First 30 days as a Consultant
So, it had been little over a month since I began to officially work as a freelancer. My parents back home are going crazy with my decision, just like any other parent would, if their daughter/son quits a full-time job and goes freelancing. My sister in fact had the most graphic reaction, it was a combination of 2 emojis in WhatsApp - the eyes popping out and the face palm. So, I was determined mission to first get the family on board with my decision. Family is a huge emotional support, trust me. Meanwhile, I had enrolled for the course Influencing People and decided to use the social proof influencing tactic which was taught in the class on my folks to get their buy-in. Now since medicine profession and doctors are so socially acceptable, I gave my family the example of a consulting surgeon who doesn't limit his expertise to just one set of patients coming to one particular hospital but instead expands his services to the patient, irrespective of the hospital she/he goes to. And Hola! they said it made more sense now, but then I should definitely have a plan for the finances, which is a very valid aspect of freelancing. So goal 1- achieved with full marks :D.
So in my first month as a freelancer:
1) I practised my pitch. I bombarded my friends, acquaintances and ex-colleagues with emails and follow-ups. It is good to circulate to a wide audience since the clients would come from varied backgrounds and may not necessarily understand the context. Hence doing this, adds to your perspective and enhancing your pitch. I admit my pitch is not perfect yet and I keep finding issues. But hey, that hasn't stopped me from reaching out to clients. I know my USP and the gap in the social space very well and feel confident to say it loud. Regarding the whole exercise of the pitch, I would want to acknowledge that I failed at a job interview for an organisation (can't take the name here) who asked me to sell their idea in the interview. And they did make it obvious throughout their interaction that is one area which I am not good at, including during the final interaction. Although I was bitter initially because despite repeated acknowledgement of my shortcoming but they pursued my candidature only to point out what I already knew by then! But now when I reflect I think that is best exposure to pitching I could ever got. Today, my mission is to get it right effectively!
2) I grabbed every opportunity to network and meet people in similar profile. To my surprise all the people I met were extremely helpful, secure and confident . I primarily focus on offering my services to social enterprises and I found that the consulting space is huge in this sector and there are no starkly visible insecurities. I started a meetup group for consultants in social sector and we met once last month for an introductory meeting, there is another meetup scheduled on June 10 in Bangalore to discuss our experiences. So if you want to join in do check the details Here
3) The first few days of freelancing, I worked randomly and soon got frustrated as I wasn't doing any tangible work! I realised I needed to get my act together, else things will remain at ideation level only. I started setting daily and weekly targets for myself. I planned my day and divided time into doing research, reaching out to clients, networking, completing tasks and working on my portfolio. Besides these, also kept aside time for reading or writing. This gave me a clear picture of where I stood but also on what I should do and I shouldn't.
4) I cleaned up my LinkedIn network (Just to clarify, this is work in progress). Yes, I removed a lot of connections, accepted invites which that the potential of mutual benefit and sent out invites to people introducing myself and the purpose of the connect. That way, I took the first steps towards building an effective network.
5) Lot of people ask me, so what do you? You sit at home whole day and work? My response is yes, I do "sit" at home and work, but the luxury soon runs out! Honestly, as a freelancer you got to put in more hours of productive work than a full-time job. You are literally doing everything that an enterprise would do! You just cannot afford to waste time or day dream.
6) Worked on being flexible and responsive. I heard somewhere and was also told by experienced freelancers that the clients expect immediate response on multiple platforms - email, WhatsApp, SMS or phone calls. So I am always on that mode, except in situations where I donot have access to my smartphone. That reminds me I need to exchange my MotoG 3rd generation phone soon, it just conks off and heats up at the speed of a hair dryer!
The first month taught me to be better at what I do, including keeping myself sane through the peaks and valleys. I think it is okay to give yourself few days to unwind initially, feel nervous, get scared about not getting work and then be overwhelmed with work (yet to reach that stage). http://www.mattayres.co.uk/blog/adventure-time shares the stages of freelancing perfectly! (found this blog during my valleys). I have a long way to go and a huge list of to-do things is pending :)
Do share your comments or suggestions or references.
I had written and published this post on June 6, 2017 in LinkedIn