Ways to Find the Free in Freelancing

For most of us, the daily grind begins with an already-lost battle with our smug alarm clock, a grateful inhaling of strong caffeine, and a five-day per week commute to our place of work.

For those of you in management consulting, the grind is even more extreme, with 5:00 am Monday morning trips to the airport to fly to a remote client site, and returning home only on Thursday night, after living in a hotel room for four days.

The allure of being able to freelance aka work flexibly from home as a highly skilled professional is siren call for many individuals. However, if you are not careful, you can fall into another grind chasing leads without fruition, when working on your own.

Fortune 500 companies and boutique firms are increasingly turning to high-quality online consultants. It's not surprising that several successful management consultants are flocking to the freelance lifestyle. Many of the excellent self-starter characteristics required to be a successful consultant, are also required for a successful high-end freelance career. In tandem, internet technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, empowering highly skilled professionals to work on complex strategic and analytical projects online. Platforms like sparehire.com and skillquo.com have taken capitalized on this trend.

In order to plan your successful transition to being a management consulting freelancer, I identified the top three things to consider and top three things to avoid:

Top Three Things to Consider

Personality Trait of a Successful Freelancer

You can be the brightest professional in your field, but recognize that successful freelancing requires you to be an excellent self-starter and highly motivated without an immediate external team. You need to possess both the hard skills of being an expert in your field, as well as the soft skills of salesmanship and building relationships.

Many management consultants possess the same qualities required of successful freelancers such as being entrepreneurial; possessing both business development skills and analytical acumen; and handling demanding clients.

An Established Online Presence

I recommend starting with a stellar LinkedIn profile, showcasing your professional experiences, academic achievements, leadership involvement, recommendations, endorsements, and even charitable interests. Many freelancing sites such as upwork.com, peopleperhour.com, and skillquo.com make easy for you to establish yourselves on their respective sites, by importing information from your LinkedIn profile with a click of a button.

Having a website, a professional presence on twitter, and an influential blog following or even blog mentions are also fantastic. However, do not be discouraged if you don't have the additional items. The essential piece is LinkedIn, as it is a feeder for many other freelancing sites

The Peripheral Essentials

Make sure you have the bandwidth to set up a home office where you can work free of distractions. Also, take care of your personal health and financial health. Research options for independent, affordable health insurance, and smart ways to manage your finances - from using mobile apps to working with a financial advisor. Remember, you cannot take care of others if you do not take care of yourself first.

Top Three Pitfalls to Avoid

Lack of Concentration

There are so many distractions when you work online - especially if you are working from home. Social media can be ranked among the top most distractions; you can easily get distracted with a chat alert or other notifications. Your home is your castle, filled with your television, your hobbies, family, visiting friends, and so on. Since you are not restricted with any 'company rules and regulations' (you work on your own), you may end up wasting your precious time against your ambition of becoming a successful online professional.

The solution

If you really want to enjoy the luxury of being at home and earn solid revenue, set a code of ethics and rules of discipline for your own benefit. You can disable social networks during your work hours. Use a social media managing app to restrict the alerts you get during your work hours. Additionally, you can designate your working area to avoid potential distractions from your family members, visitors, or even pets. You may consider setting up a home office and creating a daily routine that enables you to thrive in your new lifestyle.

Lack of planning

The success of working online depends on how smart you work, not just how hard you work. It depends on your ability to prioritize your projects and your non-work responsibilities. Realize your capacity before you undertake projects. If you don't have a good idea about the deadlines and your competence, you may end up consistently over-promising and under-delivering. Such complications may encourage clients to leave negative feedback in your portfolio, which can be the kiss-of-death for a freelance professional. Also, consistently working on rush projects may reduce the quality of the end result.

The Solution

Know your strengths and weaknesses - and your limitations. Never accept work beyond your capacity. Set and follow a printed schedule or use an organizer app to track your deadlines and the progress of your work. At the end of the day, even the most laser-sharp professionals have moments where they are at the mercy of Murphy's Law. Communicate proactively to your client, and do not procrastinate.

Lack of learning and growth

When you are employed full-time with a company, the company allots funds to send you to conferences and training. When you are on your own, the onus of continued growth falls on your shoulders. While experience is the best teacher, it is easy to fall into trap of working without setting aside time to learn about the latest advancements, white papers, and 'buzz' in your area of expertise. If you are not aware of the latest trends, your presentations and deliverables may appear outdated

The solution

The most cost effective, relatively easiest solution is to keep track of the latest news and developments, white papers, and trade magazines in your chosen field. Signing up for niche groups online, subscribing to certain magazines, and joining local groups are all viable options. Also, build a good network with the relevant professionals in your niche and track what they read. Extract their experience, how-to-work tips and learn their ways of approaching and retaining clientele. Take time to update your knowledge about your specialized field and be ready to offer the latest possible solution for your customers. There are not many sure things in life, but investing in yourself and your education is one of them.