Flying On Your Own: Charting Your Course As An Independent Practitioner

This is a guest post from Martha Muzychka, ABC of Praxis Communications

Six years ago, I had a job I loved, amazing colleagues to work with, and incredible opportunities. And then I became redundant. That’s a reality a lot of us have faced, but by turning to independent practice, I’ve learned we can still have all that and more.

In preparing for my conference session on independent practice at IABC World 2011 last month, I asked other indies what they liked best about going solo, and what was one thing they wished they had known before starting out.  Not surprisingly, many of those attending the session echoed the comments I gleaned beforehand.

What we liked best

Flexibility/Portability – Being an indie means working around different schedules and time zones, setting our own hours of work, and balancing our work-home life needs. And as our work is portable, we can work anywhere — a home office, a client boardroom, or even a deck.

Variety – Being an independent means never getting bored. Every project offers an opportunity to try something new, to hone a skill, to gain insight into a sector we may not have known previously, to meet new people, or to push ourselves by taking on an amazing professional  challenge.

Control/Choice – Charting your own course makes us happy. We have a lot of responsibility and a lot of power, especially when we manage a project from start to finish. Being able to choose what work you will accept or the people with whom you will work matters. A lot.

What we need for success

Success doesn’t happen by chance. Running a solo practice means you’re managing a small business and there are some essentials you can’t do without.

Planning – You wouldn’t run a campaign without a well-researched plan; why would you run your practice without one? Is there a niche you can fill? What sets you apart? How much money do you need to earn? What fees will your market bear?

Financial Management – Find expert advice such as an accountant to help you manage your finances properly. It will give you peace of mind and more time for what matters: your practice.

Marketing – Promote your work to generate more work. Build in focused time for marketing. Don’t skimp on your collateral. Treat yourself as you would your clients.

Networking – Staying connected when you work alone is important for maintaining your social currency in your profession. Find out who is doing what in your field. Who can help open doors for you?

Support Services – The song says you don’t miss what you have until it’s gone, and several indies highlighted the need for reliable support for technology, printing, and administration.  Trust me: you don’t want to deal with a crashing computer hard drive just as your client’s final report is due.

Education – Keep up to date in your field. Invest in yourself.  Don’t underestimate the value of a good book, workshop, webinar, or conference for learning new things and meeting new people in your field.

Evaluation – Set goals and measureable objectives for your practice annually and review their progress (I like quarterly assessments). Carry out an annual performance review on yourself.

Being an independent isn’t for every one, but it’s a career track you should consider when building your career as a professional.

 

Martha Muzychka, ABC lives and works in St. John’s Newfoundland Canada where she has managed her own consultancy since fall 2005. She is an Accredited Business Communicator with extensive community development and social policy experience who helps clients achieve success through strategic planning, group facilitation, media coaching, and communications counsel & training.

  • Sue

    And look, six years later, you have a job you love, amazing colleagues to work with, and incredible opportunities!

  • I agree, Sue — isn’t it amazing how many happy stories begin with a difficult situation?