When I took the leap from corporate to freelance work a few years ago, I was both frightened and empowered. I knew I had gained some valuable knowledge and skills in my corporate job, and I was confident I could provide valuable assistance to other businesses.
But I didn’t realize I needed to UNtrain myself in order to be a successful consultant.
My approach, my mindset, and my attitude all needed some serious adjustments, and it took me awhile to figure that out.
So if you’re thinking about taking the leap from corporate to freelance, here are some ways you can shift your mindset before you take the jump.
Multi-tasking is Masochism
In the corporate world, everyone seems to have this in common: too many projects, too many meetings, not enough budget. Am I right? So we end up hiring candidates who are multi-tasking warriors. We even ask them about this specific skill when we interview them: “Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple projects on a tight deadline, and how you handled that.” Sound familiar?
But when you’re a freelance consultant, you are team member, manager, and project manager all in one! And if you try to multi-task different client work, you will end up disappointing your clients and wanting to throw your laptop out the window.
You have to take each client, each client project, ONE at a time. I use my Google calendar to schedule out EVERYthing, from client work to workouts. And I know myself well enough now to know that my sweet spot is taking on one to three client projects in a week. And when I block out time for a project, I only work on THAT project during that block of time, and nothing else.
Because–here’s the beauty of freelancing–I can hang up my Do Not Disturb sign. My boss isn’t calling. My team isn’t knocking on my door. I am truly in control of my time, so I make sure to devote my full and complete attention to each project, and I do my best not to get distracted.
PS: Do yourself a favor and schedule some free time in-between those project blocks too. A 5-minute Vitamin D break or a 15-minute walk around the block ensures you’re ready to give your whole mind and focus to the next project too.
It’s All About Me. No, Really.
At my last job, I managed a team, so I was always talking about what “we” accomplished or achieved together. It was so ingrained in my vernacular, actually, that a recruiter for another corporate job I was considering before I decided to freelance called me out on it. “Your resumé is great,” she said. “But who is the ‘we’ you keep mentioning? I need to know what YOU personally contributed and achieved.”
As a freelance consultant, humility is NOT a virtue. I had to get comfortable talking about the knowledge I have, the praise I have garnered, the skills I have that make me unique and knowledgeable.
I had to learn how to toot my own horn. Not in an arrogant or boastful way, but with a confident certainty that helps my potential clients realize that what I have to offer is what they need. Every initial client consultation is a job interview. So you’d better be ready, and shelve that humility for a bit.
A Little More Flow, A Little Less Hustle
In corporate land, you often don’t have much say in which projects you work on. Most assignments are given to you–by your boss, your boss’s boss, etc.
As a freelance consultant, you have the freedom to choose whatever projects and clients you want to work on. Awesome, right?!
But there is a common problem for many of us freelancers: feast or famine. Meaning, oddly enough, one month clients are knocking down your door like crazy, and the next you are knocking on THEIRS begging for work.
I don’t know why those flurries occur (cosmic energy? quarterly budgets?) but I can attest to their absolute existence.
So as a freelance consultant, you have to come up with your own ways to ride out the waves, because there’s no big boss to come hand you your next gig.
Here’s what I’ve learned: I schedule my hustle into my flow. When client work is leaner, I start to schedule in time for networking events, polishing up my social media game, and learning new skills. Yes, I put those things on my calendar too.
And you know what inevitably happens when I start connecting and learning? I meet new clients. I learn new stuff to attract new clients. And my regular clients start calling again too.
The key is not to panic–or park yourself on the couch to Netflix for a solid week either. Keep doing your work, and the tide will come back in.
Make YES Your Favorite Word
So often in my corporate job, I had to find ways to tactfully say no. There wasn’t enough time, or budget, or resources to do some of the projects I really wanted to do. Of course there were some I was happy to say no to also.
Now that my time is my own, I try to say yes as much as I can. Time is still money, so I can’t say yes to everything. But when I am approached to volunteer for an organization I admire, or to attend a new event or networking group, or even to have a conversation with a head hunter when I’m not in the market for another corporate job–I say YES. Because you never know whom you might meet, or what connections you might make that lead to the start of something wonderful.
I still listen to my gut and if it doesn’t make sense for me, I will politely decline. But I really like to say yes now, because I can. And it feels so much better than always saying no.
And if you need some help with marketing, writing, or editorial, come on over and see me at Purple Ink Creative, I’d love to help!