Part Fifteen: Self-Employment (Part 2)

This is the fifteenth part of a series of mini guides which aims to help you find a career you love. They include tips from me but also practical advice from some of the hundreds of individuals who I have coached over the last 10 years, the sort of things they may have shared with friends or family going through a career move.

If you are marketing yourself as a consultant, it is important that you think about what problems you can solve rather than focussing on previous roles that you have had. If you are setting up as a contractor or interim tailor your areas of expertise to make it clear what you can do for your clients. As a consultant, I recommend that you pick 3 or 4 service areas that you will be providing and put together a one-page document explaining how these services can solve your client’s problems with only a brief overview of your background to establish credibility. It really helps to define who are your target customers and have those front of mind in all your marketing concentrating on what you can do to help them.

“Developing the 1 pager was fantastic.  It took some time to develop it but it is the one thing that I now use to sell my services.  it has all the information at first glance”

Make sure your LinkedIn profile presents the same message as your one-pager.

“LINKEDIN profile – this made the biggest difference in procuring work. Not sure the website presence really did – they are buying my services and want to know about me (this might change in time but for now not sure that social media channel is where I derive business)”

Then it is down to networking to spread your message.

“I have started initially to contact people I already know in the network and I sent them the information.  This has resulted in some hits.  The next step is to send info to companies that you believe may need your services.”

“The most important thing I did was to speak to the contacts I had who may be prospective clients – this involved understanding how they use consultants like me and helped me refine or broaden the services I should offer and how best to describe them.  These initially informal conversations also helped gauge whether this would be a viable option.”

I spent time talking to people I knew - friends and colleagues who worked for themselves to understand how they went about it - understanding their learnings & pitfalls and trying to learn from them - I probably saw circa 10 -12 people, so not an insignificant number. The actual process of setting up wasn't that difficult - again using colleagues' contacts - easier than I expected.”

“I guess it’s the usual thing about getting in front of potential clients, accepting that not every conversation will come to anything, being agile and seizing new opportunities with existing clients, etc.”

“I networked like mad - not easy for me - I bought an FT Guide "Business Networking" by Heather Townsend which provided me with some tips and I just went for it.  I didn't want to get into paying for any of the networking clubs but I tried a few on a trial basis for free and always took the opportunity to hand out my business card.  I also picked up with my professional body (CIPD) and became a panel member on one of their Special Interest groups - this got me an "in" with a few solicitors who contacted me when they had clients who needed 3rd party help.  I found that I didn't need a website in the end - the networking was enough for me.”

A question I am often asked is about what rates to charge. This is not an exact science but it is important to understand your worth and not undersell yourself. My advice is to fully research the market rates, asking your contacts how much they have paid for similar services.

As recent events have unfortunately proved there is no certainty of revenue stream so you need to understand that you can live with that level of uncertainty and also have a buffer of savings to cope in leaner times.

“I think the biggest thing I stressed about and, on reflection, know I didn't always get fully right was my day rate. I think this was to do with my own level of confidence and was something I struggled with as an employee, so it was no surprise that this transposed to working out my value to the client. I understood how to technically calculate it, but I still wasn't confident.  I developed a flexible rate card in the end but often went in lower.  Clearly, when you do this, it makes it difficult to renegotiate a bigger increase further down the line, if you are asked back.  What I'd say to myself starting over is to have confidence in your own ability and experience, work out a rough figure, add on 20% to that figure (as it's probably still undervalued), and then benchmark this with recruitment agents to see what work is around at that day rate - they will give you an idea if you are miles off the mark.”

“Be really clear about your services and do not reveal your rates (wait till you have the role, meet with the company/client then discuss rates)”

“Have a sheet of rates worked out and prepared ahead of any work discussions and include: Daily rate, Half Day rate, Hourly rate. Useful to have this as a document to send to people”

Finally don’t forget to ask clients for references and maybe develop case studies as you finish client projects.

“Always ask your clients if they are happy for you to reference them in your materials/Linkedin & website.”

This series of mini guides will give you some practical tips and hints from people that have been through it and found what they are looking for. The next one is about the first 80 days

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