The Professional Freelancer Approach

Great workers often choose to behave like professional freelancers. They believe it is vital to do superb work, give great service and deliver success. They behave in this way even if they are full-time employees.

Looking ahead, they rehearse each day and then click into action. Recognising they are always on stage, they behave in a positive and professional way towards all people.

They recognise that their role is to support others, however, rather than be the star. They therefore use their strengths to help all their stakeholders to succeed.

Great workers recognise that the world of work has changed. There are few predictable career paths anymore, but there will always be projects. Customers and employers will always have challenges and needs to be fulfilled.

Such workers therefore look for projects where they can play to their strengths. They then do superb work and help the various stakeholders to achieve success. This can lead to them getting more projects in the future.

They aim do their best each day. Some imagine that they are on a rolling contract that is to be reviewed every three months. They therefore aim:

To make clear contracts with the key stakeholders about the specific results to deliver – the picture of success;

To get some quick wins, do superb work and keep people informed about the progress being made towards achieving the picture of success;

To keep encouraging people, find solutions to challenges and do whatever is required to achieve the picture of success. 

Professional freelancers have a strong service ethic and help their stakeholders to succeed. This can lead to building long-term relationships with individuals, customers and employers.

They are also aware, however, that things can change quickly. Companies can be taken over, crises can happen and unexpected events can shake the market.

Great workers continue to deliver high professional standards but also recognise that their present project – even if it is a full-time role – may end at some point. They therefore often develop a back-up plan.

They then continue to give 100% in their present role. This is because they are choosing to be there each day rather than feeling resentful or trapped because they have to be there.

Such workers always show respect to people – whether they are the cleaner or the chief executive. They see each person as a human being and want to help them to shape a positive future. This helps them to build a good reputation and sometimes results in them getting more work as a professional freelancer.

The following sections explore some of the steps taken by people who follow these principles. Several have already been covered in previous parts of the book. Bearing this in mind, some will be described in more depth than others.

Defining Your
Professional Offering

Professional freelancers play to their strengths. They also recognise the kinds of work they find satisfying. This becomes more important as a person develops during their career.

Imagine, for example, that you have been offered a role. Looking at the job spec, it is something you can deliver but it is not stimulating. The role may be something you did five years ago.

Certainly you can take it and do a superb job. This will put bread on the table. It may also be possible to expand it by adding other satisfying projects. You can then deliver the required scorecard and also get stimulation from the other activities.

Imagine another scenario where you have the time to think about your perfect role. Bearing in mind your strengths, you may want to clarify the qualities you would like in your ideal role.

This was the approach taken by the customer service director. She did the following exercise when looking for a new role.

My Ideal Role Would
Have The Following Qualities

It would be one where:

I am playing to my strengths – which are orchestrating multiple teams and people to achieve a compelling goal – and I have the autonomy required to deliver success; 

I am working with a product, service or company that I believe in and we are doing pioneering work that helps customers to achieve both present and future success; 

I am able to, if appropriate, act as an ambassador for the product, service or company by producing success stories and videos that show how it can help people to achieve success.

I am able to play a mentoring or coaching role where I can help people to develop their professional skills and shape their careers in ways that help both them and their stakeholders to achieve success; 

I am able to maintain my own and my family’s wellbeing by being in control of my diary and by doing satisfying work that also pays a reasonable salary.

She did the internal work and moved on to the external work. This involved translating what she wanted to do into an offering that would be attractive to a company.

Bearing in mind the kind of employer with whom she worked best, she researched the challenges facing such companies. She then translated her offering into three headlines that described the specific things she could deliver to such a company.

My Professional Offering 

Bearing in mind the company’s goals, the specific things I
would like to deliver to help the company to achieve success are:

* To …

* To … 

* To …

She began having informal conversations with people in her network. This involved saying something along the following lines.

“I am happy where I am at the moment, but at some point I will be looking to move on. Looking ahead, I would like to deliver the following things to a company.

1) To …

For example, to …

2) To …

For example, to … 

3) To … 

For example, to …

“Let me know if you ever hear of a company that would like these things delivered.”

Two months after the first conversations, one employer said:

“Those are things we would definitely be interested in. Can we discuss these a bit more?”

She met the company several times. They agreed on the specific outcomes she would deliver and this led to a job offer. She took the role, stayed there for three years and delivered the goods.

Being a professional freelancer, she then moved on to her next project – which was another full-time role. She continues to be a well-known and well-liked figure in her industry.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

My Professional Offering

Bearing in mind my strengths, here are the specific things I can
deliver to a customer or employer to help them achieve success




Performing Superb Work

Professional freelancers rehearse before meeting their potential stakeholders. These may be the managers, leaders, customers or other people.

Imagine that you want to take this step. When meeting with such people it will be important:

To show the stakeholders you understand the world their point of view, the challenges they face and their picture of success;

To describe how you want to help them to achieve their goals and, if appropriate, to then make clear contracts about the results to achieve – the picture of success; 

To describe the potential early wins, the ways you will proactively keep them informed and anything else you will do to deliver the picture of success.

