Early Errors of Self-Employed

A familiar tale: The contractor came with impressive credentials and skills from a salaried past but had just gone solo. The engagement was formalized appropriately, with outputs agreed, confidentiality assured and extensive briefings undertaken. The project kicked off, the logged hours grew but no discernible progress. Despite further guidance and time, the job proved beyond the contractor’s skills. Termination left both parties disappointed.

So – some observations of the potential faux pas of newly self-employed service providers.

  • Lacking work or just greedy, a service provider may be tempted into taking on work outside of his / her expertise. This is a big No-No! All professional institutes have a code of conduct which specifically bans this.  To adhere to a professional code is smart business and smarter risk mitigation.
  • The provider needs to understand what constitutes value to the client. Often it includes a problem taken away – smoothly, reliably and without frequent recourse for questions / checking / reassurance. To deliver this value element requires judgement as to what decision points along the project path need to be referred for OK.
  • Beyond the contract wording, there is a basic obligation upon a contractor to deliver value. Charge-out from a time sheet does not cement a relationship with a client. Only by providing value in excess of expectations and cost can a precious asset – that of recurring instructions – be created.
    I surmise that those coming from a time charge-out work model (the salaried / waged staff in accounting, law, recruiting, consulting, research, etc) may have this blind spot. They are accustomed to being paid their salary whatever the value delivered; only the equity partner needs to worry about client satisfaction and value billing.
  • A connected irritation is to seek early payment. While it is essential in a start-up business to watch the cash, to hassle the client within agreed or normal terms is unwelcome.
  • A challenge for the contractor is to read the client – is he/she a strategist, a micro-manager, an empowering delegator, a procrastinator, a fretter, a butt-coverer, a bumbler, a slow thinker, a Scrooge? Finesse in approach is needed for each client character.
  • Finally, the contractor should not nag in the sales processes! The prospect is busy and will only buy when there is a problem or need. Better by far to touch the prospects by regular and amusing / valuable snippets via new media.

A few thoughts from one who long ago made most of these mistakes!