Career Fuel: 3 elements for making deals as a freelancer or consultant

Today my pal Tom came over to my place for lunch. [1]

Tom is a digital marketing & strategy consultant, and has lots of interesting thoughts about the practice of independent consulting (in fact he’s writing a book about it – for a primer check out this blog post).

We got chatting about a few of the challenges faced by the new breed of independent workers, including;

  • How much to focus on frequency vs craft when writing, podcasting or doing other kinds of creating around your freelance work
  • When ‘seeking clients’ becomes ‘Seeking clients’ or ‘seeking Clients’, i.e. moving from surveying the landscape, to accepting just a few inbound opportunities, focusing outwardly on a very specific sliver of prospects, or scaling up to a much larger degree
  • How to appropriately price yourself when you’re not doing what may be called ‘discrete’ freelance or consulting work – i.e. when a problem or outcome is not at all clearly defined, or a client isn’t sure if a problem actually exists

This final point brought me back to some recent thoughts I’ve  had on figuring out how to value yourself in different situations as an independent, particularly when traveling to perform a service of some sort.

I wrote about this topic here where I quoted the DJ John Digweed:

I don’t charge for DJing, I charge for flying to get there now.

The traveling is the aspect I charge for; the DJing is free.

 

Returning to my capitalized ‘seeking clients’ concept for a moment, herein is again that challenge of balancing the ‘work’ and the ‘Work’.

Whilst the performance of the service is where the majority of the value tends to derive from (the ‘Work’), there’s also the research, preparation and travel to go there and do it.

This side, like administration, managing team members and various other parts of doing business, is the ‘work’. Sometimes it’s crucial to the ‘Work’ too, but alas often doesn’t move out of lowercase mode.

A simple way to think of this is with 3 P’s:

Performance: the Work. The DJ set you play, the class you teach, the beautiful brand guidelines you create

Preparation: going through new music, learning the flow of the presentation, brainstorming meetings with a client. Sometimes (hopefully) also The Work. Sometimes the work.

Portability: Trains, planes, automobiles, or perhaps just dialling into a video call from your sofa. (Hint: there’s sometimes a significant opportunity cost here)

(3 other P’s that may be helpful to consider when making project decisions are Passion, Profit, and Politics)

 

Next time you’re exploring taking on a project, take a moment to consider:

  • the work
  • the Work
  • the Ps

After all, knowing what’s free and what comes with a price is good for everyone involved. Especially you.

 

 

[1] When I say he came over for lunch, he actually visited my apartment and I made lunch from scratch (butternut squash soup and a riff on an Ottolenghi salad).

This doesn’t happen often in New York, but we both like nudging against social norms from time to time, and as we both have the luxury of working as independents it’s nice to enjoy the odd homemade midweek lunch.

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