A lot of times in Hollywood you’re as good as your last job”
OK, we’re not in Tinseltown. But as consultants, we can all learn a valuable lesson here: the way your last gig goes can dictate your future, so kick things off on the right foot. Here are some tricks I’ve learned over the years to save you time.
Get a 360° View
We know all the usual suspects before you start a new contract: look at the website, study up on materials your new client gave you, tap anyone you know that works there and get the skinny. But with so much information on the internet (not to mention other consultants chomping at the bit), you’ve got to do more. Read articles about their business, review their social media, how the competition talks, dig into their corporate culture on employee rating sites, check out their ads – in short, act like you’re starting a job as an employee.
Get the Work in Writing
This would seem a no-brainer, but many consultants start contracts without a written agreement and will “do the paperwork later.” Nope. If it involves money and time, get a record of it – whether your contract or the client’s, a signed estimate, or other legally- binding document. Don’t miss the nuances of your profession either. As a writer, one of the most difficult areas to gauge is how many rounds of edits. Sometimes it’s two, others it takes a village, so I bake that into each job. Think of your own industry and the “gotchas.”
Set Communication Ground Rules
Email. Phone. Text. Skype. Ad nauseam. Your client has preferences to keep in touch. Make sure you know what they are before you start work. They’ll appreciate that you asked. Forgo misunderstandings after you bombard him or her with emails and should have picked up the phone. For your part, if you have a commitment every Thursday afternoon from 4-6pm, let the client know before you start the gig. Also, be firm about your own preferences: years ago I had a client that called me for everything, urgent or not. Having a conversation at the beginning works wonders.
Get Dialed into Corporate Life
One of the many reasons folks leave corporate life for freelancing is the bureaucracy – you can run but you can’t hide. Be prepared to have déjà vu when you contract for a large corporation, especially if you will be on their email system or are assigned a company computer. Then there’s the security badge and other administrative tasks. Find out what those tasks are before you start your job so you can be productive Day One.
Strut Your Stuff For Free
Let’s be clear: don’t spend 25 hours on complementary work. But once you have the gig, show your value-add early. Offer gratis recommendations on a project related to your assignment. Doing this can pay off now and later: it’s a perfect opportunity to be generous with your skills, and secondly, can possibly score you another assignment. Be careful not to sound critical and frame language as “opportunities.” Example: a recent website client showed me their newsletter as part of background info and I served up a list of improvements they could make. If and when they take this project on, I can potentially lead the work.
Once you check off these boxes, it’s all about the Liev Schrieber method: do your best work and you’ll probably get that callback on the next gig.