“DISCOVERING FREELANCE CONSULTING” EVENT — WHAT WE LEARNT
On January, MMO Freelance held the ‘Discovering Freelance’ event at the Rainmaking Loft, London. With a tremendous turnout and some very warm feedback, it was a great night. My personal thanks to all those who attended and our 3 fantastic panellists: Bishin Ho, Phil Carrivick & Sutha Satkunrajah. The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly our panellists’ insight & advice. To ensure those who were unable to attend don’t miss out, here’s a summary of what was discussed on the night (with some useful links on each topic).
Setting up as a freelance consultant
Why would you become a freelancer?
- More control over your diary (book holidays in advance, take school holidays off, etc.)
- Being more selective with the projects you pursue (no project is mandatory)
- Flexible working day (factor in the school run, be home for your child’s bedtime)
- Earn a significantly higher salary versus permanent employment (assuming you maintain a healthy utilisation rate)
- Supplementary income when establishing a personal venture (establishing a start-up)
- Continue working when trying to find your next permanent role
Setting a day rate
- We’ve headlined the main ways to calculate your day rate in the following article
Limited company vs umbrella organisation vs sole trader
- The vast majority of freelancers opt for setting up as a limited company due to the tax benefits and the ability to maintain overall control of your finances (versus handing them over to a 3rd party umbrella organisation)
- The process of setting up a limited company can take as little as 1–2 days
Insurance (limited liability)
- Taking out adequate indemnity insurance for each project is essential. The amount of indemnity insurance will vary project by project (so it’s essential you have the right insurance & amount for every project).
- This article summarises many of the key fundamentals around setting up as a freelance consultant when you first start out.
Winning your first project
- Your personal network will be the most likely place to secure your first project (as these people already know the quality of your output & working style)
- Stay price competitive by dropping your ‘normal’ hourly/day rate by 10% to secure the first project
- Benchmark your rate against 2–3 other freelancers at a similar level to ensure you’re in line with the market
- Don’t be scared to say no to projects when you first start out. If you’re looking to build a platform within a specific sector/function, don’t hesitate to turn away projects that are outside of your ‘sweet spot’.
- It’s worth noting that it’s always worth letting a client down gently if you choose not to pursue a project. There may be opportunities to collaborate on something further down the road. A simple explanation goes a long way compared to a simple ‘no thanks — I’m not interested’.
- Be strategic in which clients you approach when you start out — don’t just email your CV to every client you know. Write a well-tailored cover letter & CV to a specific selection of clients, illustrating why you’d be a good fit for them
- It’s important to develop relationships with both line managers and HR/Procurement professionals within a target business. While the line managers may bring work to the table, it’s HR/Procurement who will open or close the door for you — so it’s worth treating them with the same respect you give line managers!
- This article discusses the growing demand for freelance consultants across a wide range of clients. It’s definitely worth a read if you need some inspiration around which industries could be good business development hunting grounds for you.
Adapting CV & Cover Letters for freelance roles
- Every project listed on your CV should include a brief overview of the work, as well as a summary of the outcomes (only if they’re positive of course). For instance, instead of just writing ‘worked on a growth strategy for a leading FMCG firm’, it’s worthing adding another line to say ‘majority of recommendations were implemented. Has led to a % growth so far’. That’s the hook that really draws in hiring managers when reading your CV, it illustrates tangible results.
- This article talks about the importance of including a cover letter in every freelance application — competition for freelance projects is growing so it’s important to differentiate yourself whenever possible.
- When using agencies or platforms (like Movemeon), it’s essential you remain vigilant how your CV is used. Qualify with every recruiter that in no situation can your CV be shared to prospective clients without your permission. FYI — Movemeon never shares your CV or personal information with any client without your explicit permission.
Effective client management
- Always try to manage client expectations & arrange regular feedback sessions to help build trust. This is especially true for clients who’ve never worked with consultants before. It’s very easy to go off on a tangent and walk down a very different path to what the client was expecting or hoping for — so best to keep communication channels open!
