A Day in the Life: Consulting, Contracting, and Freelancing

What’s the most important thing for a consultant? Flexibility. What’s the next most important thing? Knowledge about what you are providing to your client and, specifically, how they want you to provide your deliverables to them. And the next most important thing is doing what your contract says you’ll do!

Many times juggling multiple projects is an issue. Some days waiting on clients indicates that the next day or week will most certainly be hectic.

If you want to keep your clients, you can’t tell a client, “I have a deadline for another client.” You can tell a client, “I plan to work on this project and meet your deadlines, but I need you to understand that for me to meet your deadlines, your subject matter experts need to meet my turnaround times.”

This is often a somewhat delicate situation. It’s not always the most important issue but it is critical to communicate clearly with a client about what you need to complete your work. In fact, turnaround times are a component in all of my contracts. These types of contract details are very important because I need information from my client to meet my deadlines. If I don’t have that information in time, I’m in trouble.

And I can’t say this clearly enough. As one of my mentors told me, “You need a contract with each and every client.” I don’t care whether your client is your best friend, a friend of a friend, or you’ve worked with them before and everything was peachy. If you clearly define a statement of work, outline your deliverables, and you have a clear, concise contract, if and when something goes awry, you should be able to work it out. Without a contract, it’s a “He said/she said” situation. If you don’t have a contract, you’re on your own. That is not a good thing when you want to be paid for your hard work.

So a typical day is first looking at emails and determining what can be completed quickly and what can wait until later. If someone needs a quick answer to complete their work, obviously that’s a priority. It’s similar to your priorities if you’re a captive employee, but you don’t have only one boss (well, except yourself) and you have to explain any delays or overages.

The next thing is completing what you’ve promised for that day. Or completing what you need to move forward to the next step or the next project. You have to be organized and you have to work smart. Billing, getting clients, defining SOWs, etc. are all part of non-billable work. You don’t get paid for doing these things but they are essential parts of any freelance work.

What’s the best thing? When you’ve completed a project, billed the client, received a check, heard a compliment on your work, obtained a nice testimonial, or received a call from a referral. The next best thing is being able to take a walk or work out midday because you’re waiting on someone!

About Martha Sippel

Martha Sippel is an STC Fellow who has developed and presented compelling, accurate technical material for more than 35 years. She consistently receives recognition for her contributions, from the Distinguished Chapter Service Award to international awards for her work on CH2M HILL's intranet and was recognized for being an outstanding mentor to STC's Charlotte Regional Chapter. Martha is a board director for the Park Meadows Metropolitan District, a South Suburban Park Foundation (501c3) board trustee, a Certified Interpretive Guide (National Association for Interpretation or NAI), and volunteers for the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA), STC Rocky Mountain Chapter (RMC), and her HOA. She served as a City of Lone Tree Planning Commissioner from 2008-2015. As Principal of AzuWrite LLC, she helps design effective user interfaces for websites and web applications and provides user experience, usability, and information architecture expertise to clients.
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