When you finally decide to pack up your corporate office, or retire from that career to make a move in the consulting industry; keep these few facts in mind. These best practices will help you grow, maintain, and sustain your firm!
There are no vacations
Don’t get me wrong — I travel pretty frequently. I’ve think I’ve taken more trips in the year since I quit my nine-to-five than the five years before that.
That said, I’m never truly disconnected. I’m always watching my email — nights, weekends, holidays, you name it — because there’s no one else to man the ship. I can alert clients that I’ll be traveling, or that I’ll have limited availability, but if something comes up, it’s all on me to make sure things are taken care of. Remember your clients retain you, not your staff!!!
It’s okay to turn down clients
I learned this the hard way, as I’m sure anyone who works with clients does. In the beginning, you never want to turn down work. It feels so wrong when your next meal depends on it.
But there are some projects that you can tell aren’t for you right from the start — whether it’s the work or the client themselves. Sometimes, a client with an awesome personality can make a boring project worthwhile and vice versa, but if both the client and the project seem lackluster, it’s okay to pass.
Say no to meetings
For whatever reason, the rest of the working world seems to love them, even for things that could easily be addressed via email (or even text!).
If you don’t keep a handle on meetings, they’ll quickly eat up your entire workday. Try to block off hours of uninterrupted work time where you don’t take any calls or meetings — no exceptions.
This can help improve the quality of life for you and your family, and give you more time to focus on your practice as a whole!
It’s not personal. It’s business.
Being in business for yourself calls for some tough decisions, and not all of them will be pleasant for the person on the receiving end.
Sometimes people will call on YOU to make the tough decision. Some Business Owners don’t have enough experience to make the “Tough Choice” or “Hard Decision”. They can often rely on you for that. It’s almost like play T-Ball, without the parent’s in the stadium cheering you on. You have to make them, though, and you have to remember that it’s not personal. It’s business — and it’s up to you to stay in business and keep them in business.
Plan for time spent on minor tasks
If I had a nickel for every time I “looked over something real quick…”
In reality, you should have more than a nickel — you should have the proper hourly pay for all the client work you do, even the small stuff. I’ve learned that those quick tasks like proofreading emails and hopping on conference calls really add up. Find a system that works for you to keep track of them, and charge accordingly.
Pay attention to red flags
I could spend hours telling of some of my clients and their respective horror stories. In retrospect, the red flags were there — and I should have cut bait when I saw them.
It’s the client who calls you at 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. at night for things that could easily wait until business hours, especially in the beginning of your practice.
It’s the client who hires you for your specialized skills — search engine optimization, content marketing, whatever — then argues with you over how to do it best.
It’s the client who belittles you, threatens you or curses at you.
Pay attention to red flags and the gut feeling in your stomach. Walk away sooner rather than later.
It’s incredible what you do yourself
Starting your own firm or practice will force you to learn so many skills you never thought you’d have (or need), like how to build a website or how to calculate estimated taxes, and then run the business.
Most of this learning is done out of sheer necessity, because you don’t have the money to pay someone else to do it. I’m now convinced there’s no task I can’t handle, which is both a blessing and a curse.
Outsourcing is key
I learned of few things at the end of my first year in business; my biggest takeaway is that if I want to grow into a full-fledged business, I’ve got to outsource — whether that means taking on an intern, using some freelancers of my own or hiring a part-time employee. It’s one of the main pain points I plan to tackle during year number two.
Are you a new freelancer or about to take the leap? What have you learned in the process?
Post from Entrepreneur