Everyone I know who is self employed goes through a period of work scarcity at some point in their career. I’ve been there. It was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I was young, I took things for granted, didn’t appreciate things and I needed some humbling. Plan for this. One of the benefits of being self employed is that I know exactly what is coming in and going out in terms of bills. Pay yourself, before you pay your bills and use that money to build up a “emergency saving slush fund”. Either by saving or safe investing(i.e TFSA). In Ontario, if you are self employed you can still pay into EI. It’s your option. Being self employed doesn’t mean, you can’t have nice things. You can still have nice things as long as you can afford them.

Also use this period to assess if this is where you want to be in terms of your career goals and to further your education. Look at emerging trends and position yourself accordingly.

Don’t dwell on the negative. Don’t go through a period of self doubt. You give it power and allow it to manifest and also make yourself sick. I’ve interviewed consultants for clients who have been out of work for a period of time. They may not realize it, but when you’re negative, it permeates through who you are. Potential clients can detect it.

Depending on your situation, sometimes it is worth moving backwards to go forward. A number of years back, I had two potential clients. One kind of the same old same, I’ve always done, the other a pure management consulting gig with a big Consulting company, that paid less. After much debate, I took the management consulting gig and added a new dimension to my skill set and career. These days that skill set is more in demand then what I use to do and has opened up a new world of clients. Take calculated risks.

Lessons I’ve learned:

    • Trust your gut. If you’re uneasy about a project, organization or the people, walk away.

    • Always read and understand contracts. Never assume anything. Ask questions. If the answer is unsatisfactory, have a lawyer look at it.

    • Get everything in writing in the contract.

    • Everything is negotiable on a contract.

    • Have a lawyer. It’s been rare, but I’ve had issues getting paid in the past. After exhausting all avenues on my own, having a really good lawyer to advise you helps. If you’re doing cross-border corp to corp business agreements a lawyer is useful, some States have some interesting laws.

    • Never do work without a signed and agreed contract in place.

    • Don’t get stuck in a niche or vertical. Expand your skill set and industry experience

    • In your contract, set the project scope as best as possible. This sets expectations for both sides.

    • I always provide work plans and estimate costs where applicable for projects. This is to avoid surprises on the client side, when I bill. I also track my portion of the project cost with the client. If we’re getting close to the high end of the estimate, I let them know.

    • It’s okay to do business with organizations that are in bankruptcy re-organization, however to reduce financial risk to yourself, its best to work off a financial retainer. Monitor that financial retainer with the client and have them top it off when it starts to run out.

    • Get yourself a very good accountant. One that specializes in self employed people or small companies. It took me 3 tries to find the right person who understands both CRA wording and tax laws.

    • Not all clients are equal.

    • Always be professional.

Tyger Das is a management consultant with 13+ years experience who originally started his career as a programmer. His experience includes executive advisory, business strategy, business systems analysis, marketing strategy, program/project/vendor management, marketing, consulting or IT operations (including offshore) management, best practice(s) implementation, business process re-engineering (six sigma), cost and work effort reduction through business process optimization, change management and technical(IT/IS) or advertising RFS/RFP process management. Some of Tyger’s past and present clients include: Aon, RBC, CGI, General Electric, Maclaren McCann, various US and Canadian health agencies, General Motors, Ford Europe(Jaguar, Land Rover), Diageo PLC(Pilsbury, Guinness & Co. and Smithwick’s, Burger King), NASA, Rogers Communications, various municipal, provincial and state agencies, a number of non-profits, Porsche AG, a handful of boutique advertising agencies and the National Basketball Association.

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