Found my why, now finding my way


05 Nov
05Nov

Marketing and me have a long history together, so I was going to call this ‘The 4 Ps’ but I realised that it would be click-baity. Marketing is my default setting, so I must remind myself a lot of all the work that I’ve done recently on my business purpose; marketing is not my why, it just so happens to be the corporate industry that I grew up in.

This is inspired by (probably all) but certainly the last episode of the Being Freelance podcast [Hayley Akins, 27 Oct 19.] She spoke a lot about the business side of things and how it contrasted to her time in employment. A lot of the themes she talked about began with ‘P’. Simple as that. I’m going to select a few of them and explain what they mean to me and how they’ve shaped my business.

Pigeon-holing

My last corporate roles were leadership level. Days were spent in meetings and I became distant from the joyful activities that attracted me to the industry: working hands-on with data; attentive processing to ensure meaningful analysis; finding patterns, key drivers and relationships, whether that be by exploration or modelling. When I went solo my first assignments were as an interim resource to firms like my ex-employers. I was hands-on once more and much happier. Often, I was hired by people in positions like the one I had left, so I really understood their challenges. I still love that type of work, but I want and need to diversify.

Running my own business gives me the ultimate freedom to choose my engagements, so if I want to be hands-on, I can be. But I’m an accomplished manager too and experienced in working with CXOs to present and recommend strategic actions. For too long I considered myself through a corporate lens though, pigeon-holing myself as a candidate for analyst, manager or leader interim roles in marketing analytics teams. It’s only since I’ve been building online and offline relationships with other business owners that I have realised how limiting this was. It’s linked to the next P, permission.

Permission

I taught myself to use R earlier this year and I’m itching to use my new skills in a commercial engagement, but typically, none have come up yet. I wanted to learn this for ages, but it wasn’t an appropriate course for a leader. Realizing that I’m the CFO, CTO and CPO of my enterprise I signed off the budget. I had a whale of a time learning something new and it’s opened a whole different tranche of contracts that I could be suitable for. Getting picky in my old age, I’ve not applied to any.

My refusal to back myself into a corner with the type of work I take on and giving myself the freedom to explore new avenues is now starting to reflect in my portfolio of work.

Data analysis for social media strategy. Social listening tracking set up. Brand equity tracking pitch support. Resource planning spreadsheet. Calibration of a test for a recruiter. Some had a marketing slant, others didn’t. The common thread is that in some way or another I was contributing to data driven solutions to business questions, my why. I also wrote short form piece of copy for an entrepreneur because I happened to be a subject matter expert. I like it that there’s a bit of randomness, it seems fitting for someone who has given herself permission to leave her pigeonhole.    

Pricing

Salary and worth were not openly discussed in my old corporate world and so it can be quite alien when you run your own business to have to talk about money. Little business gets done without it though. Fortunately, I have some experience of pricing projects for the teams I used to work in, and therefore a bit of previous in crunch-time money conversations with clients. I’m relatively comfortable that I’m proposing what I’m worth for each type of work. That’s a good starting point for a conversation.

I wrote in an earlier blog about having tried out the online marketplaces. I’m not saying they’re not useful, but the effort to outcome ratio was too low for me personally, so I stopped trying. I’ve been kicked off two of them because I failed to make the platforms enough commission. For my line of work, it was a race to the bottom, so I retired.

One thing to remember if you provide freelance services is that every hour on those sites you spend trawling for suitable work to bid on is possibly costing you money, because you could be doing paid work sourced elsewhere. If you are a buyer who uses those platforms to procure a UK provider, please remember what our minimum wage is.

A lot of those sites are a buyers’ market. Sure, as a seller you can choose to only view postings in a specific price range, but you don’t set the price. (Fiverr is a little different, but the name’s a bit of a clue. It’s also quite hard to sell a non-productized service which is why I didn’t join.) Besides, I’m a business owner, so I’d like to set my own prices.

But should I advertise them? Or when should I bring them into conversation? The corporate person still lurking inside me shudders at the thought of making my prices public, but nevertheless, I’ve recently done it. It’s quite tricky for project-based work so I’ve provided a typical range (how long’s a piece of string?) For smaller pieces where a rate is appropriate, I’ve done a “from £xxx per day” for one service I want to promote.

Does that mean I won’t work for less/more? No. I have other services that are lower/higher rates, and I’m also prepared to negotiate with not-for-profit organizations.

Does it matter that my competitors may see? No. The notion that I’m in competition is a false one. They’re them and I’m me. There’s only so much I can control about who a potential client prefers. We’re also running our own races in terms of business goals.

And what about those prospects? Well, it’s a clear signal of the ballpark we’re in. It’s removed a lot of tire-kickers from my pipeline. But, given that when my last few conversations have turned to money, the first question was, “what’s your rate?” I’m not actually sure many people have noticed where they’re published.

Positivity

In my corporate life I wasn’t renowned for being “glass half full.” But, when paired with someone whose glass was always overflowing, it was a great match – a blend of optimism and pessimism that blended into realism. The problem – correction, challenge is, now I’m a Company of One (great book, by the way.) It’s been important for me to deliberately maintain a can-do attitude and bright outlook, especially as I branch into new areas that have awoken some anxious tendencies I have.

But it was worth pushing through the “firsts”. Pitching as my business. Making up a price to bag an on-the-spot opportunity. Agreeing to a job I was only 90% sure I could do (at the time – I nailed it in the end.) Going networking face to face. Every new door opened has not only increased my confidence to put my hands up for more but has also often opened another unexpected door.

Not everything will earn, but you’ll always learn. No one’s going to know if your latest thing didn’t work out, unless you choose to tell them. So, just do it.

I can’t believe you’re still reading and haven’t jumped up to do that thing yet. But you may not be a small business owner. Perhaps you’re still in the corporate world and this has either given you a window to peek at life on the other side. Or you’ve recently come across me and dipped in to see what I’m about. Until next time …

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