5 Winning Strategies When Working as a Consultant at a New Gig

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Guest Blogpost by Diane Domeyer, Executive Director, The Creative Group

The strong demand for indie creatives: It’s one of the hottest hiring trends of 2016. In fact, 12 percent of advertising and marketing executives surveyed by The Creative Group said they plan to increase the number of freelancers on their staff in the first half of the year. This is great news if you’re an independent contractor. Working as a consultant offers a variety of interesting challenges and learning opportunities. But after you land a design gig, you still need to prove yourself. Here are five strategies for adjusting quickly to different work environments, building strong relationships with new supervisors and peers, and showing employers they’ve made the right investment by hiring you.

1. Study Up Before You Start.
Don’t begin any gig unprepared. Most likely you did some research on the company when you interviewed for the job, but now is the time to dig deeper. The employer’s website and LinkedIn are good places to start. Read staff bios and study faces so that when you’re on site, you’ll know who’s who and what they do. The sooner you get to know key personnel and memorize their names, the faster you’ll fit in. Then find out all you can about the industry and the company’s main clients, business partners, major projects, recent initiatives and top competitors. You want to come across as smart, engaged and well-informed from day one.

2. Start Contributing Immediately.
When you’re working as a consultant or freelancer, you don’t have the luxury of a gradual learning curve. Most likely there will be some onboarding and training, but it will be short and not as comprehensive as it is for full-time hires. Here are some steps to take that will allow you to pitch in from the get-go:

• If your assignment is a regularly published report, newsletter or brochure, look over past versions and study the style guide. The sooner you can internalize the look, voice and feel of the project, the sooner you can start contributing.
• Bring your own laptop in case the employer doesn’t supply one or the company-issued computer is not yet ready.
• Listen carefully during introductions and meetings, take notes and ask good questions.

3. Find Allies and Make Friends.
Don’t avoid establishing relationships just because the job is temporary. Get to know both full-time and other interim employees, let them get to know you, and offer to help out whenever possible. Immerse yourself in the assignment, show an interest in tackling more, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Whether you work two weeks or 12 months with the firm, you’re creating contacts who will remain part of your professional network long after you’ve wrapped up the project.

4. Double- and Triple-Check Everything.
You’re not just a package, website or user experience designer; you’re also in the business of quality assurance. So even if your job is to redesign and lay out the annual report, you should still be on the lookout for typos and grammatical errors. Also verify the little details. That means making sure you have the latest version of the logo, are using the correct color palette, and confirmed that the company has all the necessary photo permissions and credits. When you take pride in your work and go beyond what is expected of a designer, your supervisor and colleagues will take notice.

5. Keep Detailed Documentation.
When you’re working as a consultant, there’s little margin for error. That’s why it’s important to document emails, phone calls, memos and instructions, and to keep a paper (and digital) trail of the various mockups, versions, edits and approvals of the project. Doing so will minimize misunderstandings and miscommunications.

With its flexibility and variety, working as a consultant is a rewarding career. But to grow your personal brand and build a robust network, you have to be a pro at new starts. Successful freelancers are the ones who acclimate quickly to new workplaces and make strong lasting impressions.

The Creative Group specializes in placing a range of highly skilled interactive, design and marketing professionals with a variety of firms.