Women who were single in the 90’s will remember a book called the Rules – this book had a simple premise: position yourself in such a way that he has to have you. Admittedly, I read this dating guide, in the vain hope that my boyfriend at the time would finally man up and make a commitment. Although the book turned me into a neurotic lunatic who would only answer the phone every third time He called, I did take away some valuable life lessons that I believe apply more to your career than to your love life.
Be a Creature Unlike Any Other
This is what is referred to as the Unique Value Proposition. Assess your personal brand: what services and experience do you bring to the table that no one else does? Discover this nugget of information and exploit it the way you would a great pair of legs or broad shoulders—showcase your greatest assets to your advantage.
Be Available, but Not Too Available
Accommodate your clients as best you can, but not at the sacrifice of time with your family or sleep. I was once at a point where I was working a 40 hour/week contract job, on top of juggling 3 additional freelance clients. Working until 4 am was a common occurrence and I was a sleep deprived wreck because I needed the money. It wasn’t pretty.
Only Love Those Who Love You Back
I once had a client with whom I had, essentially, an Ike-and-Tina relationship: the office environment was extremely unpleasant and stressful, the pace was frantic, and, despite my desperate bids for them to hire me, they didn’t, even though I was working 50 hour weeks for them on key projects for several months at a time. Yet, they continued to ask me to come back for repeat engagements, and I would happily go along with it. I have since learned to say no to clients who only emotionally and mentally drain me.
Never Say Never
Not every freelance opportunity will be a love match, and that’s okay. However, make sure to stay in contact with clients. They may refer you to a friend who has a similar need, which could lead to something big down the road. You just never know.
Insist on a Commitment
You love the job and your co-workers, and you’ve already mentally decorated your cube. Uh oh, you’ve named the puppy and fallen in love with something that doesn’t belong to you. Here’s the simple truth—until there’s a commitment (in other words, an actual written offer), the job isn’t actually yours.
What’s a freelancer to do? On the upside, you’re not required to work the crazy hours that your co-workers are obligated to keep. You are entitled to take a lunch hour (even if your co-workers are eating at their desks and muttering). Your only obligation is to do the job you were hired to do. But, the downside is that until you’re hired, you are, for all intents and purposes, a (gasp!) vendor—you provide services at a set rate for a set period of time and there is no further obligation to you. Sadly, no one will cry and light candles in your cube the day after your contract ends. They will move on, as must you.
During your freelance period, you must continue to network and apply for jobs, even if you’re sure that this job is The One. In a perfect world, employers would line up to wage a bidding war over us, but they can’t do that if they’ve never heard of you. Weirdly, jobs always seem to come to those who already have them, so work that mojo while you have it.
Close the Deal or Move On
If you want to get hired, you have to make it known. In this economy, employers love working with freelancers because we don’t get benefits or unemployment. They have no future obligation to us, and they’re okay with that.
But let’s say you’re not okay with that. You need to make it known that you want to be hired, but you can’t appear desperate.
In other words, keep it in your pants.