3 Rules to Freelance Consulting Success
When my father left his industry to become a consultant, he was as much of a business rookie as any of the new freelancers who visit this site. Since we’re talking about the early 1980s, business advice for solo practitioners wasn’t as plentiful as it is today.
So, my dad made the trek down the very long driveway of a highly successful neighbor named Richard. He and his family didn’t just have a house in the neighborhood — they had an estate. That’s where being a world-renowned expert in your field can get you.
During their conversation, Richard offered three rules of consulting success.
1. Always charge three times what you think you’re worth.
This can be a tough one for creative freelancers because we’re in much more competitive lines of work than Richard. He had worked in the direct mail marketing field for decades, was renowned as an expert, and clients knew that if they wanted Richard’s advice, they’d pay dearly for it.
These days, people pay good money for talent.. Are you charging enough for yours?
Of course, you’re not going to start your freelancing career from an estate like Richard’s. Very few of us do. But take a look around this site. Take special notice of the people posting comments after stories like this one, and those who are participating in the Freelance Forum. Follow links to their sites and you’re going to see some real talent.
These days, people pay good money for talent.. Are you charging enough for yours? Take a tip from Richard and think about your hourly or project rate. Then multiply that amount by three. Be brave! Some clients won’t go along with you, but the ones who do? Wow! Talk about lucrative.
2. Never work for anyone below the boss.
Ever had one of those projects where the real decision maker wasn’t the person you were dealing with? The kind where she had to run every little thing past her supervisor?
This additional layer of decision making can add days, if not weeks or months, to a project. Best way to avoid this problem is during the prospect qualification stage. Ask your contact person if there’s anyone else who needs to be involved in the decision making. Chances are that if she’s not the boss, she’ll say who is.
Even if you end up working with Ms. Not The Boss, ask to meet The Boss. If nothing else, this will allow The Boss to associate your name with a face. Such familiarity may help move things along.
3. Don’t work for people you don’t like.
This site’s weekly “Ask FreelanceSwitch” is full of stories of good client relationships gone bad. Some of those relationships are salvageable. Other are not.
Although it’s best to trust your gut and avoid getting into client relationships where something doesn’t seem right, the real world doesn’t always work this way. I certainly don’t have to tell you that we’re in a tough economy. Like jobs, freelance gigs are very hard to come by. Thus, it’s easy to find yourself working with a hellacious client just to keep the money coming in.
Then there are those client relationships that start out like a lot of romances. Your client seems like the loveliest person on earth! It’s the greatest honeymoon ever! Once reality comes crashing down on your head, you’re looking for some way – any way – out of the relationship.
We’ve all been there. Best thing to do? Find a way to make a graceful exit. Do one project with these people, then go your separate ways. If they come back, be really busy, even if it’s working morning, noon, and night on finding nicer people to work with. Or you could greatly increase the rate that you charge them for a project – some people call this the “Jerk Tax”.
Of course, the easiest thing to do is limit your practice to pleasant people who appreciate your work – and pay promptly. Take heart. They’re out there.