You’ve had enough of the 8-6 life, you’ve had done one stressed-out school run too many and you’re sick of putting the kids in a local play-scheme all summer, which you know they hate but do because there’s no other option.
The world of the corporate refugee beckons.
Here’s my advice, for what it’s worth.
1. Sort out your LinkedIn profile.
It’s the number one stop for anyone trying to find a freelancer. If you’re not on LinkedIn, you don’t exist. But is your profile as dull as ditchwater? Have you still got your last job up there, because you feel a little ashamed that you no longer have a “proper job”? Sort your thinking about how you see yourself now. You do have a job – it’s a freelancer.
So how does your profile read?
Make sure your professional headline says what you do. Only last month, I realised that my headline just said “Managing Director (a term I hate), Sharon Leighton Consultancy Ltd”. Unless you know me already, you have no idea what I do. So I realised that I had to change it to Medical Affairs/Information Consultancy/Training. It’s does what it says on the tin!
Your summary should point out exactly what you can do to help people.
Join the right groups plus some you might not have thought off – Peter Llewellyn runs a very active group, MedComms Forum, for people with MedComms skills – if you’ve worked in Medical Affairs, you have those skills.
2 Think like a marketeer
You’ve worked with them long enough – what do they do if they want to market a product?
Product, Position, Price, Promotion.
In other words;
1. What do you do? Yes I know you work in Medical Affairs but what do you do that people value?
2. How are you differentiated against the competition (think skills, experience, knowledge, geography, time zones, availability)
3. What will you charge? One of the first questions will be “what do you charge?” Ask around to find out what people pay their freelancers
4. How will you promote yourself? Do you need a website, blog, Facebook page?
Write a bit of blurb that sells your skills, experience and how you add value. Get someone in your network to edit for you – is that how they see you? What special skills, personality, ways of working do you have that they value? Ask all your network if they could send it to their contacts, adding a sentence about why they would recommend you. Med Info people are the best in the world – happy to help. Giving is at the start of receiving.
3 Network like crazy.
Who do you know? Who are you connected with on LinkedIn? You could put up a status update “Just started as a Medical Affairs freelancer – copy approval signatory, KOL management, product monographs” You’d be surprised how many people might spot it and think “That’s just what I’m looking for!”.
Network online, in person, go to professional meetings – PIPA’s meeting are very reasonably priced. Tell anyone you can that you’re now freelance. Your 2nd or 3rd level network are the most likely source of a job.
4 Join the PIPA contractors database
5 Follow the right people
If you’re going to be working from home, how will you keep up to date?
You cab stay current with pharma news (FirstWord, PharmaTimes and InPharm all have excellent news feeds) through email newsletters, iPad apps (e.g. Pharmaceutical Marketing app) and conventional journals (PIPA’s Pipeline magazine is my 1st choice for this).
You also need to get into the mindset of an entrepreneurial, self-starter, proactive professional. For small business owner thinking – I’d recommend following Karen Skidmore and her business CanDoCanBe. She is inspirational and talks common sense. Seth Godin will help you think outside the box. Embrace Facebook and Twitter and follow businesses and suppliers to keep current. What are you doing to stay positive? Self-doubt is your biggest enemy. But massive ego is the biggest client turn-off.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Lastly, be clear what success will look and feel like for you. Freedom? Flexibility? Future proof? Freelance is not for everyone. Big mortgage and main wage-earner? Hope you have good cash reserves! Alternatively you can simplify your life and outgoings to make it work.
If you’ve tried it and think it’s not just working for you, never be too afraid to look for a proper job! You’ll go back to the corporate way of life, with renewed vigor knowing you have a steady wage, no accounts to do and people taller than 3ft/1m to talk to during the day.
But, if you like the thought that you can take the day off to go for a bike ride (but work 9 – 12 p.m. to make up time), go to an exercise class at lunch and attend every school event, then you’ve found your calling.