When I became a freelance marketing consultant, I never took the time to share my experience. I’m rectifying that and offering some tips for those going solo.
To begin, I think it’s good to explain what a marketing consultant is. You are not necessarily familiar with the world of communication, so it may be difficult for you to imagine what I do. It can be summarized as follows: I am a professional who puts his experience at the service of clients (advertisers) who want to improve their image or communication on one or more media. I am paid to help companies make the right choices based on my expertise and creativity.
Where the value of a consultant comes from
Building relevant expertise requires a lot of time. This is why you will rarely see someone becoming a consultant right after university. It also requires a fair amount of interpersonal skills as it puts you in relation with professionals from different backgrounds, with their own culture, values, and vision. All of this in order to provide clients’ projects with the efficiency that allows them to achieve the desired results. Because as you have already guessed, the added value of marketing consultants comes from the time they help their clients save.
Why I am a consultant. And what drives me
When I started working in marketing, my debut coincided with the rise of social media. I knew its codes quite well, and I was struck that no one saw it as a cultural revolution early on. So I convinced other professionals to jump on the bandwagon. And at some point, I started my own business to meet the demand in a way that felt right. As organizations embraced social media, the big question was whether or not its use was consistent with their goals, and my focus gradually shifted to coordinating their digital campaigns. And now, with the recent evolution of the internet, privacy regulations, and environmental issues, marketing must turn to more sustainable approaches. The evangelism work continues, and there is much to do.
As a freelancer, total autonomy has a cost
One of the paradoxes of freelancing is that I often meet clients looking for fresh perspectives, which are already in seed within their company but are not always visible due to a lack of hindsight. Another paradox is that many people in these companies that I meet would like to and could themselves sell their expertise as freelancers without ever taking that step. Working as you wish: managing your schedule, your days off, your vacations, choosing your place of work and your clients, applying a unique methodology… A choice that implies additional responsibilities: accounting, business management, and commercial prospecting, to name but a few. And discussing business, selling your work as a commodity, or managing your reputation is often a turn-off for many aspirants.
Turning my aspirations into a great product
As a freelancer, my first duty is to define my offer, rates, and goals. To be interested in what the competition is doing while cultivating my difference. I also have to keep in mind my own expectations in order to last in the long term. The challenge, therefore, is to formulate a value proposition consistent with my vision of the business. The pricing, moreover, must follow this value proposition. While many beginner freelancers underprice their services, I have never done so. It would have reflected a poor understanding of the market and its dynamics, a short-term view of business, and a profound lack of confidence in my sales strategy.
As a professional, I look at the long term
The best way to last in the business is to make your clients happy and never stop learning. Growing expertise comes from experimenting with new things, listening to feedback, and adapting to an ever-changing environment. I can also point out that, although it’s a solo business, a freelancer’s journey is often made up of professional relationships that help take things further. People who are interested in what I do and can talk about me. There are colleagues from yesterday and partners from tomorrow. We cultivate professional relationships as we do with our friendships. Keeping an open mind. The thing about “serendipity” is that you never know what might come of it, but it’s often rewarding for everyone.
Being a freelance marketing consultant is an invaluable experience. As I see it, it is both a choice of a particular approach to work and a fulfilling adventure. Setting up my consultancy gave me greater autonomy and expanded my professional horizon. It gave me a taste of what it’s like to run a small business and the confidence to tackle larger projects. It allowed me to understand the strategic place of freelancing in the current market economy and the challenges it faces. Many things, which I am sure, will be the subject of more essays in the future.
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