Note: young people, skip the next paragraph as it will likely bore you to tears. -ed.
I am basing the headline on a Leave it to Beaver quote in which Mrs. Cleaver (played by Barbara Billingsley, some 25 years before she could “speak jive”) asks the scary- polite/ultimate kiss-up Edie Haskell how long he’s had a job. In an effort to sound experienced, he replies, “In eleven months, it will be a year, ma’am.” (I spent two minutes looking for the video, and decided you just have to trust me.)
Welcome back, young people … -ed.
So, I have been a PR consultant working from home for approximately three months. (Note: Current and prospective clients: please read the next sentence carefully, and you can even stop after that. – ed.) And it’s been amazing and I am doing better work than ever before. The end.
OK, everyone else come back. I am being somewhat snarky. The positives has largely outweighed the negatives and it’s been a wonderful experience. I have many people to thank for this, including my family, former colleagues who showed me this could be a possibility, current consultants who shared best practices, and early-adopter clients who trusted me, and for whom I’ve delivered. After two decades in the agency world, I never saw myself doing this.
But I like it! I’m going to explain why in two forms: 1) Venn diagram; and 2) list(icle). So here goes. First:
According to Wikipedia, the world’s leading source of information I need quickly to prove my point, a “listicle” is “a portmanteau derived from list and article.” In addition to Venn Diagrams, I love portmanteaus. And being a consultant.
Reasons I LOVE being a consultant:
- I am creating programs and pitching media more than ever before — which is great.While I truly enjoy managing and mentoring, I like doing even more.
- I am helping companies that were either getting overcharged for PR, or had no PR function at all. I can provide value quickly, and in most cases, more cost-effectively than hiring a firm.
- There a number of companies with great stories to tell that, alas, can’t swing the budget of a full PR firm. However, a consultant (such as, say, me) is well within budget, or we can build something out they can afford.
- An incremental change is noticed, and a home-run media placement is lauded. It reminds me of why I am doing this again.
- Commute time is walking across my living room. That’s at least an hour a day extra I can work.
- Google Apps and Google Drive are awesome, and MUCH better than file servers, hosted desktops, Exchange servers, etc.
- Overhead is LOW.
- A handful of personal reasons:
a. It’s afforded me more time to see my boys this summer.
b. I’ve listened to more vinyl while working than ever.
c. I make really good coffee, at home, for a fraction of the price of buying a cup.
d. I can wear whatever I want when I work from home (e.g. Doug Flutie Calgary Stampeders t-shirt). Not that my previous firm had a dress code, but now I don’t feel ridiculous doing it.
e. We have good snacks.
Sub-optimal elements of being a consultant (and ways to fix those):
- With the kids home sometimes this summer, it can be a challenge. Solution: Play-dates and lots of screen time (that said, next year, they will be back in camp). The key? Setting expectations with them about 1) when I’ll be working each day and 2) when I cannot be bothered, and building in time to spend with them as part of my schedule. Another solution? I am looking into shared office space that I may use 1-2 days/week once the fall comes, that would offer a meeting room should I need it.
- Those good snacks? Solution: I need to avoid them some.
- There is a certain amount of disconnect with the client at times — you’re a consultant, occasionally held at arm’s length. Solution: For local clients, do at least one face-to-face meeting per month, and for those further away, plan at least a quarterly face-to-face visit, or do calls via Skype.
- Some days it’s hard to avoid that extra load of laundry or cleaning up around the house. Solution: build in a 15-minute break to your calendar for “household stuff.”
Some days it’s lonely. Solution: you’d be surprised how many other consultants there are out there. Right now, I am talking to someone who is creating a collective of consultants; and I learned at our block party there are like five work-at-home consultants on our block. Solution: at the very least, network with someone for lunch or coffee at least once/week.
All in all, the positives outweigh the negatives. After two decades in firms, I never saw myself as a consultant, and I am absolutely loving it.