There isn’t just one type of person who is cut out for being a consultant—it takes all kinds of people to keep the gig economy flowing through businesses. If you’ve only ever worked as a full-time employee, you might have a lot of questions about contracting. And if you don’t personally know a contractor, those questions might remain unanswered. Until now! In our new blog series “5 questions with a consultant” we’re getting five of your questions answered by some of the top consultants in our ecosystem. Read on and drop us a line if there are other questions you’d like to know the answer to!
Specialty: UI Design, Industrial Design, Product Design
How did you get into contract/consultant work?
I got laid off by my company in August and then I got a new job. But I didn’t really like it, so I quit my job during the pandemic—which is probably something no one really does. Then I decided to go into a master’s program in January and I just wanted to apply for things that were flexible. I connected with Arianna Winkle (Technical and Creative Recruiter) on LinkedIn and she was able to set me up with a contracting job through Horizontal Talent. And that’s how I started doing contract work. I’d done freelance work in the past, but that was a personal thing. Now I’m doing it more professionally.
What are some of the biggest assumptions you made about contract work before you became a contractor, and how does the reality compare?
It’s interesting because [as a contractor] you really have to dive into the company like day one. You have to learn about the team, their business model, their goals, and what they want and what you want, what they want you to do all within a short amount of time. So, you really have to learn everyone’s dynamics and how you’re going to be a part of everything. And you can’t be afraid to understand your strengths—what you can offer to the company and what your role is.
Another big thing was how much you really have to conform to the business. I say it’s like becoming a chameleon as a designer. You can’t just have your thoughts and processes; you really must be able to adapt to each company.
We hear a lot about how the gig economy is the future and that within the next several years the number of contractors is going to increase. Why do you think contract work is becoming more popular?
I think it is because, especially in the tech world, a lot of companies don’t constantly need to update their website. They just don’t always need someone on the team or in their department who has an annual salary. They might just need someone to look at their design or their UX/UI like once every two years or whenever they feel like it’s outdated. So, a lot of contracts are popping up because companies don’t want to commit to designers full-time, which is unfortunate for us designers in some ways. But it’s nice having that flexibility as well. With consulting, you can have multiple clients at one time, and you don’t have to just commit to one. If you have the time and the flexibility and time management, you can have multiple clients. So, with regard to income, that’s also a benefit for both client and consultant.
What’s something you would tell people who are considering working with a recruiter for the first time?
Well, this was my first time working with a recruiter, actually! And I was very surprised at how helpful my recruiter was. Arianna did a good job of understanding what I do and linking me up with the clients she felt I would be the most successful with. I was really surprised at how good she was at her job—and I’m very thankful for that.
I think communication is the biggest thing. Communication is important for both sides—for the recruiter to communicate what kind of person the client wants to hire, and for the contractor to communicate their experience, strengths and what kinds of clients they want to work with. So, after some talking, Arianna was able to understand what I wanted, and I knew what the clients wanted. She provided for both parties.
Any tips for newbies on selecting the right contract?
This isn’t so much about selecting the “right” contract, but as a contractor, don’t be afraid to speak up. Sometimes a client might know what they need you to do, but they don’t understand what your job entails—you’re the expert! This can lead to a situation where you’re saying “yes” to things that aren’t truly part of your job function or that change your timeline because they require more effort than the client realizes. So, getting on the same page about the project needs and timeline at the beginning of the contract is key.