Freelancing and consulting: measuring your experience
Experience is a good thing.
But the downside of experience is that it must be preceded by inexperience. Always.
Curiously, when you become a solopro freelancer or consultant, you are both experienced and inexperienced simultaneously.
You are experienced in your chosen field (assuming you build on your work history), and you are inexperienced in performing your work in freelancer or consultant mode.
In connecting with prospects, it is helpful to approach the relationship in terms of experience on the corporate job. Claim your years at work (as appropriate to the conversation). That proves you can do the assignment at hand.
Don’t hide that you are new to self-employment, but this is secondary in importance to your on-the-job years. Reveal your newness in this area later on in the conversation and only as needed.
When negotiating an assignment, do not give detailed work processes or pricing data during the initial discussion. Most of all, don’t blurt out a figure. Say that you need time to work out the details. This will help save you from a common tendency to underprice.
(Even after years as a solopro, you’ll still benefit from time for reflection.)
Don’t be apologetic that elements of the work are new to you. Avoid the tendency to reveal TMI (too much info). Don’t look to the prospect to assuage your stress at this new undertaking.
Ask every question you need answered in order to prepare your proposal. You have no way of knowing how the organization functions, processes for approval, etc. unless you ask. In fact, well-developed fact-finding marks you as a knowledgeable professional rather than an unprepared newbie.
Everyone has his first time as a solopro. Even years of corporate experience do not prevent unexpected issues from arising.
Your biggest risk is to delay contacting prospects interminably in order to pin down every detail in the safety of your office first. Working directly with prospects speeds up the learning process and uncovers questions you may never otherwise discover.
Learning the specifics of how to freelance and consult, as opposed to practicing your specialty as a corporate employee, is a process of evolution. So go forth into the marketplace as soon as possible and let the evolution begin.
Originally posted 2-23-10