5 more tips for striking out on your own

Photo by Ann H. from Pexels

When updating my LinkedIn profile recently, I was stunned to see "in writing" that Sarah J Consulting has been operating for more than nine years now! It doesn't feel so long ago that I was commuting to Boston for my prior full-time jobs in fundraising. Time flies when you're having fun! 

It's been a little while since I've shared tips about self-employment and entrepreneurship (past posts here, here, here, and here). The cool thing about owning a business is that you never stop learning--about client relations, marketing, structuring engagements, the tools available to help solopreneurs, the work itself. 

Sooo, here are 5 more things I've learned along the way as a fundraising and communications consultant to nonprofit organizations. I hope these tips help you in your professional journey!

1. Link up with SCORE. I was not only their consultant; I'm also a client! The federal Small Business Association provides high-quality, FREE resources to business owners--many through SCORE. Here, you'll find tons of webinars, business planning templates, and even linkages to real live mentors (retired business executives who now freely share their knowledge with others). Whether you're thinking of starting a business or have owned one for years, do yourself a favor and start using SCORE now.

2. Work on your web presence. Even if you're not trying to sell something directly from the web, you've got to invest time and energy (and, if possible, money) into a stellar web presence. SJC doesn't sell anything online; however, our website, LinkedIn company page, and social media accounts are often cited as helping a potential client to understand SJC's credibility and longevity. We even launched a little monthly e-newsletter that keeps us in front of colleagues.

3. Striving for good enough beats striving for perfection. An admitted perfectionist, I can struggle to keep a project moving along when it doesn't meet my perceived highest level of quality. But when you are busy, tired, and living through a pandemic--or, frankly, even when you're not--it's really okay to submit deliverables that feel to you like a B as opposed to whatever you deem an A+. You know why? Because everyone has a different perspective on what constitutes an A+. Even your best, most "perfect" work might feel off or incomplete (or great) to your client. At some point, you've got to submit the project and get others' eyes on it. So, do the best work you can do in the time you've got, then hit send!

4. It's not actually about you. Over the years, I've seen different consultants come into this profession for a year or two, and then go right back into the traditional working world. Why? The answers are complex and valid. One of the tougher parts of the job is constantly getting feedback from your different clients. The good feedback is great, of course. Then there's the not-so-good feedback and the "are we even talking about the same project?!" kind of feedback. While you do learn over time how to align yourself with clients who are sympatico with your work approach, clients won't stop wanting edits or changes or perhaps even a total pivot on a project. The key is to not take it personally and adjust as much as is reasonable. If the feedback is constructive, act on it--or have a discussion with the client about why you think it's not the best route to go. At the end of the day, the client has the final word. That being said...

5. Protect and advocate for yourself. ...because the client has the final word, that does NOT mean you should bend over backwards to make them happy at all costs. A clear, detailed contract is super critical for relationships to go smoothly. So, protect yourself by setting up a very clear, mutually agreed upon contract with deliverables and timelines that you both sign. Then, in the event that the work starts veering beyond your scope, or becomes unfairly taxing due to the client taking advantage of you, you have a clear contract to point back to to reset (or, in very rare cases, end) the engagement. I cannot say enough about creating and using detailed contracts! It is helpful to everyone involved.

I wish you the very best with your business endeavors, now and always! 

Popular Posts