As an independent Consultant you learn a lot about yourself. You face challenges great and small that you never would have as an employee. On the other hand, you also discover strengths you might have never thought you had. You might discover you are not too good with deadlines, or how easy it is to lose motivation when you’re working alone. When it comes to clients, most of us working independently have to accept that ‘you win some, you lose some’; while you might love being your own boss, losing your own client because you didn’t handle them might feel much worse than when you were an employee .
At Flexing It, we engage with hundreds of freelance professionals every day. Many of them face similar challenges and are driven by similar factors when making the career, and life, decision of leaving full time employment to work independently. When you’re learning the ropes as a freelancer, you have a lot on your plate. You need to learn how to be your own project lead, operations, finance and marketing, simultaneously, and reinventing the wheel can be a costly exercise. This week we we’ve put together a list of 5 common mistakes to avoid making whilst you’re building your career as an independent consultant:
1. Putting all your eggs in one basket
You may have an anchor client, or one you enjoy working with who keeps renewing your contract. But as a freelancer you need to spread your risks. You may get really lucky one month, or for a whole year, but in today’s competitive business environment you can’t take anything for granted. Invest time in developing your network and make sure you spend enough time on marketing yourself and cultivating a pipeline of prospective projects.
2. Not listening enough
Selling yourself is key, but once the deal is done one of the most common traps which can hamper a client-consultant relationships is when the latter fails to listen properly and has an incomplete understanding of the problem at hand. Before gunning for a solution stop to ask yourself if are you really listening to what your client is saying? A lack of clarity in communication can put major hurdles in the way of completing a project effectively even once you have signed on.
3. Undercharging for your services
Anyone who has worked for themselves is familiar with this dilemma. Many consultants feel they undercharge for their services and that can be bad for motivation levels, trust and ultimately efficiency. Peers, past colleagues and past salary references can be useful resources but keeping yourself updated with this inside information is a challenge. The Flexing It community can also leverage our FeeBee tool which benchmarks fees based on data shared by hundreds of consultants on what they charge for their services across industries.
4. Overcharging for your services
While charging less might be a common problem among consultants, the reverse is not the solution. It can be difficult for consultants but also for employers to put a value on consulting work, and there is a lot of grey area to navigate in a market like India where the culture of flexible work arrangements is still new. Use tools like Flexing It’s Fee Calculator which helps you calculate an appropriate fee based on your expected annual income expectation, scope of work and industry benchmarks.
5. Never saying NO to projects
Business loves positive affirmations! However, as freelancer, learning to put a cap on the amount of work you can take on is an important survival skill. The prospects may be unlimited and exciting but at the end of the day your personal brand is built on how well you deliver, and inefficiency is detrimental to your reputation in the market. Learn how to say no when you are spreading yourself too thin, and pass on projects you won’t be able to execute effectively.