atw: Re: Fields of Tech Communication

Ilana,

I rarely contribute to this list, but it's Christmas and I'm feeling 
festive.  So I'm making amends:

I've never been out of work since I first 'stepped out into the void' of 
contracting in 1994.  I say that not as a boast, but because I still feel 
its something of a miracle.  At the time I was nervous about it -  I 
remember one of the permanent staff in the Consulting firm that I left sent 
me an email saying 'what's it like out there as a nobody', which cheered me 
up no end.  In hindsight it said more about the consulting firm than about 
me.

Looking back, the things that probably made a difference to me surviving 
(even flourishing at times) were:

1. Good work and an ability to learn.  Sounds obvious, but developing a 
distinctive style and reputation over time and keeping up to date with 
compliance issues, trends and tools makes a difference. Clearly from some of 
the comments on this list from time to time, a lot of people don't keep up.

2. Entrepreneurial skills.  The ability to anticipate a need in an industry 
and spot a documentation/training requirement or (more directly) in an 
organisation that you know about. Having good tactical skills; being willing 
to prototype a solution for free - looking for a solution, not just looking 
for work for yourself.  It all sounds a bit corny, I know, but I've met so 
many contractors who sniff at jobs that are too far from home, or not in the 
city, or too short or whatever, and many would never even fathom working for 
nothing.  That's fine if you can live with lean periods.

2. Relationship skills.  Developing good relationships with existing 
clients.  There's nothing like letting good work do the marketing work for 
you.  It's so hard to 'cold call' in this industry (no-one really 
understands what we do until we actually do it), I always think your current 
contract is your best lead for your next contract.

It's not as though there have been no bumpy rides or stressful situations 
along the way - and I'd suggest you can be just as bored and miserable in a 
contract as well as a permanent job. And yes, you can be exploited.  But I 
can honestly say for the most part good faith has always been rewarded one 
way or another, with no corporate ladders to get in the way.

Anyway there's some thoughts.

Regards,
John


 

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