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You, Inc.

Oh, Good. Another Competitor.

By Richard B. Barger, ABC, APR

Originally Posted

Just what we need, another damn consultant. Or designer or freelancer or independent practitioner or anyone else who's between jobs and fancies himself a writer, diluting the marketplace and pricing too cheaply and snatching work from the grasp of honest independents who actually do this stuff for a living, or at least try to when their clients aren't beset by out-of-work wannabes who have decided to call themselves writers or consultants until they can find a real job and get back to work, out of the house, and no longer underfoot.

Get employed quick, you imposter, and good riddance!

I'm talking to those of you who are left after the insincere in-betweeners finally trick someone into hiring them, leaving the rest of us in a rumpled peace, thank you.

And those of us who were left immediately fell into two piles: the ones with a successful practice and those who are sincere but unsure.

If you already are succeeding, read along, follow the bouncing ball, and send us your feedback, your experiences, your areas of agreement and disagreement, so everyone can learn. Start a discussion, and send us your questions and comments.

This Is the Life. Or Is It?

But you're trying to decide if this is the life for you. What do you need to consider? What do you need to think about? How do you decide if This Is (the rest of) Your Life?

Well, first, you'd better have something to sell.

  • You need a product that someone wants to buy, the skill to perform at a high level, and the confidence to promote yourself. A strong ego, or at least a high level of confidence in your own abilities, is crucial. You'd better love working by your own wits, relish stress [Follow the advice in the video:  Remember to put the glass down!], thrive on self-generated energy.

  • You need to be driven to be independent or to work for yourself. If you need the womb-like warmth of the big C, the support of on-site co-workers or office facilities and amenities or a large benefit package, it's pretty doubtful that working for yourself is a good choice.

  • You must have a tolerance for highly variable and uncertain income. An understanding spouse or S.O. is essential. If you're not hooked up, find someone who "gets it."

  • In addition to subject-matter skills, you need to be a person with good time management ability and an aptitude for business operations. It is not sufficient to be a good technician -- we all think we're pretty damn good at the skills of the trade -- you also must understand business and have strong planning and organizing skills. After all, you are running a business.

You Have a Business: Plan!

Once you've made these determinations, you should rough out a business plan. A strategic planning model would be a good guide, but here are a few thought generators:

  • What do you plan to do?

  • What services will you provide?

  • For whom?

  • Is there a need?

  • Do you have a market niche?

  • How do you intend to attract clients or customers?

  • How much do you intend to charge?

  • How much can you reasonably expect to earn?

  • What will your costs be?

  • In what direction do you want to take your business or practice?

  • What will it take to get you there?

  • What is your time line for getting the business off the ground?

  • Are there other milestones?

  • What will have to happen before your consider your business a success?

  • What resources do you have to help you attain your goal?

  • What obstacles do you face?

  • Do a projected financial statement for three months, six months, one year, and five years.

Find a sugar daddy

Your business' chances of success increase dramatically if you start out with a reliable, agreeable client who believes in you and who has staying power. A little "mother's milk" never hurt anyone, and it gives you warm, cozy feelings. Resources abound. Guru offers support to independent freelancers and consultants, with the focus on "independent." CornerBarPRSM has a double handful of the best links and resources for entrepreneurs. Alternative business styles are going to be more and more important in the 21st Century. New workplace arrangements already are beginning to include increasing amounts of job sharing, part-time work, home job sites, computer link-ups, communications technology, virtual offices, all of which combine to change the face of many workplaces. So now very well may be the time for you to break free. The Best Boss You Ever Had What are the advantages of working for yourself?

  • Good boss

  • Flexibility of time

  • No office politics

  • Enormous tax advantages

  • Potential to earn as much money as you want

  • Freedom, independence

  • Can be home for repairmen, etc.

  • Could be advantage for family, child care situations

  • No travel time, fuel usage, parking fees

  • Can balance volunteer work, professional development in the manner that best suits you, not your tight-assed organization

The Meanest Boss You Ever Had Disadvantages?

  • Mean, testy boss or S.O.

  • Irregular income

  • Paperwork

  • Investment in equipment

  • You have to do the "scut work"

  • Lack of resources

  • No paid sick leave or paid vacations

  • Isolation, uncertainty

  • No on-site support network

  • Family could cut into available time

  • Non-traditional office setting for meeting clients, associates; the cats love jumping on the desk just as the client is about to sign the contract

I Owe, I Owe, It's Off to Work I Go You have to know how you work best. If you're tempted to ask the question, "How do you motivate yourself to get going in the morning?" you're probably not a candidate. If you DO hang out your own shingle, you will find the arrival of month-end bills a significant incentive. They focus your attention dramatically! What inspires, stimulates, energizes, drives you? If you require a support network or significant on-site resources or corporate benefits and amenities, working independently may be totally inappropriate. Many people actually work best working for others. There's nothing wrong with that; it's a matter of "know thyself" and acknowledging the obvious. We've Established WHAT You Are; Now We're Negotiating a Price But let's say you go independent and, just for argument, money proves to be one of your motivators. Here's one final bit of advice: Avoid the temptation to cut your prices to attract new clients. Your BEST opportunity to get money from a client is in the beginning. If you give away something for nothing, or for less than it's worth, you have established the value of your services at the outset. Try convincing them later that you really are worth more, and you'll see what I mean! Those folks who thought themselves independent for the few minutes they were between jobs never learned this, for they were so damn worried that their self-inflicted meager savings account would run out that they cut prices to almost nothing when stealing your business. Now that they're hiring services, they hope you'll do the same thing for them. Don't give in. That'll give you enormous satisfaction. And you can take THAT to the bank!

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