must budget to pay your subcontractors.

Hire specialists

Directly ask candidates you interview and confirm that the skill you need is a competency in which that candidate excels and that s/he has performed often enough to claim deep experience.  You are in no position to train someone on the job.  You must guarantee superior results.

Pay well

Why not ask candidates what they want to make as a subcontractor on the project? Start by researching the going rate range for that specialty, so that you’ll know what to expect to pay and you can rule out those who attempt to take advantage of you.  People will do their best work when they feel valued. They’ll be happy to give extra to make you look good and make themselves shine along with you.  They’ll go above and beyond because they’ll want to be hired to work with you again since you value their capabilities.

If you encounter someone who seems a perfect fit for the project but his/her subcontracting fee is somewhat beyond what you planned to offer, then ask what perks might make that person happy, in addition to money.  You may be able to get who you want for a little less money if you give a little more in another area that demonstrates how you value the skill set.

Set clear expectations

If the project is on a tight time frame and in order to meet the deadline long hours and a seven-days-a-week schedule will be needed then you, the external team leader, must present this schedule information to your candidates in the interview.  You need team members who are able to block out the necessary time and are willing to work hard.  If time is an issue, expect to pay a premium to your subcontractors and add a premium to your own fee as well. Develop a contract for your subcontractors, so that all responsibilities, relevant milestones, the project deadline and the rate of pay are in writing.

Communicate often

Request weekly or bi-weekly written progress reports from your subcontractors and send similar updates to your client.  Announce to the client and your subcontractors whenever a project milestone has been met.  Interim victories will give you an opportunity to thank and congratulate your subcontractors and inspire them as you do.  Learning that you and your team have reached a milestone gives your client confidence in you.

View work samples

In the subcontractor interviews, be sure that work samples provided correspond with the project specs, to confirm that you are evaluating what is relevant.

Check references

Ask to speak with two of your candidate’s clients.  Confirm the type of work that the candidate has done for each reference.  Inquire about the quality of that work and the candidate’s willingness to do what was needed to get the job done.  Ask what it’s like to work with the candidate—is s/he positive and upbeat, or a constant complainer? Finally, ask if there’s anything else you should know about the experience of working with the candidate.

Paperwork

Once you understand the project specs, the role that your subcontractors will play and what you will pay for their services, you can then write a draft contract.  Also, download from the IRS website tax form W-9 for your subcontractors to complete and return to you. You’ll retain the W-9 and use it to prepare and mail to subcontractors IRS form 1099 before January 31 of the following year if payments to any subcontractor reach $600.

Finally, set up an accounting method that will allow you to easily and accurately calculate hours worked and dollars earned for each subcontractor.  If you’ve seldom worked with subcontractors, then speak with a bookkeeper or accountant for more information.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Seven Samurai (Japan, 1954) Directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune (foreground)

 

When Negotiating A Project Fee

There are ways to strong-arm a highly competent Freelance professional who is ready to give a client his/her best work into accepting less than that Freelancer’s proposed project fee.  So many desperadoes are willing to work for pennies and that can make it difficult for those whose work quite simply is more valuable because s/he brings expertise and work ethic that ensure the project work will be flawless and client expectations will be met.  Those qualities should justify almost any project fee.  But sometimes, clients like to low-ball.

What do you do when s/he who would be your client tells you that you charge rather more than others for the same work? Remember that the best defense is a good offense and start justifying your pricing strategy from your initial contact with the prospect. Continuously model professionalism and expertise that separate you from the hoi polloi.

Remember also that Rule Number One in the consultant’s bible is to never cut your price. Not-for-profit organizations can receive a 10%- 25% discounted rate, but under no circumstances do you lower your hourly or project fee for any client.

Instead, add in a modest service upgrade at no charge, to make the price more palatable.  You can also scale back the work and that would be associated with a fee reduction, but one does not do the originally requested work for less money.  If the client becomes adamant about receiving the original project specs at less than your proposed fee, then find the courage to walk away.

