As somebody once said, “work is never a linear process, but rather a cyclical maze of ups and downs”. And how much more challenging that is facing that cycle on your own as an independent consultant. Once the excitement of a new independent lifestyle has died down, and you’ve settled yourself into a new routine, just how do you balance the peaks and troughs of a new career venture to ensure sustainability as a self-employed, independent consultant?
We have put together some of our favourite advice from other independent consultants who, in their own ways, overcome these challenges daily.
1. Never stop thinking about the next win
While you can never change the cycle, planning ahead equips you for those times when things feel just a little too quiet. “As someone now working for myself, I quickly developed the skill to constantly think about the next opportunity, the next win, and how the project I was currently working on could help give me there,” Andrew tells us. Where in the past, habit forced Andrew to merely think of the project at hand - and let the rest of the team look ahead, Andrew has had to adapt to a multi-tasker who delivers today, and strategises for tomorrow.
2. Network-building never stops!
When Brigitte took her step towards independent consulting, she knew that the only way she was going to build her future as a self-employed professional, was to align herself with a supportive network and infrastructure of like-minded individuals – who would end up playing a huge role in her development as an independent consultant. In fact, she got to the point where her own network was no longer affording her new business opportunities, and she realised that in order to succeed, she needed to look for new communities to become part of. “I knew that I had to find new organisations and communities to become part of that would provide access to new clients while at the same time provide a sense of community”, she tells us. A community evolves and develops, new clients arrive and old clients leave. To successfully build a strategy that delivers opportunity for you, constantly maintaining your network is a fundamental part to managing the quiet periods.
3. Get busy in the quiet times
A quiet time should never be down-time, but rather an opportunity to spend time on yourself to refine, revisit and redevelop your business and what it means to your clients. One of the most common anecdotes we hear often from independent workers is that so often, they are so busy they are on a client’s business, that they often risk completely neglecting their own. Take the quiet times as gifts of time to allow you to plan, get active and prepare for the next wave - whether that means writing a new blog article, developing new relationships in professional groups, reviewing your product offering or even exploring new markets. Quiet times provide the perfect opportunity for you to get back to the core of what you offer, and give you the room to breathe as you start planning for new exciting directions.
4. Rainy-day savings
When times are good, they are really good. But when the going gets tough, it’s easy to lose focus. And when it comes to practicalities of managing career peaks and troughs as independent worker, there is no bigger piece of advice and then save, save, save. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself consulting on retainer projects or long-term activities, then it may be easy to become accustomed to a regular income. And when a project comes to an end, you very quickly realise perhaps you could’ve done more to plan for the inevitable. Huibre, an independent marketing and export manager for a well-known wine estate says, “I live by the six-month rule. Always have enough money in the bank to support yourself for six months on the lifestyle you live now. And if ever you are tested to put those savings to use, reduce your expenses by half, and you will support yourself for a year”. So when the time is good, make sure your savings are too.
5. Consider your client's long-term life cycle
Simon, an independent creative consultant and strategic marketing director, realised that he had to change the way he thought about projects from a short term, stopgap solution, to something that provided longevity, new business opportunity and repeat business. “I realised that I had to change my thinking. Most projects I was pitching on had a very defined end-point with very little scope for a next phase or growth cycle. When I realised that the success of tomorrow depended on the planning of today, it very quickly changed the way that I approached proposals. I started to look at my client’s life cycle, their next step, their growth, and started to build that into the vision of my initial project proposal - A very different approach to what I’ve been used to. And it worked. My clients started to see me as an integral function within their growth process - providing them with experienced skill throughout their journey, and me with a constantly evolving new business opportunities.”
Catch our live webinar on how to master peaks and troughs in work featuring tips from two experienced independent consultants.
About the AuthorMore Content by Katy Roberts