Alpha Public Relations recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. As a PR agent I’m not going to let a good anniversary go to waste, so I have taken this opportunity to reflect on what I have learned about the differences between being an employee and being an independent consultant over the past half-decade.
These, as I see it, are five of the biggest differences in mindset:
#1. If, as an employee, your boss overrules you and everything goes wrong, it’s your boss’s fault. If, as a consultant, a client overrules you and everything goes wrong, it’s your fault for not arguing your point well enough.
#2. Being a consultant automatically confers a status on your advice that few employees enjoy. You can expect to be questioned, of course, but ultimately your clients pay you because they believe you are an expert, not just an implementer.
#3. Occasionally people will use you to score points in political games of which you know nothing, and will appear to be nit-picking in a way that would look like bullying in a colleague. Sometimes, though, when somebody challenges you it’s because they feel they need to prove a point to their own boss. These cases require tact. That isn’t the same as backing down on every point.
#4. Employees may feel differently in this era of widespread homeworking than I did back in 2017 when I established my business. However, for me one of the biggest adjustments was realising that I only needed to be accountable to clients for the time for which they actually paid me. If you have a day with no client work to do then that’s nobody’s business but your own, and it’s up to you how you choose to fill it.
#5. However, as a consultant with retained clients, you are also always, at least theoretically, available. Bank holidays and weekends are the only chance you get genuinely to switch off.