I know that billable hours may not be falling out of trees, but you cannot participate in a race to the bottom.  Do not get sucked into competing with online Freelance service mills.  Read on and learn to create your rebuttal.

Exhibit your expertise

Clients get what they pay for and pay for what they get! Let prospective clients know that when you are hired, a task can be completely handed over to you and you will own it. Furthermore, you are willing to use your expertise to make suggestions that might improve the quality of the project deliverables.  You are a first-rate service provider who is dependable, responsive, talented and trustworthy.  Your work is done correctly the first time and there will be no need for either micromanaging or do-overs.  The client’s role in completing the project will be much lighter and that adds up to value.  These practices and competencies are reflected in your project fee and hourly rate.

Reveal your responsiveness

Especially when an important deadline looms, reassure your prospect that you are prepared to work hard and ensure that project milestones and the deadline are met.  You understand that sometimes, late nights, weekends and holidays must be at least partly devoted to work.  Your admirable work ethic is reflected in your project fee and clients who are in a hurry find your fee structure reasonable.  Your project fee includes timely communications, responding to feedback, generating ideas and more.

Demonstrate your dependability

Clients can be confident and relax when you are on the job because they know and trust your work, attention to detail and diligence.  You make life easier and allow the client to attend to other duties while you manage the project.  Project work is reliably completed as requested and within budget.  Your clients look good to their superiors, peers and direct reports.  No one winds up with egg on their face when they hire you.

Trot out your testimonials

In addition to your LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements, you no doubt will be able to supply client testimonials from one or two satisfied customers who will speak on the record with a prospective client.  If you have one or two client success stories on your web site so muh the better, as these are case studies that detail the client journey and spell out the wonderful work you can do.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Mike Tyson (left) by Milo threeoneseven for ESPN (date unknown)

 

 

Defending Your Prices 2.0

There is a lot to like about the Freelance life, but recurring paycheck anxiety isn’t one of them.  If we’re not waiting to get paid by a client who should have mailed the check 10 days ago, then we’re fretting that the check is rather too small anyway for the amount and quality of work that was done.  But how can one be choosy when the possibility of being replaced is so real? No matter how you earn your living, by 1099 or W2, the employer is in the driver’s seat.

Nevertheless, we Freelance consultants do have some leverage.  While there are thousands of Freelancers willing to accept small hourly rates and project fees, hiring managers in the know realize that the quality of their work is often less than ideal.  As always, you get what you pay for and pay for what you get. Below is a list of selling points that in your next pricing negotiation can help you to justify and defend the premium price I know you are worth:

Expertise

Shopping for B2B services is not like shopping at the old (and sorely missed) Filene’s Basement, where frugal fashionistas could find premier designer label clothing for a fraction of the retail cost.  The caveat was, one had to expect certain shortcomings, like maybe a  missing button or two because one of the infamous button thieves got to the item first (there were apparently several such individuals over the decades).

Inexperienced or less skilled Freelancers may request lower prices for any number of reasons, including perhaps the inability or unwillingness to perform complex assignments.  Some people like to compete on price and there will always be those who respond for whatever reason and that sometimes includes an antipathy toward paying people.  Those who like the low-ball figure should be advised that they are vulnerable to receiving only the bare minimum of work because they’re only paying the bare minimum price.

Make it clear to your prospect that you produce the highest quality work. The prospect can totally hand the project over and trust that you and your team will successfully complete the job as specified, on time and within budget. There will be no need for the client to perform after-the-fact do-overs of your work.  Your base price may be higher, but in the end you save clients time, money and aggravation.  You make them look smart for hiring you.

Dependability

In sum, you will produce what has been asked of you and if there appears to be an obstacle to doing so, you will alert the client as soon as that is recognized and suggest collaborate on making adjustments or creating a Plan B, especially for time-sensitive projects.  You meet deadlines and respect budgets.

