Everyone I Have Ever Worked For, 2004 - 2015
(with apologies to Tracey Emin)
In April last year I celebrated my 10th anniversary as a museum consultant.
I say 'celebrated'. In reality I was just coming to the end of nine months of maternity leave and trying to get my brain back into work mode, so my vague plans to somehow mark the occasion were not the first thing on my mind.
But 10 years is a long time. Now, of course, it's nearly 11 years and counting. I've done a lot of work in that time. 75 separate projects, to be exact, for 38 different organisations. If you want the details, you can download my full consultancy record and client list (pdf format).
I've learnt a lot of things in 11 years of consultancy. I don't have the time or talent to embroider a tent but I can type, so here, in no particular order of importance, are some of them.
1. Do what you love
Or at least try to, at least some of the time, within the constraints of making a living. Otherwise, what's the point?
2. Be nice
This should be obvious, but it's not. Be as nice as you can manage to as many people as possible in as many circumstances as you can. It makes life easier, it makes work more enjoyable and you never know when some of it may come back around.
This is really important, especially when you're starting out. I recently received an invitation to tender from someone I'd only met once, at a networking event over a year ago. You don't necessarily have to get out and about, although it's good to do so occasionally. In my view a Twitter presence is essential if you're self employed, as is a profile on LinkedIn.
4. Invest in yourself
It makes me cross when I hear consultants and freelancers complain that they can't afford to go to conferences, or training days, or events. Personally, I can't afford not to. I owe it to myself and my clients to keep my professional knowledge and awareness up to date and while a certain amount of that can be done online, there's no substitute for getting out of the office from time to time. I plan for a certain amount of CPD each year and factor it into my overheads. If you really can't afford the time or money it takes to down tools and leave the office at all it might be worth taking a look at how you're pricing and marketing your work.
Consultancy can be a solitary game. It's important to work with other people once in a while and it means that you can offer the client a broader, more diverse range of experience and skills. I have the most fun, and do the most interesting work, when I get together with other people to work on contracts that none of us could have done alone.
6 (the boring one). Look after your cash flow
This is possibly the best piece of advice I was given when I started out as a consultant. If you're not managing your cash flow, you're not managing your business. It's as simple, and as difficult, as that.
I'm sure there's more but that will do for now. Fellow consultants, I'd love to hear your top tips or lessons learned - just leave a comment below. And I'm very much open to offers of work-anniversary cocktails and/or cake ;-)
posted by Emma | 0 comments