Do you think of yourself as a freelancer? self-employed? a consultant?
- Freelancers see themselves as a set of hired hands, handling the overflow work or filling in for someone else. Their value is in being a substitute for a full-time employee.
- Self-employed people see themselves as a one-person business, looking for ways they can help their clients.
- Consultants and business owners view themselves as partners with their clients and focus on learning what their clients’ critical needs are and exploring ways to help their clients achieve their goals.
Your success is tied to how you see yourself in relation to your clients. The more focused you are on the client’s outcome—what happens after the project is done or the product is delivered—the more your clients value you and the more valueable you are to them.
For example, someone who sees himself as a self-employed transcriptionist describes his business as listening to a recording, typing up what he hears, and sending it to his client. If, on the other hand, he finds out that the transcription will be used as the basis of a speech and creates the transcript in a specialized format, he’s thinking like a consultant. He identifies a need and works with his client to find out how he can make his work more useful to his client and more directly targeted to his client’s need.
Being an entrepreneur means looking at yourself in a different way. If you try building a business by being the therapist with the lowest rates in town, you’ll find that your clientele will leave you for the next therapist who’s just starting her practice and pricing herself low. Instead, you can focus on what problem or desire your clients have that you can meet in a way no one else can. Sure, there are lots of financial planners out there, but who else brings your 15 years of experience working with families with special-needs kids?
Clients value and pay you based on how much value you provide, not just how much time or effort you put into the job. For the same amount of time, you can increase your value exponentially by focusing on how you, as your client’s partner, can contribute to your client’s goals.