Last week, we talked to Nick Jones about the importance of social media and how it played such a large part in getting new clients and contracts (you can read that here).
This week, we connected with Mylance member and Leadership Development and Career Fulfillment Coach, Kelly Snodgrass, about working yourself out of a contract.
What does that mean? We’ll let Kelly explain it:
"When I was working at tech companies, I’d always be there about 9 months before I’d end up automating myself out of a job! That happened more than a few times and I thought, “Why does a company need to hire me full-time; it'd be much more efficient for everyone if I was brought on as a consultant.”
As a consultant, I quickly realized that I really enjoyed the ability to approach projects to achieve the goals as quickly as possible, rather than drawing it out at a pace more typical of other full-time employees. I’m working at a pace that’s best for me, impressing clients with results instead of time spent on the job - It’s a win-win!"
Working yourself out of a job doesn’t mean you won’t have work.
You are keeping the goal and results in mind by building in the knowledge and processes necessary to step back and hand everything over to the next person when you want to move on to a different client. A freelancer’s opportunities are endless!
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
At Mylance, we always advise you against depending on one primary client for your livelihood, no matter how lucrative that relationship may be.
Don’t cross the line into dependence.
You’ll absorb all the downsides and challenges of being a full-time employee, while not being able to focus on the benefits and job security. Working yourself out of a job means you can move on to better clients or more interesting projects. Consulting gives you the freedom to do this at-will; you’re working yourself out of a job for the mutual benefit of you and your client.
Oftentimes, when you’re really good at working yourself out of a job, referrals or testimonials are the obvious next step as you part ways with your clients. Referrals and word-of-mouth are the primary source of the new business for freelancers and we know why: Clients want to do business with people they know — or people recommended by people they know.
Leave it better than you found it
When you work yourself out of a job or company, it benefits the clients as well.
Working with this framework in mind, the primary goal is to either pass on or distribute your knowledge or responsibilities to others when you part ways. In doing so, there are two main concerns that are addressed:
- The first being clear communication. As you share your expertise and do the work, make your workflow transparent. Some people like to use third party programs like Asana, Trello, Excel Sheets. Do whatever works for you and the client so everybody knows your position, the deadlines or issues that you might be confronting, goals you are reaching, and how you work through the project.
- The second is working toward your client’s organizational goals and keeping the big picture in mind. By bringing in, documenting, and adopting standards, you directly benefit the client by keeping them up to date with industry standards or best practices.
You are the expert and when you end a project or contract with the client, you should be leaving them in a better state than when they brought you on.
First Things First
Freelancing starts with self-awareness and focus.
You’re the expert, but you need to know yourself well enough to know your core strengths and your weaknesses.
Have any questions about starting a consulting gig? read our blog Seven Things I Wish I Knew Before my First Freelance Consulting Gig.
As you begin to work with your clients, keep your strengths, weaknesses, and the end goal in mind. If you want to work yourself out a job, here are three basic principles to keep in mind from the start:
Every client whether it be a large organization, small business, or individual, is full of wasteful tasks that don’t move the needle forward. As you begin to work with the client, with an outsider’s perspective, you’ll be able to see these clearly, and most likely as you will be asked to participate in them as you work. Identify them and if you are able, find a way to stop doing them especially if it’s a weakness, do them better if it’s within your strengths, or automate them.
You will not be able to eliminate everything, however you can find ways to reduce your time by automating as much as possible. As freelancers, we can see the benefits of automating with something as small as auto-fill forms and vacation email responders to larger processes with CRMs or auto invoicing.
As a consultant, you’re the expert, however there’s a difference between saying “do this because that,” and getting them to think critically about their business goals and the value of your work in meeting those goals. Freelancers are no strangers to problem-solving. It’s our bread and butter. Offering your clients the opportunity to think strategically with your expertise and guidance will dramatically increase your value and theirs.
Keep The End In Mind
Working yourself out of a job gives you the freedom and flexibility - and the confidence - to move on and start something new.
It doesn’t mean you won’t have work; it means that you’re keeping the end in mind throughout the contract to be able to step back and move to bigger, better, more creative, fill-in-the-blank sort of clients you are looking for.