Great workers then move into action, get some quick successes and do superb work. When doing so, they behave in a positive way to all people. They do this because they want to help people and also because they remember the old saying:

“You Are Always On Stage.”

They recognise that people will watch them and make judgements about their professionalism, their behaviour and how others feel after interacting with them. This highlights a paradoxical point.

Professional freelancers believe that – whilst they are on stage – their role is to support others. It is not to be the star. Their work is about helping other people to succeed. It is not about them.

People sometimes need a setback before they realise that others are making judgements about their professionalism. One person expressed this in the following way.

“My turning point came 10 years ago when I was rejected for a senior role. The positive feedback was that I was superb with clients. But my colleagues weren’t impressed with my behaviour in office.

“They did not like me showing my frustrations or arguing in meetings. My view was that I was just being honest, but I hadn’t realised how it affected people. 

“My bosses wanted me to retain my passion but to channel it in more constructive ways towards colleagues. So I had a decision to make. I could ignore or listen to the feedback.  

“I chose the latter route and got the senior role within 12 months. The tough messages were the turning point. They taught me to think about how I behaved in front of colleagues.” 

Imagine that you work in an office. What are the situations where you are on stage during the day?

People may look at how you behave when you arrive, work at your desk, participate in team meetings, meet customers, deal with crises and do other activities.

What are the key messages they are getting from your behaviour? Bearing in mind you are always on stage, how can you continue to behave in a positive and professional way?

Delivering Positive Results

Great workers keep their stakeholders informed about their progress towards achieving the goals. They then do their best to deliver the desired positive results.

Such workers retain their hunger to improve. Sometimes they refresh their approach by using the rolling contract approach. They ask themselves the following questions.

Good leaders sometimes take this approach with their team. This can be particularly useful if people become complacent. Adapting the questions, they invite the team members to produce ideas on the following theme.

The Rolling Contract For Our Team

Imagine that our team is on a rolling contract with our company. What would
we do to encourage the key stakeholders to keep extending our contract?

Please share your ideas here:

* We would …

* We would … 

* We would …

We will then build on these ideas and make an action plan. The aim will be to continue to give great service to all our stakeholders.

Superb workers keep developing as people and professionals. Let’s look at some ways it is possible to take these steps.

The High Value And
Hard To Replace Approach

Professional freelancers continue to develop their offering. One approach they take is to measure themselves on the employability scale.

The world of work is constantly changing. So how can you continue to make yourself employable?

Take a look at the employability model. This plots your value to an employer against your replaceability. (Few people are irreplaceable, but some are more replaceable than others.)

Looking through the eyes of a potential
employer, ask the following questions. 

Where do I fit in the model? Which is the quadrant where I would like to be in the future? How can I continue to be of high value to an employer?

High Value – Hard To Replace

People in this quadrant are often brilliant niche providers. They perform outstanding work and yet are also willing to pass on their wisdom.

The second part highlights something that seems counter-intuitive. Great workers often make themselves valuable by giving away their knowledge rather than by hoarding trade secrets.

Different people do this in different ways. One approach is to coach others and enable them to perform superb work.

This is in contrast to, for example, older style experts. Some of those aimed to make themselves hard to replace by obscuring their work in the black arts.

Professional freelancers build on their strengths, provide great service and help people to achieve success. They also focus on the following theme.

The Currency Curve

Take a look at the currency curve. This plots your currency – the way you earn your living now – with your career development.

How do you earn your living now? How did you earn your living five years ago? How do you want to earn your living in the future? 

People can be at the top of a curve but may need to keep developing. Otherwise they may be doing the same things in the future but with less satisfaction. They may also be facing challenges in the workplace.

Certainly you may pursue similar themes in your work, but it may be important to improve your offering to customers. Here are some questions you may want to consider.

Looking at my work:

What is my present currency? How do I earn my living now? Where am I on the curve? Am I still climbing the curve? Have I reached a plateau?? Am I going down the other side of the curve?

How can you shape your future career? One approach is to continue to develop your currency – the way you earn a living. It is to ask yourself some of the following questions.

Looking at my chosen field:

What are the changes that may take place in the next year, three years and in the future? What may be the challenges that my customers face? What can they do to achieve sustainable success?

How can I keep developing my currency? How can continue to build on my strengths, add to my repertoire and deliver consistently high standards? How can I do my best to help my customers to achieve success? 

Great workers keep developing their currency. This helps them to continue to help other people to achieve success.

Shaping A Positive Future

Professional freelancers continue to do superb work on their present project, but they recognise that all projects come to an end. They therefore have back-up plans.

Some people take the following approach to shaping their futures. They do this in a professional way, however, rather than in ways that would cause conflicts of interest.

Security is to have an alternative. People who have options will choose to be in their present role rather than feel they have to be there. Such workers will then give 100% to their present project.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, how can you follow elements of the professional freelancer approach in your own way?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

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