Follow-up

One of the biggest mistakes a Freelancer can make when negotiating project or hourly rate pricing is to limit the scope of what you offer solely to the project work as described in the specs.  Make it known to prospects that you are selling an entire service package that includes not only the project spec work, but also includes responsiveness and prompt follow-up; good communication and feedback; efficiency with logistics; and the willingness to ensure that deadlines will be met, even if that means working outside of the 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Monday to Friday paradigm.

Showcase your value-added services by ensuring that your project proposal answers all of the standard or required questions and is sent to the client on time.  Respond to client follow-up inquiries quickly, efficiently and cheerfully.

Testimonials

While any confidentiality requests must be respected, revealing selected names on your client list, newsletter or blog statistics, links to published articles and webinars hosted and publicity listings for your noteworthy speaking engagements will provide tangible proof of your reputation and expertise and in that way, justify your pricing.  Depending on your specialty, an online or hard copy portfolio of your work to show to prospective clients is yet another effective way to demonstrate the quality and sophistication of your work and help to explain why you do not price your services at the bargain basement level.

Don’t be shy! Prospective clients want to see what you can do, so that an informed decision can be made.  Build your case, present it well and show them what you are worth.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Shoppers at Filene’s Basement  (1974)  Photograph courtesy of Nick DeWolf

 

Why Won’t the Client Call You Back?

You were thrilled to be invited to submit a proposal for a project that will bring in a good amount of billable hours wrapped in a most respectable fee structure.  In the meeting with your prospective client, you asked all the right questions–

  • Confirmation of the decision-maker, s/he who can green-light the project
  • Details of the project timetable and deadline
  • The approximate start date
  • The value of the project outcomes and deliverables to the organization
  • The project  budget

You have every reason to believe that the project is legitimate and that there is organizational money and motive to get it done.  You may have worked previously with this client and you relish the prospect of working with him/her again.  Or, you’ve not worked with this client before and the project represents a step-up for you.  You can’t wait to add this brand enhancing and validating client to your roster and you plan to do whatever it takes to exceed expectations and become a preferred vendor.

Because you met with the project advocate and decision-maker, your comprehensive and professionally presented proposal is essentially a confirmation of what was discussed and agreed upon.  The deliverables and deadline are confirmed.  Your proposed financials are within budget.  You’ve submitted on time.  You were told when the answer would be given.

But uh, oh, that date passed three weeks ago and you are now tense with worry.  Where are they?  You try sending a diplomatically written email, but receive no reply.  A week later you call the project advocate and s/he has stopped answering the phone, regardless of when you call, early or late.  In resignation you leave a voicemail and of course, there’s no reply to that, either.

Why do clients play these passive-aggressive games? What the hell are they made of? Here are some behind-the-scenes reasons that will let you see the other side and I hope, avoid feeling like a failure and a fool.

  1. There’s no answer yet

Just because your prospect told you that s/he is the decision-maker does not mean that s/he is the sole decision-maker.  Group decisions are the norm.  Your prospect is most likely one of three or four “decision-makers,” the one who is assigned to speak with all vendor candidates, or maybe just one or two.  Alternatively, your prospect may be one of several team leaders who at the end of the month (or whenever) sit down and review all pending projects and discuss proposals received.

Depending on what is going on at the organization, the team leaders will agree to move forward on certain projects, delay one or two and put the remaining on hold.  Your prospect may advocate for funding, but a project that is more urgent, or more favored by other team leaders, could overrule your prospect and kill your project.  Your project advocate will speak with you only when a definitive answer can be given to you.

2.  Waiting for a favored vendor

One of the group of decision-makers may have the power to push in a vendor candidate with whom s/he has worked previously (and who may have the inside track).  That vendor candidate might be a late entry and no decision will be made until his/her bid is received and reviewed.  One of the vendors might have a powerful friend on the decision-making team and that friend plans to push his/her preferred vendor candidate into the project (whether or not that vendor is the best qualified, or offers the most competitive price).  Your prospective client is too busy politicking to speak with you.  S/he would like to say yes, but a battle must first be won, s/he hopes.

