A couple weeks ago, I had the sincere pleasure of interviewing Lindsey Pollak, the leading expert on Millennials in the workplace. Since, she’s released a new book about leadership strategies for Millennials called Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders, which I am very excited to have received in the mail today. It’s got that new book smell!
Pollak, who in addition to being a best-selling author is an ambassador for LinkedIn, slash consultant who helps reputable organizations meet today’s generational workplace challenges and develops tomorrow’s global leaders, will be speaking to second-year students at Champlain College’s Sophomore Symposium this weekend. Let me tell you—I’m thrilled I got the jump on the career strategies she’ll be sharing with them.
“Today’s 20-somethings have observed their parents not only job-shifting but also career-shifting, many numbers of times over, to say nothing of the job insecurity in the current recession. This situation can make career commitments seem daunting.” – Lindsey Pollak via Letter: What Is It About 20-Somethings?, The New York Times Magazine
Having consulted for and spoken at more than 150 corporations, conferences and universities, including Barclays, Citi, GE, IBM, Liz Claiborne, Merrill Lynch, Ralph Lauren, Time Inc., Yale, MIT, Harvard AND Princeton, (phew!) she knows a thing or two about how to stand out from the crowd.
As part of a new series about freelancing I’m starting on my blog, here are the exclusive top five tips Pollak has for consultants and freelancers:
1—In order to be a successful freelancer in any field, you have to brand yourself as you would brand a product. The most important thing is differentiation. People want experts, according to Pollak, so finding subject matter expertise is number one. Think what it sounds like to say, “I’m a writer,” versus, “I’m a writer who enjoys exploring and commenting on the discipline of personal finance.” Finding this niche should come almost naturally. Apply your passions to finding your niche; be authentic. Pollak reveals that there are four essential elements of your personal brand: visibility, differentiation, consistency and authenticity. Pollak touches on these in her new book.
2—When freelancing, you not only need to strategize your brand, but actively thinkabout the consistency of it. Your image or logo should be consistent across social media, your email signature line, and even the way you present yourself. “Always present that professional face and image,” declared Pollak. It should be both recognizable, distinguished and professional. In her book, Becoming the Boss, she relates that the quality of consistency is particularly important and desired in leaders.
3—To ensure a happy, fulfilled life as a freelancer, surround yourself with supportive people, says Pollak. Since freelancers lead unique lifestyles, it’s best that they surround themselves with other freelancers and consultants. By joining professional associations of freelancers and consultants, they’ll feel more supported in their methodology. While Baby Boomers and Generation X parents assume that their children who freelance dilly-dally all day and are unmotivated, and outsiders take the word “consultant” to be an embellished way of saying “unemployed,” freelancers often work harder than anyone to ensure their financial needs are met. (We don’t appreciate always being told, “Get a real job!” Okay?!) Moral of the story is, surrounding oneself with like-minded people who know the importance of securing the next job in advance and the realities of working from home with no corporate benefits is going to help you feel supported. This can also lead you to your next opportunity or referral.
4—Anyone who has had experience freelancing will tell you that it’s really important to meet with an accountant and financial planner. Pollak’s advice on the subject is to keep personal and business finances separate, make sure you’re paying quarterly estimated taxes, and look into whether or not you should be an LLC or register a trademark, at least. Each state’s Secretary of State website lays out what it means to start or register a business; from there you can decide what’s best for you.
5—Pollak’s last bit of advice for freelancers: Just do it. Go for it. Learn a lot. “I always wanted to work for myself,” she said, “and although it took time and there were many challenges, it’s all worth it.”
Pollak admitted that at first her life as a freelancer seemed hectic. She worked unconventional hours moonlighting in addition to her part-time job; she worked tirelessly generating content, building her brand and finding her niche; and she, like the rest of us, had the challenge of explaining to her family and friends what she planned to do with her life.
Taking the advice of career advisors and former employers to start her own business, she pressed on. Today, her friends and former colleagues are all envious of her success.
“In the more than a decade since I first set out on my own, I’ve built a bio I’m proud of while having the privilege of truly living my dream of being an resident advisor for life,” something you can read more about in her bio on her website. “I love guiding young people to their careers and helping the ‘grown-ups’ understand the younger generation.”
For those actually looking to get out of freelance and find a full-time job, Pollak can help you in this area, too. Read her LinkedIn blog post, “From Freelance to Full-time on LinkedIn.”