Returning from living abroad many years ago, I found myself at a fork in the road. I had left a flourishing, full-time, marketing career for a chance to travel and experience living life in a different country. It was wonderful. It was exhilarating. It was frightening.
I came back a year later to a very different landscape, one built of tech companies ending with dot com and three w’s in the front of their names. Internet. SEO. Digital Marketing. Old school now, but not in 1998. A lot had changed while I was away mastering a foreign language.
Should I go back to full-time employment? I considered contacting the company I left to get my old position back. But returning to do the same thing, at the same company, and driving the same daily commute just didn’t appeal to me. I savored change. I craved variety. I enjoyed the feeling of the unknown. I was curious about the new burgeoning tech marketplace. And, I had to sharpen my old marketing skills and learn new ones to stay competitive and get back in the game. So, I dove headfirst and landed on the shores of the marketing contractor world.
Twelve years later, there are a few key things I have learned on the freelance road… reasons why you may want to consider a switch to contracting.
1. FOCUS. FINISH. EARN. TAKE A BREAK. REPEAT.
The technology sector is famous for non-stop innovation. The motto is, build products quickly and execute to market faster than your competitors. Specific projects should have been completed yesterday but, often there is not enough staff (or budget) to meet the goals.
As a consultant, you are in a prime position to ensure the objective is attained. You are hired for the sole purpose to complete that one specific project. You can come in, focus, roll up your sleeves and get the project completed. And get paid well hourly while doing it.
Then, take a break to learn another language if you’d like. Or take a week visiting wineries. Or a month learning how to surf. When you’re ready, come back and do it all again. No full-time job I know of is going to support extracurricular personal activities.
2. STAY FRESH AND EXPAND YOUR SKILLS.
Contract work offers a multitude of project opportunities. It provides a great way to continue to improve your skill set and stay competitive. Not only will you sharpen your area of expertise, it is not unusual to gain valuable experience in new areas to expand your field of specialty.
One project I worked on required in-depth market research to determine leads for a business development team. Learning a top CRM product during this assignment allowed me to add that new skill to my resume making the skills that I offer new (and returning) clients current and up-to-date.
3. SPICE UP YOUR LIFE WITH VARIETY.
Consulting work isn’t specific to one field, product or service. As a contractor you are able to work within a variety of different industries. From marketing hi-tech products to consumer goods to personal services, a contractor has the ability to work with a diverse range of clients.
While most of my experience is marketing technology products, I recently had the unique experience of working with a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. This professional asks her clients to interact with herds of horses in open ranch fields through “nature-based therapy.” The project goal was to help her develop company branding and messaging, and find a way to market her distinctive business to corporate clients in the Silicon Valley via team-building experiences. How often does one get the chance to work with packs of horses on a ranch to learn how to market and position a service? What a big difference from launching a software product!
Of course, the contractor lifestyle isn’t for everyone. But if you are open to adventure and thrive in the joy of the unpredictable, then being a consultant can offer independence from the 9-5 rat race, be financially rewarding and help you acquire new job skills quickly.