Five Years, Five Lessons (As an independent marketer)
Lesson 1: Channel Mary Poppins: If you’re a strong performer, clients will ask you to stay beyond your contract end date. And while this can be flattering and lucrative, I’ve learned to think this through before agreeing to stay. If you deliver what was promised, exceed clients’ expectations, and form strong professional relationships before the contract end date, leave. Get out.
If you stay longer, the project goals get muddy, clients start to rely on you for things outside of the scope and clients lose sight of the client/consultant relationship. This results in miscommunication and lack of objectivity. Also, if you leave on a high note clients will remember the great job you did and you’ll be asked to return.
I always tell my clients I’m like Mary Poppins. Once my family (client) feels secure and I’ve made their lives a little easier, they don’t need me anymore. It’s time for me to move on to the next family (client).
Lesson 2: Learning to FLY: In this age of LinkedIn, Facebook and Instragram, we’re constantly bombarded with messages regarding our network’s successes. There are promotions, innovations and exciting collaborations. I see all the smiling faces, kudos and accolades and I sometimes catch myself thinking ‘Did I do the right thing? Did I take the right assignment? Are opportunities passing me by?’ But then I jolt myself back to reality.
Of course I did the right thing. I’m happy and healthy, what more can a gal ask for?
Also, I’ve been fortunate enough to work inside many organizations and you know what? Everyone is working really, really hard, everyone has at least one obnoxious team member, not one person is working on something mind blowing every day and everyone is too impressed with everyone else.
I try and remain focused on the work I really want to do.
I try hard to remember to FLY.
Follow your gut.
Look for opportunities that make you happy
You should never use social media as a benchmark for success
Lesson 3: Don’t make an ass out of you and me: Never assume a job is yours until you have a signed contract in hand. This may sound incredibly obvious but the longer I consult the lazier I get about formal contracts and processes.
As a consultant I form extremely professional but close relationships with clients. Relationships that have allowed me to bypass formal procedures (for example, I hardly ever use a resume). However, these strong relationships don’t automatically provide money in my pocket.
My advice, if possible, never leave a conference room without a contract in hand. Never assume the deal is done unless you have it in writing. Your relationships have relationships. They have relationships with board members, executive teams and advisers and those people may not agree with your key contact’s approach or decision.
I repeat, never assume a job is yours until you have a contract in hand.
Lesson 4: Be Assertive When it Counts
Being assertive is tough for many but I find that it’s especially difficult for women. I meet and work with an average of 50 new people a year. Some are a delight and some, well some, are bullies and I’ve had to learn how to ensure my voice is heard even with those who are the loudest. Being assertive doesn’t mean I’m not a nice person. It just means that I know when to stand up for myself. It’s hard but the payoff is incredible.
“Learn to be difficult when it counts. In school as in life, having a reputation for being assertive will help you receive preferential treatment without having to beg or fight for it every time.” – Tim Ferris
Lesson 5: No Regrets: If you started a business or work as an independent consultant you’ve already taken a pretty big risk. It might have felt uncomfortable and a bit scary at first but I’m guessing if you’re still consulting years later it was the right choice. Don’t stop there. The more smart risks you take, the more you learn. If something feels right, it probably is. You never want to look back and wonder what if….