In my day gig, I run Geek Her Media. It’s a social marketing boutique which offers more than social media consulting, but for this we’ll say that’s exactly what I do: consult.
What does consulting mean? I build social media marketing strategies for small businesses and have the capacity to manage campaigns and communities for big brands. In Philadelphia, I have worked with my fair share of start-ups and well known Philadelphia brands looking to franchise. I have also worked with Estee Lauder, Colgate Palmolive and Neutrogena. So, yes, I get big brands and budgets and blah blah. In short, I help businesses turn into social businesses through branded social campaigns, e-mail marketing, community and content management. It’s really sexy. I promise.
What I’m about to share is how to protect yourself as a consultant and not make the rookie mistakes I did. The only way to learn is to fail and I’m taking the fail part out of the equation. For you anyway. I totally failed. With a #FAIL. Yes, I had to bold that sucker.
The #1 thing You Must Have is a Contract and I Mean Always
- It doesn’t matter if it’s your neighbor who happens to be in PR or a friend who just launched a thing-a-ma-jig or a small business that wants to keep it on the DL. If they can’t sign, then you can’t work for them. The contract should state 1) your rate 2) hours per week and most important of all 3) a termination of contract notice of at least 30 days.
Who this protects: YOU. If this is income that is incredibly important to your family then you need to protect yourself with notice. One of the worst things that happened to me was going from making thousands to hundreds in a matter of an hour and without notice. If, as I was, you became the breadwinner. Protect yourself and get your rate, hours, and termination clause in writing with a signature.
#2 Thing: Payment Begins Before You Do Any Work
- Alright, I was smart about this. I have never not been paid by a client. Why? Because all of the risk is on their end not on mine. In order to do this, you must present references and have a track record of trustworthiness. If this is your first gig, then use references from previous employers. Even if the business is taking a first-timer “risk” on you, payment is still due up front. Don’t let their risk be your problem. It’s not.
Who This Protects: YOU again. Do you really want to be left doing, let’s say, 30 days of work and then on the 31st day not be compensated? Of course you don’t. Without payment up front, you stand a very real possibility that this will happen because it will. Maybe not your first time around, but it’s coming and then you will institute this policy. If you are worried about working it into your contract, don’t be. You have already given them a loose strategy without specifics in the form of a proposal, references and a stellar example of your work ethic and successes. “Billing at the beginning of every month” is your policy. If they balk, on to the next.
#3 Thing: Know Your Worth
- And not in an entitled blogger king of way. What I mean is that you set your rate, and if you believe in a start-up or a business or a non-profit, feel free to discount it. However, if after that discount, a few months down the road the client can’t afford you, do not discount it further. They’re already getting a bargain! The client can either invest in your marketing and strategy or they cannot. If they feel like an intern can do the work just as well, you do not want to work with them. Updating Facebook is not a social media strategy.
Who this protects: You got it, YOU. By accepting their lack of investment, you are being “taken for a ride” and it will end badly. You were smart and already have your 30-day contract termination, so exercise it and begin looking for something new. Do not, as I did, accept the new terms begrudgingly and get stuck trying to juggle too many clients when one is eating all your time for a deeper than deep discount. Do not let their mistake become your problem.
I’m also taking on new clients. If you know a small business, brand, agency, or start-up looking to hire someone to build their online presence or takeover their e-mail marketing, create content or manage their community, please let them know I’m out here. Waiting and willing. Here I am being very profesh on Linked In. You can send an email to email@example.com or twit me @geekhermedia.
Would you add a 4th must or have a question? If so, let all of us know in the comments.