3.  Your decision-maker advocate has had an unexpected emergency 

Things happen.  An unexpected problem or opportunity may draw your advocate’s attention away from your project, which is no doubt #1 in your life, but is only one of many possibilities that exist in the constantly shifting landscape that is the new economy.  Short-term priorities and putting out fires are the order of the day.  Your prospective client is too busy to speak with you.

4.  An unexpected loss of support

Second-guessing is practically an Olympic sport in organizations today.  I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t take much to pour cold water on a project and reverse a decision that once earned the favor of the decision-making team.  It could be that the heaviest heavyweight on the team, when all is said and done, does not feel that the project ROI is worth the investment of time, staff attention and money.  Your advocate and perhaps others may believe in the project and they’re scrambling to keep it alive and included on this year’s calendar.  Your project advocate is too embarrassed to talk; s/he feels humiliated and powerless.

5.  Project funding may not yet be officially awarded, or has been lost

Your project advocate and prospective client may have spoken too soon about the availability of an adequate budget for the project.  There could have been a last-minute decision to fund another project that is now perceived as more important by one or more of the decision-making team.  Maybe a project that was previously put on hold will now be given the green light?

Your advocate must now 1.) Confirm if there will be available money in this fiscal year, or the next, and 2.) Confirm the amount of money that will be earmarked for your project.  Your prospect is too frustrated to speak with you now; s/he has lost face.

6. Your proposal was used to get pricing info and to create a budget

Sometimes a Freelancer gets no respect and it’s a terrible thing.  Prospects who are not ready to commit may nevertheless wonder how much it would cost to get a certain job done and so they’ll seek out a Freelancer or two and request a proposal.  They ask Freelancers who they don’t know.  Avoid sending a proposal to an unknown “prospect” who mysteriously sends you a Request For a Proposal The Unexpected RFP .

7.  You were not awarded the project

Your proposal was not selected and the prospect who was not meant to be wants to avoid disappointing you.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

When Freelancers and Employees Collaborate

External agile talent provided by Freelance consultants has a presence in a growing number of organizations in the country, from huge multinationals that hire dozens of external experts to solo consultancies, who may hire a Freelancer colleague to obtain  help with SEO, website design, or project subcontracting work.

Freelancers are brought in to ensure that a high-priority project will be successfully completed, on time and within budget. While it is the responsibility of the hiring manager to onboard the Freelancer and create the conditions for smart collaboration  and productivity, in fact, a good deal of that responsibility will be transferred to the Freelancer because s/he is temporary, an outsider, and is positioned to take the blame should things go wrong.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that Freelancers take the lead and do what is possible to establish a working relationship with in-house collaborators that is productive, pleasant and lays the groundwork for repeat business and referrals.

  1. Ask the hiring manager to onboard you, so that you will be able to “hit the ground running” and quickly get to work on producing the project deliverables.
  • Request an overview that explains why the project is important to the organization.
  • Have a contract for the project, signed by you and the hiring manager, that specifies your duties, in-house support that will be provided, the budget, project milestones, the deliverables and the deadline, your hourly rate or project fee and what you’ll charge for client requested change orders and additional services requested.
  • Request the names and titles of any in-house project collaborators.
  • Specify the details of the lines of reporting and authority, so that you and everyone else knows who you answer to, since the hiring manager may not be the internal project lead.
  • Determine where your work will be done—off-site, at the organization, or a combination. How many hours must you spend at the company office? Where will  your work space be located? Must you bring your own computer and phone?
  • Request an introduction and meeting with your in-house collaborator(s), so that you can understand the organization culture (“how things get done around here”) and understand what you can do, or request from the company, to make the experience pleasant and productive for all parties.

