Getting into the world of contract or consultant work is something of an ideal in the modern work-force. It’s the ultimate evolution of the worker into something that goes beyond individual companies. Rather than the employee needing the company, the paradigm shifts. The employee’s skills have become such that the company must have them. Some people achieve this through years of dedicated ladder climbing before they reach a platform where they can step off the ladder.
Some achieve it much earlier, leveraging contacts or creating them where they are needed. Regardless, this model of self-employment is becoming more and more popular in the age of start-ups and quick-moving business. To that end, more people are discovering that it takes more than a glistening resume to survive in the self-employed marketplace of today, it takes a particular set of personality traits to truly thrive. Because we all love a theme, here are the 5 ‘F’ words of being a contractor or consultant.
Once you’ve gotten a ‘regular’ job, friendliness may fall to the way-side, only important if you wish to make friends at the job. But a self employed individual must live on their reputation. Whether at networking events, on phone calls, on-site or wherever you maintain relationships, friendliness is an absolute must. For instance, did you know that doctors who kindly misdiagnose patients with a smile are about as likely to get sued for malpractice as doctors who rudely diagnose someone correctly? What do you think this says? It speaks to the weight of kindness. Efficient will never be enough, efficient with a smile, there’s business, recommendations, referrals, and returns.
The independently employed world is not guaranteed, it’s not predictable and it’s not formulaic. Your guru’s experience wont be yours. Yours wont be the same as anyone you teach it to, nor will any of your peers. The contractor and consultant may go for a few weeks without any work, do a week of intense work, a few months of middling work and then half a year of none before taking another booked year. Sometimes you’ll do this intentionally, sometimes it’s forced on you. Either way, flexibility will make your life easier.
Any list of this flavour would be absolutely incomplete without a minor contradiction. I’d like to view the relationship between firmness and flexibility like that of steel or a true athlete; they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive. When your life’s work comes and goes, it can be tempting to grab at every opportunity you can find. Chasing down every lead can be tempting, but if you’ve set limitations – a vacation, attempting to specify your work, attempting to cut out jobs you don’t enjoy – be sure you stick to those guns. You gain the business you do. If you take work outside of the specialization you’re trying to build, you’ll get more work outside of that realm. Keep your rules firm.
Planning ahead is essential. As we mentioned before, you might go weeks – months – without work. You can’t live hand-to-mouth in the self-employed world. Your bank must be able to sustain you through lean times. Hopefully you’ll also reach the point where you can back-log some work, keeping potential clients in your rolodex for the eventualities that might arise. Independent employment requires a great deal of responsibility, big checks might flow in, but larger portions of those will be shifted into savings and back-up funds for the days when the check flow slows.
You are your own boss. No one is leaning over your shoulder, making you take the next job, shoving the next project onto your desk. No, you’re the only one who brings the projects in. Not only staying focused on your work, but maintaining and honing a focused mind will save time on each project you take, increasing your earnings per ounce of effort. Eliminate distractions, increase returns and develop a reputation for being the person people want around.
Certainly, some of these are now perceived as business traits, but more and more we are seeing that the our personality traits bleed into our business ethic. As you blur the lines between work and life, you’ll see that the fusion of these two worlds increases and increases.