In these economic times, you can’t really escape uncertainty. Even Warren Buffett, I would guess, lies awake some nights wondering if he invested in the right companies.
We try our hardest to insulate ourselves from the shocks and vicissitudes of this “down” economy. But as an independent consultant, I can tell you that doubt and uncertainty tend to creep in on almost a daily basis. “Will I get the business I’m bidding on?” “Will my new client be happy with my work?” “Will I even get paid?” And more long-term: “Can I really make this a going concern?” “Do I really I like this new career path I’ve chosen, or would I be better off taking a full-time job?”
Of course, we always think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Two events from this past week caused me to put my “uncertainty” into prospective and realize that things could be worse and that no one is immune from life’s ups and downs.
The point of contact for one of my current projects just lost his job through a reorganization. As he explained to me on the phone what had happened, I have to say I felt relief that I am no longer exposed to these kinds of corporate upheavals. I remembered how terrible it felt in the late ’90s when the organization I worked for had a major downsizing. How we all sweated in the awful anticipation that something bad was about to happen, but no one was quite sure how extensive the damage would be. I survived those layoffs, but the organization was never the same again.
When you’re on your own, you can lose a client. Not all of your eggs are in one basket, or at least they shouldn’t be. Hopefully, you are nimble and resourceful enough to quickly replace that lost stream of income. But if your whole career is tied to one organization, and suddenly that ends, well, that is a horse of a different color.
At a workshop I organized for PR professionals this past Tuesday, a group of my colleagues from the Independent Public Relations Alliance talked about how they made the transition to a solo career, how they set up their practice, how they get their clients and how they stay motivated.
One of our panelists, Robert Deigh, noted that he has never been laid off as a PR consultant. He always has business coming in and other clients he can fall back on. Vicki Robb, another long-time independent, talked about reinventing herself multiple times in order to stay ahead of the curve. As she put it, “There are times when I’ve been under-employed and over-employed, but I’ve never been unemployed.”
It occurred to me as they were talking that perhaps the independent model is more stable and seaworthy than I had thought. I imagined myself a few years into my solo practice and doing reasonably well. Wow, I thought, this thing could actually work!
Thanks, Robb and Vicki, for making my day!