2. Anticipate employee anxiety around the presence of an external consultant and work to quell the discomfort. Show respect for your collaborator’s deep knowledge of the organization and the project. Solicit their opinions on how to efficiently get the work done and political situations that can help or hurt you. Copy your collaborator(s) on important emails. Uncomfortable subjects might include:

  • Why was a Freelance consultant hired to do the interesting, mission-critical project and not long-term, loyal employees?
  • How much money is s/he being paid—is it more than me?
  • Will the consultant’s expertise and opinion be more highly valued than mine?
  • Is a company lay-off on the horizon?

3. Communicate frequently with your in-house collaborator(s), to promote transparency, build trust and ensure maximum productivity.

  • Make use of email and write reports that keep collaborators and the hiring manager updated on your work.
  • If you hit a stumbling block, ask for help, in writing.
  • Suggest a weekly or bi-weekly conference call or meeting at the client’s office, to compare notes and confirm that milestones and expectations are being met.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Credible + Capable = Contract

Pitching to prospects is stressful and time-consuming, but there is such a thrill when we meet the right person and get invited to discuss a project. With much anticipation, valuable time and energy are directed to preparing for the meeting and if we are asked to do so, preparing as well a proposal that details how we would achieve the client’s goals.

It is unspeakably frustrating when a proposal is rejected or worse, when we never hear from that prospect again.  It is imperative that Freelancers practice appropriate risk management and take steps to improve our client acquisition rate and minimize negative outcomes.

Client endorsements

Recommendations by satisfied customers are trust-building votes of confidence for you.  A referral made by someone known and respected by the prospective client is the ideal endorsement. Word-of-mouth is always the best advertisement.

LinkedIn recommendations are lukewarm.  Testimonials that appear on your website are more powerful, especially those given by a prestige client.  Better still is to ask a client if s/he would be willing to speak with a prospect to give a reference for you and discuss the project you worked on.

Samples of your work

Create a portfolio of case studies or other samples of your work to provide some show and tell for prospective clients.  They deserve the opportunity to view and evaluate your work, so that they can envision the match-up between the results they must achieve and the solutions that you would deliver.  Curate your portfolio of work samples and case studies well,  by choosing projects that demonstrate your expertise and value.  A good portfolio will also help to justify your (premium) pricing structure.

Online presence

It is the 21st century and prospects expect all professionals to have an online presence.  Before deciding to contact a Freelancer or any other professional that one might hire, an online search is typically conducted.  Prospects want to get a sense of who you are and confirm that you are legitimate.

Overwhelmingly, Freelance consultants have a website, but there are those rare individuals who have been able to build a successful client list without this marketing tool. Whether or not you have a website, further cultivate your online presence through social media or post press releases online to announce  your speaking and teaching engagements, participation in charity events, or any awards you may have received. Writing a newsletter or blog, building a mailing list and sharing on social media platforms is also useful, as is guest blogging. Develop and maintain a positive online presence that is designed to win over prospects.

Communicate value-added

The ultimate reason that clients hire Freelance consultants is that they are convinced that these individuals will bring significant value to the project and will make the hiring manager look smart in front of his/her superiors and peers.  Merely describing your products and services is no longer sufficient to get yourself hired in this hyper-competitive marketplace, where in most cases there are numerous highly qualified professionals who are available and hungry for billable hours.

Communicating your unique value is the only way to get hired and that must be demonstrated in numerous ways.  Like a trial lawyer, layer on examples of the varied aspects of your value and let the preponderance of evidence in your favor pile up.  In clear and concise terms, present the case of how you will make the client’s job easier, save the organization money, position the organization to make money, or ensure that the organization achieves important goals.

Politely persistent

Once a prospect has expressed an interest to meet and  discuss doing business,  or to confirm whether or not you will be awarded a project after you have had a meeting, there are two possible actions:

1). Active pursuit, when you send one or more emails to either encourage setting up a meeting or to learn the outcome of a hiring decision.

2). Passively waiting for the prospect to contact you.

According to experts, neither approach is useful.  I’ll bet your own lived experience speaks to that fact.  Definitely, you don’t want to come across as pushy, since pressure tactics are  a big turn off.  Conversely, you cannot afford to allow assignments to fall through the cracks because you did not follow-up and help to shine a light on the pending project. You need a way to diplomatically keep your proposal on the front burner.

