Entries in freelancing (5)


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It’s that time of year

I haven't written much here this year, but intend to change that in 2016.

Planning to do so will be part of my end of year reflection along the lines of what my colleague Colin has written about in his post "It’s that time of year". I will take time out for that reflection during our annual holiday at the beach shown in the photo above.

I also point you to Colin's recent post "Freelancer, contractor, associate …?" where he describes the increasing move to forms of employment that are outside the standard "full-time employee" construct. He also disects some of the implications for both "employer" and "employee". I will explore this further here next year.

For now, I wish you a great Christmas and New Year, however you celebrate them.

I also hope that 2016 is a productive and fulfulling year for you.



Introverts and Open Plan Offices

Recently I have returned to reading on being an introvert, and techniques for living (some would say surviving!) and working productively in our increasingly extroverted world.

As a consultant, I often work in my client's offices. Usually, they are open plan offices.

As an introvert this can be a challenging working environment as open plan offices are typically full of distractions - movement, conversation, etc.

My observation is some open plan offices are so full of distractions that even extroverts, who by nature thrive on interaction, can struggle to be consistently productive.

Elan Morgan has written an article "5 Ways to Love Your Open-Plan Office" containing some encouraging and useful tips: 

  1. take more lunches and coffee breaks by yourself;
  2. create a signal to let others know you’re concentrating;
  3. create a sense of private space within your personal area;
  4. note what times of the day and days of the week are typically quieter in the office, and use those times for more difficult work or even downtime for yourself;
  5. book a small meeting room on a semi-regular basis, but don’t invite anyone else.

The first tip is a bit of an "aha moment" for me. I had instinctively formed this habit - without explicitly realising it is an effective strategy for creating some space for myself to relax, reflect and re-energise in the middle of the working day.

I particularly like the closing paragraph:

Bottom line: the stress of the open-office plan isn’t inevitable, and you don’t have to be aggressive or stage a protest to overcome it. Pockets of time and space can be effectively carved out to give you space to breathe and, yes, maybe even enjoy your work again. Some of those extroverts in your office might even adopt your brilliant strategies and learn to nurture their own introvert qualities. Who knows? You might end up with a small revolution on your hands.

I encourage you to read the full article: 5 Ways to Love Your Open-Plan Office.


Surviving In The Freelance Economy

I refer you to an excellent article by Elaine Pofeldt on Forbes: Surviving In The Freelance Economy.

Firstly she discusses the benefits of flexibility and choice, alongside some of the risks like uncertainty of income and lack of employment benefits (in her case medical insurance).

Then she gives the following hints on how to survive as a freelancer:

  • Adopt the millionaire-next-door mindset
  • Look at other freelancers as your friends – not competitors
  • Never think like a short-timer
  • Recognize that you are running a business – and embrace it

I totally concur, having, like Elaine, been freelancing for coming up six years now - and using, in part, similar principles to guide how I run my career.

Go read Elaine's article.

Elaine also has some other good ones on freelancing in her library of articles.


Contracting or Consulting?

Earlier this week a colleague introduced me to someone who is considering going contracting or consulting. The request was to have a chat to guide him on becoming a freelancer. The freelancer's journey is one I have been on for 5 years now.

In discussion it became clear the first thing he needed to settle in his mind was to distinguish being a "contractor" from being a "consultant" - initially he thought they were the same thing.

A "contractor" primarily solves a capacity problem for their customer. The customer simply doesn't have enough staff, and brings in a "contractor" to get the work done.

However, a "consultant" also solves a capability problem for their customer, while sometimes also solving a capacity problem like a "contractor" would do. A "consultant" is bringing expertise (capability) that the customer's team do not have - even if they have the capacity to do the work.

Obviously it is not a choice between being a "contractor" or being a "consultant" as there is some overlap - but it is helpful to know where, as a freelancer, you will position yourself on the spectrum.

I have found that operating toward the "consultant" end of the spectrum gives you the opportunity to add more value to your customer due to the expertise you are bringing that the customer does not have - which means your work as a freelancer is likely to be more interesting, and satisfying.

It also means you have the opportunity to price your services at a higher rate, and thus be rewarded for the value you are adding, as well as the time you are spending.

By being able to charge more also gives you more income cover for gaps between projects - "contractors" rely on being 100% billable to a much higher extent than "consultants" should need to.