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Top 10 Tips For New Consultants and Freelancers

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					Top 10 Tips For New Consultants and Freelancers
It can take years to learn the inside tips and techniques for success in
an independent consulting career. Certain industries may have insider
secrets that can help you achieve success in a given field, and you
should seek out a mentor who works in your industry that would be willing
to help you learn the ropes. There are also some general best practices
that can be applied across any consulting field to help you realize
success.
1. Plan ahead. Develop procedures in advance, and write them down for
future reference. You'll be more consistent in your communication with
your clients, and consistency is good in your clients' minds, because
they know what they can expect from you. Try to plan for different
situations that could occur, and when the unexpected happens, you'll be
better prepared.
2. Develop a marketing plan and stick to it, even when business is
booming. The number one trap new consultants fall into is the feast or
famine syndrome. You should certainly make adjustments to your marketing
strategy if something isn't working, but you should dedicate a certain
amount of time and energy to consistent marketing efforts on a daily or
weekly basis, even when business is good. While it's true that you will
experience ebbs and flows in the amount of business you have coming in,
you can take steps to ensure that your cash flow is more consistent than
not. By following a marketing plan, you'll be sure to continue your
efforts even when you've got more business than you can handle. Don't
fall prey to the idea that you shouldn't market your services because you
can't take on any more assignments. When your current pipeline of work
dries up, you'll wish you had spent that little bit of time on marketing
your business a few months back!
3. Always continue your education. You're an expert in your field, and
you've got the experience and talent to follow through with what you
promise your clients. But there is always something you could be
learning, whether you're studying new ways to make your business run more
efficiently, new developments in your field, or new skills altogether.
You'll keep your mind sharp, and you'll always be able to offer your
clients the most current advances and knowledge available. Attending
special conferences and seminars in your field can also be tremendously
valuable networking to build your pipeline of future projects.You could
also add to your repertoire by learning a new skill that complements your
existing services, which can help differentiate you from your competition
and may help protect your business during downswings in the economy.
4. Develop a niche. You should always work on building your skill set,
but becoming a specialist in a niche area, or becoming known for a
particular quality of service, can put you in high demand among the
businesses that need your expertise. Being a specialist can enhance your
brand identity, and can also help differentiate you from your
competition. While you tailor your services into niche areas, be su re to
keep your foundation strong, and keep an eye on the marketplace to make
sure the niche you select won't make you vulnerable to obsolescence.
5. Save yourself time and money by using a portable employer of record.
Many successful independent consultants and freelancers utilize the
services of a portable employer of record. These companies handle
invoicing and collections, which can take up a significant chunk of a
consultant's time. Working with a portable employer of record also
eliminates the need to set up a formal business entity, and simplifies
the tax-management and record-keeping process. Think about what would
make the most sense for your particular situation; would your time be
better spent doing billable work for clients, or does it make more sense
in your case to handle invoicing and collections on your own? When
shopping for a firm to support your back office, be sure to ask a lot of
questions and compare different options.
6. Always have a signed contract in place. Even if you're doing wor k for
an acquaintance, it's very important to have a contract. Your contract
should clearly explain the scope of your project to avoid any confusion
and any potential disagreements down the line. Be sure to outline the
limits of what your project includes, what your client is responsible for
completing or providing, the timeframe, your fees, and payment terms.
Don't sign bad contracts, and don't let anyone tie you up with non-
competes clauses that would keep you from being able to accept future
projects with another client.
7. Practice patience and understanding. You're a consultant, an expert
your client hired to help solve a problem. That doesn't mean that they
will always be willing to take and follow your advice without complaint.
Chances are, at some point your solution for one of your clients is going
to require a significant amount of work, change, or money on their part,
and they may question your advice. It's the nature of business -- not
every client or customer will be the most pleasant to deal with -- but
it's part of your job to learn to eloquently handle difficult situations
while leaving everyone satisfied. In addition, be prepared for the
possibility that in your client's office culture, consultants and
freelancers may have a less than favorable reputation. Be as graceful as
possible -- this is the tradeoff for not having to put up with the office
politics of a traditional work arrangement.
8. Ask for referrals. One of the easiest ways to get new clients is from
a recommendation from other satisfied customers. Advertising and
marketing has its place, but nothing beats a strong testimonial. In
addition, plan to be able to showcase past successes to win new business.
Get permission to mention clients, use them as references, or showcase
your work for them in a portfolio or case study.
9. Learn effective time management. Building a successful consulting
practice takes a great deal of energy and persistence. You will have to
work long hours at times, and you may have to dedicate many more hours to
a project than you originally planned in order to complete a job
adequately. As you gain experience, you'll learn to better estimate how
long a project can take, but in the meantime, you'll have to learn to
prioritize, delegate when possible, and complete tasks as efficiently as
possible. Use calendar or project management software so that you always
have a grasp on what needs to happen, when.
10. Have fun! You went into business for yourself because you love what
you do. Keep hold of that passion, and you'll learn to overcome any
obstacle that comes in your way. Your love of your career will show in
your dealings with your clients, and in your finished work. That means
satisfied clients, and greater success for you! Nothing can be sweeter
than enjoying the benefits of waking up every day to a profitable career
that you enjoy.
Angela Stringfellow is a Marketing Communications Consultant. She
recommends using a Portable Employer of Record to make a smooth
transition from traditional employment to a successfu l independent
consulting career.

				
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posted:10/15/2010
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