Staff writer, Consultant-News.com
Special to ZDNet
Contract consultants and freelancers this month gathered at Top-Consultant.com's seminar "Becoming a Truly Successful Freelance Consultant" in order to gain insights into how to maximize earnings, achieve an optimal work-life balance and operate in the most tax-efficient manner possible.
The lessons learned on the day were numerous, however, some questions addressed in the sessions could prove a useful checklist for any readers currently operating as freelancers—or aspiring to do so. Input on the day was provided by the specialist presenters: John Niland of Success121; Patrick Chapman of the Institute of Management Consultancy and Cornwell Management Consultants plc; Dr Simon Juden of the Professional Contractors' Group; Simon Dolan of specialist accountancy firm SJD Accountancy; and Dave Pavitt and Tony Ryan of B2B Sales Consulting.
Readers' checklist for freelance success
1. Time is your key constraint. Are you optimizing your business processes and outsourcing administrative tasks so that you minimize unbillable time and maximize time spent billing clients or at home with your family?
2. Many consultants prefer problem-solving to prospecting – but this is to your detriment. Unless you are constantly prospecting and building your personal brand in the marketplace, you will always suffer from an extremely accentuated feast and famine cycle. Do you have systems in place which ensure that every day your name is becoming more and more known in the marketplace?
3. To be successful consultants must have both exceptional consulting skills and client relationships that are rooted in trust. Are you doing everything you can to forge strong relationships at all levels within both your client organizations and also the wider sector you serve?
4. Do you charge for your time by the day or do you price according to value? To maximize earnings we need to spend more of our time on paid assignments, and be paid more whilst on those paid assignments. So managing your time and learning to sell based on the value you deliver are key skills for all consultants, especially those that are self-employed.
5. Do you delegate the prospecting—perhaps by creating your own info product that can be freely distributed amongst clients, providing online content or a news bulletin or running an automated referral-generation system?
6. Do you work predominantly through an agency/ responding to requirements that have already been determined by a client... or do you actually help the client to see they have a problem and scope out a project that will solve the problem? If you are only ever working on assignments that have already been set in stone by your client, you will only ever be paid on a "time" basis rather than on a "value" basis. You have turned yourself into a commodity and are competing with hundreds of other freelancers with similar skills to your own when you try to secure that assignment.
Start up questions for the independent consultant
1. Can you deliver something special or just cheaper than the competition?
2. Do you have a compelling market message/value proposition?
3. Have you done everything you can do cost-effectively to make yourself look professional and credible?
4. Is there some way you could use your existing network to make your new venture a success?
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