A useful tactic is to telephone or text the prospect three or four days after you’ve sent your proposal, to confirm that it has been received.  You may also ask when s/he would like to begin the project work.  Open the door a little wider and suggest that you would be happy to start work ASAP on some urgent action item, so that the deadline will be comfortably reached.

Freelance consultants have two jobs: finding projects and then completing those projects.  Our ability to survive financially is directly tied to this process.  As organizations continue to shrink  full-time workforces,  the number of Freelance consultants grows every day.  In order to compete successfully, a Freelancer must always be positioned to regularly sign clients and generate adequate revenue.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

Managing the Difficult Client

In your Freelance consulting venture you will work with dozens, if not hundreds, of clients.  Your experiences  with different clients will eventually allow you to recognize certain recurring personality types or working styles.  In your mission to retain clients over the long-term,  you will find it useful to understand the perspectives of the various personality types and learn to create successful,  or at least less fraught,  working relationships with them.

The attention craver

The onslaught of before or after office hours calls and voice mails will be your first clue that you have signed on with a high-maintenance,  controlling,  attention-craving client.  If you’re on a high-priority deadline project,  then the calls and emails may be part of what it takes to get the job done and impress the client with your work ethic,  business acumen and ability to guide the project to a successful completion.  But when the calls do not address an urgent matter…. hhhmmmm.

As noted with several of the difficult clients discussed in this and last week’s posts,  setting boundaries is recommended.  Answer the attention-craver’s calls or emails in a timely fashion.  If by your standards calls have been made during your personal time  (7:00 PM or after,  for example,  or on a weekend)  and the matter is not urgent,  politely state that while you appreciate updates,  you will be happy to address project matters by 8:00 AM on the next business day.  If you reach the client’s voice mail,  send an email to confirm your reply.

The analysis-paralysis specialist

The analysis-paralysis specialist is methodical,  prone to taking his/her time when evaluating matters and will likely respond well to credible data.  Getting a fast answer or decision may be a challenge.   S/he is afraid of doing the wrong thing by failing to consider the inevitable plusses and minuses of the choices presented.  Spreadsheets are favored.

If you have a recommended course of action,  compile statistics and case studies to support your opinion and invite other team members into a meeting with you to lend support.  It will be important to help this individual feel confident and ready to move forward.  Solid evidence and a consensus of opinions will be required.

The busy business owner

This overwhelmed CEO is most likely very happy to have you on board to manage an important project,  but s/he is perhaps unable to take full advantage of your expertise because s/he is too busy to adequately integrate you into the process,  or take the time to sit down and apprise you of the organization’s challenges, needs,  or opportunities and the services you can provide to address what is presented.

You can help the busy business owner and yourself by creating short reports that focus on key performance indicators that allow the busy one to access necessary information.  Concise progress reports,  documentation that milestones have been reached on time and other demonstrations of the results of your work will be appreciated. Try to schedule meetings when progress discussions should take place,  but keep them short and focused.  Send a list of questions when you schedule the meeting,  so that your busy client will be more likely to take the time to share project critical information.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Smart Questions for the Client Interview

A Freelance consultant’s first project specs meeting with a client or prospect is the time to start building the foundation for a successful working relationship.  A major element of a positive and productive relationship is your understanding of the client’s priorities,  which will allow you to assess what will be required to meet or exceed expectations.

Are you capable of doing the job alone, or must you subcontract some portion to a Freelance colleague ? Can you successfully complete the project within the client’s preferred time frame?  What will be your project fee or hourly rate?

Asking the right questions guarantees that you will receive the information that you’ll need.  As the meeting proceeds,  be sure to ask these three questions.  Your client will be happy that you did.

  1. What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 90 days?

Freelance consultants must hit the ground running. Unlike salaried employees,  there is no training or orientation period.  Often,  there are certain components of a project that organization leaders deem more critical than others. These components could be the most time-sensitive,  or simply the most urgent problems. If there are any front-burner issues,  you want to be prepared to take them on straight away.

