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  • Diana Schneidman

Crazy positioning for freelancers and consultants: Example #1

The purpose of a mission statement or similar vision / positioning statement, when it is intended for public dissemination, is to show how you serve the client, not how you benefit yourself.

As I study how other solopros market their services, I find an increasingly common mission statement that I simply don’t get:

My mission in life is to be there for my family and especially my children.

No one says this in quite the same way and sometimes it’s much more ornate or touchy-feely, but no matter how they say it, it doesn’t communicate why I as a client would want to work with them.

Frankly, I think family is—and should be—everyone’s top priority in life, whether they state it or not. It’s a more pressing concern for those who have young children at home, but aren’t relationships with those we love—both human and pets—number one on all of our lists?

I assume that any service provider I hire leaves his desk in a nanosecond in the event of a family emergency, say rushing a family member or pet to emergency medical care regardless of work under way for me.

And of course, people arrange their lives to meet family obligations and to share in the joys of school plays, soccer league, life cycle events and smelling the roses.

I expect others to structure their workday around their family. In fact, freedom to do exactly that is why many people decide to solopro.

However, I have had the uncomfortable experience of being reprimanded by a service provider when I suggested a next-day deadline because she dedicates after-school hours to her child.

Now the task in question would only require perhaps an hour. And if next-day turnaround (only one hour out of 24) wasn’t possible, she merely had to say she needed more time and propose a later deadline.

Instead, she was positively indignant at my interference with her family priorities.

In my life I’ve balanced parenting and work-for-pay in all sorts of way, alternating full-time jobs supplemented with on-the-side freelance and periods of pure freelance.

I started freelancing and consulting as the single mother of three young children. I relished the flexibility of self-employment because it allowed me to be a better mother and a more effective worker.

Much of the day when the children were at school (or napping) was applied to telephoning and other marketing activities. Much of my writing was done after the children were asleep. Sometimes I conked out early in the evening and then enjoyed a few blessed writing hours of total quiet in the middle of the night.

I also held “regular” jobs to enjoy steady pay and superior employee benefits.

Each set-up had its pluses and minuses, but I remembered that earning money to support the household was also in the highest service to my children. So though I had daily frustrations, from a big-picture perspective, work and family were not in conflict.

About how it “takes a village” . . .

Meeting assignment deadlines with excellence was what my practice was (and is!) all about and despite all this talk about it “takes a village,” clients aren’t my villagers.

Sure, sometimes clients and I share stories about family members and pets, but that’s as our relationships develop. It’s not part of the ground rules as we start out.

I manage the quantity of assignments I accept and the deadlines that I promise so that family issues are rarely an issue.

The media loves it when parents battle over who is the better parent, those who don’t work for pay against those who do. I found this competition very uncomfortable when my children were young because it implied choices not really available to me. My decisions were shaped much more by how to keep the money rolling in while also nursing kids through recurrent ear infections than on self-fulfillment as either a parent or a career woman.

I still don’t have a strong opinion either way and I don’t enjoy revisiting the inner turmoil and the practical scheduling conflicts I experienced back then.

I see lots of personal coaches who boast about how much time they have for their family. They flaunt their quality of life to persuade coaching students that they can help them achieve the same family-first lifestyle.

It works for these coaches because they are marketing to clients who want to improve work-family balance.

But when these clients, in turn, post a similar mission statement about devotion to family, they fail to see that their mission is totally they-centered rather than client-centered.

Originally posted 1-9-11

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