When I decided to leave the security of the corporate world and to venture out on my own in late 2001, I was prepared for unpredictability. I knew that I should aim to secure at least two to three regular clients because it’s difficult to control revenue flow and because contacts go cold quickly. I also knew that it could be a lonely experience and that I needed a good support network.
What nobody told me though, and what I would have valued knowing at the start of my freelance journey, were the following six important things which I have learned for myself along the way.
1. You are always an outsider
You are never fully part of a team, no matter how closely or how long you work together with one. This is a fact of life as a consultant that you just have to accept. The beneficial aspect of this though, is that you can be exempt from office politics and you can remain objective.
2. People confide their secrets and problems to you
Typically, this happens when people don’t trust the confidentiality of HR or if they have problems with their immediate boss. Being given this kind of knowledge is, in my view, a huge responsibility which must be treated carefully, sensitively and confidentially.
3. It's very easy to be viewed as a threat
This is especially true if you are called in to work with teams or individuals that are not performing well. In these cases, I’ve had to learn to develop a thick skin and to be especially diplomatic.
4. You cannot be effective unless you are fully endorsed by senior management
And their support needs to be visible within all levels and throughout the organisation. People always follow the leader and if the leader is not seen to be collaborating with you, some will feel it’s not necessary to co-operate or even work with you.
5. If they want you, they want you
At the end of the day, no matter how much networking and following up of leads and contacts you do, I’ve found that if they call you first, you are far more likely to get the contract than if you chase them relentlessly.
6. It’s a very small world
You really never know where and when people you’ve worked with will turn up again so it’s important never to burn any bridges and always to be careful what you say and to whom.