Independent consulting as a long-term career path is here to stay- the numbers of self-employed professionals increase each year, and the U.S. independent workforce is expected to be 24 million strong by 2018. But even if you prefer to stay traditionally employed from now until you retire, the typical worker stays at a job for less than five years. Taking a page from the strategies of successful freelancers and consultants can be a useful exercise that will enhance your employability, too.
Muck Rack caters to both public relations professionals and journalists– and pros in both groups would be wise to keep their options open for the most opportunities. The day may come when you decide to take the leap and become a freelance consultant, or you may need to jump to a new job quickly, so the time to start planning is now.
1. Network, network, network. The professionals in the Solo PR Pro community agree: the best way to stay top-of-mind with potential clients and gain new business is good old-fashioned networking. In addition to traditional in-person networking events, there are many “excuses” you can use to keep in touch. Learn from freelance consultants ,who know that you must build and maintain your network before you need them.
2. Seek diverse experiences. There are many benefits to specialization, and while you don’t want to be a mile wide and an inch deep, exposing yourself to a diverse array of skills and background in your area of interest is an important way to win new clients- or employers. Have you learned the basics of using video? Is there an industry related to the one you’re currently focusing on where you could get some additional experience? Do you volunteer for projects at your company that will stretch you beyond your comfort zone? If you think your job is easy, this is a sign of trouble – those who don’t evolve are often the first to be left behind when times are tough. Seek out opportunities to learn and grow, and your career will benefit down the road.
3. Be known for excellence. Successful freelancers and consultants go the extra mile and leave behind a trail of happy clients. When someone says, “who can we get to help us with [your specialty]?” you want the easy answer to be your name. Never do a job that’s just “good enough,” and share your accomplishments with your friends and colleagues via social media (within reason, of course). If you demonstrate thought leadership and walk the talk, and your reputation will be your biggest professional asset.
4. Pursue big name clients and/or high profile assignments. Being able to name-drop that you’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies or on an award-winning story will pay off huge dividends for the rest of your career. It’s worth the extra work that may be needed to get assigned to these opportunities. Regardless of whether your future client prospect or possible employer is in the same business as these assignments, being able to say you’ve worked with some of the best will garner you a higher level of respect right away.
5. Financial responsibility. Not the sexiest topic, but what the financial gurus say is true: minimize your debt and have an emergency fund that covers at least three months of expenses. Freeing yourself from the hand-to-mouth cycle of spending will also provide you with enormously improved freedom in your career. Do you want to take a chance on a job with an organization you believe in, but may or may not be around five years from now? Freelance consultants regularly take risks, and having a financial foundation that offers peace of mind is the key to making those moves and being able to sleep at night.
Following these rules will empower you, and help you take charge of your career. No matter what your professional path may look like in the future, in the “new normal” of today’s tumultuous job market, running your career as if you are a freelance consultant just makes sense.
Kellye Crane is the founder of Solo PR Pro, the premier site for communications consultants, providing the tools, education, advocacy and community resources needed for indies to succeed and grow. A veteran and award-winning communicator with more than 20 years of experience - 19 of them solo - in strategic public relations and marketing communications, Kellye has offered strategic planning, social media, press/influencer relations, and marketing communications services to some of the world's largest companies, including The Coca-Cola Company, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft. Follow Kellye on Twitter.
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