     2.  What do you see as driving results for this project?

Getting your arms around these matters can make your project work easier and ensure that you achieve all milestones within the preferred time frame.

      3.  How does this project fit into the organization’s highest priorities?

Seeing the big picture is always helpful.  How important is your project to the company’s long-term strategy and mission-critical goals?  Your pricing will also be impacted by this knowledge. If the project is pivotal,  the smart Freelancer charges a premium.

Within 24 hours after the meeting,  send an email to confirm all major issues and agreements requested by the client and yourself  (think scope of duties,  milestones,  deadlines and your payment schedule). Your email can constitute the project contract and it has legal standing.

If your client would like you to perform additional tasks along the way, confirm that request, including the completion timetable, in writing and specify the additional fee and the payment due date.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

The Best of Times!

There has never been a better time to live the self-employed life. Jacob Morgan, co-founder and principal of Chess Media Group and author of The Future of Work (2014), researches how market forces, demographics, political forces and advances in technology will likely impact the global workforce over the coming years and his research indicates that self-employment has significant momentum. “The picture for Freelancers is very good. It’s going to be a huge area going forward.”

Morgan points out what most traditionally and independently employed workers have learned over the past two decades: the steady paycheck is going the way of the dinosaurs. Those who are now age 50 or above started a career and expected to work steadily and at increasing pay for 25 or 30 years and then collect a pension as a reward for their contributions.  Employment at one company was considered an accomplishment and job-hopping was seen as instability, if not disloyalty. Morgan’s research shows that now, the average worker is employed at a place of business for an average of five years and Millennial Generation workers last an average of three years. “Nowadays, when a company is struggling, the first thing it tends to do is cut jobs.”

Because Freelance consultants typically have a list of active clients, we are somewhat insulated from the whims of business owners. We win some projects and lose others, but unlike the traditionally employed, we will not be laid off and abruptly lose all of our income. We do not qualify for unemployment benefits, but that benefit eventually runs out. The Freelance money is sometimes less than ideal, but finding project work is much easier than finding traditional employment that pays more than $20/hour, especially when the job seeker is 50 years or older. Freelancers are not at the mercy of a single employer. We have more opportunities to create options for ourselves.

As companies shed permanent workers, the demand for project-specific professional help continues to rise and for Freelancers, that is a good thing. Much depends upon one’s skill set and local economy, but the next three years and most likely more than that, look promising. Deciding which of your competencies are the most marketable and discovering how to connect with available projects forms the heart of the Freelance business model.

The uncertainties inherent in Freelance employment can also carry advantages, one of which is that you might earn a great deal of money. Traditional employment comes with income caps, unless you are employed in luxury real estate sales, high finance or big-ticket sales (fields that are overwhelmingly closed to most people).

The traditionally employed have been finding that getting a raise is harder than ever. Employers are keeping the money to themselves. The best anyone seems to get is 3%.  Bonuses and commissions for many sales reps have likewise been cut. Middle class wages have been stagnant to falling for 25 years. I’ve done adjunct teaching for 10 years and I’ve never received a raise, regardless of a decades’ worth of good evaluations from my students.

In 2010, Intuit predicted that the independently employed workforce in the US will rise to 60 million by 2020. There are already many associations and other resources, such as the Freelancer’s Union https://www.freelancersunion.org, that give relevant support to us in many practical ways, such as facilitating the purchase of affordable medical and dental insurance. Co-working spaces are available to those who need per diem meeting space at an affordable price or shared office space for those who would like to interact with a cohort of like-minded Freelancers.

Morgan recommends that those who have full-time employment consider taking on Freelance work as an experiment. “Now is an excellent time to do it, but I would do it in a smart way…do a little moonlighting and see how it goes. If it goes well, devote more effort to it. if not, you’ll have learned it’s not for you.”

Thanks for reading,

Kim