Cultivate curiosity.
Create possibility.

Freelancing? Meet your boss.

Are you pining to leave your job so you don’t have to report to a boss, so you can be a free spirit and practice your craft as you see fit, without the confines of business and having to deal with work relationships? To finally be out on your own? Perhaps you are already a consultant, or freelancer, and are working “for yourself”?

Think that fairytale notion again.

Consider the following story:  Recently one of my coaching clients hired a talented branding and web designer who ran his own studio. The start of the process went well, and she felt listened to, and happy with the designs that he came up with.

Within a couple of months, communication dropped off and work wasn’t being delivered on time, or as agreed upon. My client made several attempts to discuss her concerns with the designer. When he finally responded to her concerns, he told her that his adjusting the color and size of the logo they had agreed on without consulting her, neglecting to read, respond to, and incorporate changes she’d outlined in countless emails, and missing deadlines by weeks and months without acknowledgement or renegotiation of their contract, was just par for the course, and is how designing goes. He said, “It is really not a big deal”.

In response to her expressing her dissatisfaction with how he had conducted their relationship (business), and the resulting impact on her business and bottom line, he touted the world class design he’d created for her, and complained about the budget (that he had established) for the project.

Essentially, he told her that she should be grateful for the beautiful design, and conveyed unapologetically, that she was not an important part of the equation, and that he had no accountability to her whatsoever. My client ultimately hired another designer to finish the job and make the changes that she wanted. After an arduous and upsetting negotiation (and coaching for her), the project was completed.

Despite the beauty of the final design, my client will never recommend the designer to any of the many people who “ooh and aah” over it. And, the person who referred him to her and had helped to build a large part of his portfolio by doing so, has stopped recommending him.

This brilliant designer did not relate to our mutual client as his customer, or to their relationship as a business one.  He did not go about his work in recognition of the fact that, for this project, he worked for her. She was his boss.

This story is not an uncommon one. Whether you are a designer, developer, digital media wizard or other artist, a committed helping or health and fitness professional, activist or business consultant, chances are  you are  passionate about what you do, and if you are lucky, talented and smart. And, equally likely, you are woefully unprepared to participate in the activity of work in the world, which means in relationship with, and accountable to others. That is, in business.

Many brilliant and talented consultants have no clue about how to carry on business, and many of you don’t even recognize that you need to. Sometimes, you express with pride and bravado, that you do not have to learn business acumen, attend to relationships, or conduct yourself professionally, as your art, or your politics or your craft will speak for itself.

Worse, you feel that you are doing business properly, and do it so badly that your clients are frustrated and unhappy.  You are unable to hear them when they attempt to tell you otherwise.

Sooner or later, you will lose money and future business opportunities.  It is just a question of when.

Just because you have the skill (and the passion) to get the job, doesn’t mean you have the skill to do the job.

The Possibility Practice helps you to learn the practice of what you do — in real life, in real time. Whether it is an individual, team or group context, The Possibility Practice works from the perspective that relationships are the cornerstone of all business. Every transaction, and every interaction, takes place within the context of one or many relationships. It is precisely in this arena that growth and transformation can take place, and the one in which many people  – and perhaps you – are ill equipped to perform.

With that in mind, if you haven’t gleaned this already – if you are in business of any kind, including “business for yourself” (have we disproved that concept yet?), and you wish to be successful, you need to know the following:

When you get a gig, you work for the person who hired you. It isn’t a friendship, though you may be friendly.  You aren’t doing them a favor; you are charging fees and being paid to do a job. As agreed. Well. Completely.

You are entering into a complex relationship that has all of the needs and requirements that any relationship has:

* clear communication of needs and expectations for all involved

* honesty about your capacity to provide what you are offering

* the ability to address and respectfully navigate conflicting and changing priorities

* a commitment to taking care of the relationship in such a way that all parties get what they need

* when that is not possible, you must address that in a straightforward, attentive and accountable manner

* most important: to be on time for your dates: phone dates, email replies, and agreed upon deadlines – each and every one.

Adhering to these basic principles and practices will yield strong and productive relationships with your current bosses, and therefore, increase the likelihood that you will have more of them in the future. The real world future, that is.

If you’re considering freelancing or are already a freelancer, also know about The Freelancers Union. It’s a terrific resource.


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Karen Steinberg