- Be patient — many clients won’t come from consulting backgrounds so may struggle to structure thoughts/ideas as logically as you do. Take your time to explain anything where necessary and drop the jargon. Consultants become accustomed to working alongside high calibre (often like-minded) people, so it’s a transition to be considerate of (especially at the more junior end when you would have had less client interaction on project).
- Build relationships with people outside of your ‘core’ team, wherever possible. Grab lunch with someone new every week, be social where possible, don’t be scared to integrate with the team when invited for after work activities. Chances are there may be follow-on projects so it’s always nice to have some friendly faces to go back to.
- Towards the end of the project, remember to set up a feedback session with your direct manager to provide you feedback on your performance and areas to improve (if it’s not already scheduled, insist on arranging one). This is great for both personal development and also really reinforces to clients what a great job you’ve done (or areas to improve on next time).
- It’s easy for clients to forget you after a project wraps ups, however, the feedback session enables clients to devote dedicated time to assess your performance. If you’ve done a great job when on a project, feedback sessions normally end with ‘if anything comes up like this again, we’ll definitely give you a call first’ — the freelance equivalent of a slam dunk (establishing client loyalty).
Things to consider when on project
- Remember, you’re an expensive resource, so try to be faster, better and more efficient than everyone around you
- Strike the right balance between being social & professional. It’s easy to get caught up in ‘office chat’, but be selective when you join in versus when to just put your head down and drill through your work. There’s nothing more off-putting for a hiring manager than hiring facing a tight deadline and finding you giving an in-depth critique of the restaurant you frequented last night. You’re not only failing to deliver against your own tight deadlines, you’re distracting others from completing theirs.
- On the other hand, it’s important to contribute and remain social wherever possible. If you’ve had a productive morning and worked through the majority of your to-do list, ask a colleague to go grab lunch together. Doing a great job on project is not only about delivering great output, it’s also important to develop great relationships with the people your work with.
- More often than not, the actual work you produce will be forgotten (unless it monumentally good or bad). What you were like to work with is what will linger in the minds of most. It’s important to remember that there will be other freelancers in the market who can produce the same output as you, however, your working style and the impression you leave on others is unique to you.
Life outside of Freelancing
Importance in continuing personal & professional development
- When leaving any permanent role, you’re normally walking away from a well-structured training programme designed to enhance your skills & experience. This is especially true of consulting, with significant time & resource put into training consultants — in everything from communication through to advanced modelling.
- It’s important when you become a freelancer to actively devote time to continue your personal development. Researching and take courses & personal study — whether that’s keeping an ear close to the ground for your industry (through reading journals) or learning new skills that are growing in demand.
- It’s important you remain ‘relevant’ and ahead of market demand for certain skills. For example, many industries have been going through the process of digitisation in recent years and the number of freelancers picking up basic coding/UX design skills has significantly risen. This simply adds another facet to their freelancing arsenal, so when that cool, sexy fin-tech startup comes knocking, they are more than equipped to help.
Understanding why you’re freelancing
- It’s important to take some self-reflection time to think about why you’re freelancing (especially if it’s because of unforeseen circumstances i.e redundancy). Is it finding a better work-life balance or simply having more control over your diary?
- It’s important to take the time to consider these points as they’ll help dictate how you develop your freelancing career. For instance, if you realise you’re striving for a better work-life balance with less travel, then perhaps you shouldn’t be sending out your CV for value creation projects to global Private Equity firms. It might sound simple, but it’s easy to be swayed by certain projects.
- It’s important to first ask yourself if you win this piece of work, how does it fit in with your reasons for being a freelancer. If you find yourself consecutively working on similar projects and these projects go against the reasons for you wanting to freelance, then perhaps you should consider finding a permanent role in that space instead.
We look forward to hopefully welcoming you to our next freelance event. Until then… Happy Freelancing!
This article was originally published on: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/discovering-freelance-consulting-event-what-we-learnt-rosser?published=t