Self-Care and the Independent Consultant
A 6-Part Health and Well-Being Check for 2020
This July 4th holiday weekend is unlike any other we have seen in the past century. The health and wellness of our workforce are being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and we are facing a global environment of fear and uncertainty. For our nation’s workers, worry is at an all-time high: in an article on employee well-being, Gallup reported that panel data found that 60% of Americans reported significant stress and worry.
Emergent Research, a research firm that focuses on the self-employed, reports that for America’s small businesses (comprising nearly 50% of the workforce), hours worked are down 60% due the pandemic. For consultants in MBO’s own network, however, onboarding to new projects is still holding strong, demonstrating that in-demand skills on a project format could be an area of future workforce resilience.
Whether they spend this holiday weekend isolated in a home, on a beach, or just busy at a desk getting work done – the July 4th holiday is the perfect time for America’s 41 million independent workers to conduct a self-care check that can help prepare for the balance of 2020.
Start your health and well-being check
As a self-employed worker, consider where you stand on these six elements of well-being.
Remind yourself why you chose the path. Revisit your personal stories and successes. Jot notes on what moments were most significant. Also consider others: Who do you need to thank for starting you on the journey? Who supported you with a first project – and what can you do to remind and reward them for the part they played?
By focusing outward instead of inward, your self-reflection can help you build a stronger career story, and refresh and connect with your network, even in a down economy.
- Revisit the start of your independent journey
- Recognize a sponsor or mentor who supported you professionally
- Gift knowledge: send a book or article to your first sponsor or mentor
Many who are successful in self-employment started on the path because of the support of a loved one – a partner who provided support via a traditional health care plan or a parent who provided a nest egg or a family-supported side-hustle that created a cushion of funds to go solo. Consultants and small business owners can show loved ones their gratitude this holiday weekend.
Building supportive relationships is a key part of self-care. While entrepreneurs are taught to be strong and show a game face, it may be more beneficial in a downturn to engage in an honest conversation with a loved one, without worry about losing face. This conversation also can be a forum to also let a partner know other ways you would value their support moving forward through what might be a difficult year.
- Thank a loved one for their support
- Have an honest conversation about your fears or planning strategies for the second half of 2020 and read this post about couples planning for their career choices
Covid-19 may be an excellent time to revisit a consulting business structure. Ask whether this is a good time to change a corporate identity. Or, is it a good time to revisit your consulting bill rate? New rules and tax incentives could help you become more profitable in the back half of 2020. Surprise costs (like rising healthcare costs for 2021) are another area successful consultants and small firms can consider and plan for.
While reviewing financials can feel stressful, and it may be easy to envy those with a full-time paycheck, consultants can take heart in the knowledge that independent workers do often feel as financially secure as those in full-time work.
- Revisit your bill rate strategy by using our helpful bill rate calculator and downloading our partner guide
- Review this helpful post on 6 ways successful consultants can optimize their business
- If you have access to advisory services such as MBO’s Advantage subscription program for growing firms, tap these resources for advice and counsel
Planning for the second half of 2020 should include ways to stay connected to a community of like-minded professionals or business owners. It’s easy in times of social isolation to turn inward – but the greatest benefits can arise from finding those who are facing similar battles. Seek out local networking groups (many of whom have taken to Zoom) or find online communities that are sharing content relevant to self-employment and community building.
Invest in just one new community in your sector or niche expertise area for the back half of the year – and choose one that will introduce you to like-minded owners and increase your chances of word-of-mouth business referral. This is a key personal investment, but one that can also support your long-term business growth in an industry where new projects are often found by word-of-mouth.
- Find a new community on LinkedIn
- Ask one peer consultant for a referral to a group you should join (many are online during Covid 19)
- Review this blog about the benefits of partnering with other IC’s
Invest in just one new community in your sector or niche expertise area for the back half of the year – and choose one that will introduce you to like-minded owners and increase your chances of word-of-mouth business referral.
While the pandemic may not be good for income, it can be good for health and longevity. Consider the benefits of simple actions like walking each day.
While many consultants and small business owners consider themselves “too busy” for simple measures like daily meditation, this also may be a time to start the habit. It’s well-known that breathing correctly reduces anxiety, which in turn sharpens the mind and prepares a person for difficult times.
- Go for a walk
- Try a breathing exercise – successful leaders take advantage of the benefits of this simple trick for increasing focus and reducing anxiety
- Begin an exercise regimen that promotes mental health along with flexibility and balance. Did you know many CEOs practice yoga?
Our sixth and final self-care recommendation is a challenge. Successful consultants can serve by teaching others about this new way of working. It could be coaching a loved one pivoting back into the workforce; it could be setting up a young person with a first project because they are not able to go away to college due to the pandemic. It could be helping a business associate who is struggling with anxiety or depression because they are afraid of losing a full-time position, learn about career independence.
To coach and mentor just one person along the path can lead to great impact. The more diverse the group, the greater the social and business ripples. And the greater the personal rewards. More than 3 million independent workers contribute in high-knowledge roles and earn more than $100,000 a year as “high earner consultants.” These experienced independent workers may be resilient to job loss in a down economy, given the flexible nature of their work, and their focus on in-demand skills.
Successful consultants can serve by teaching others about this new way of working. could be a loved one pivoting back into the workforce; it could be a child who isn’t able to go away to college because of the pandemic. It could be a business associate who is struggling with anxiety or depression because they are afraid of losing a full-time position.
As many full-time workers struggle to find their feet with a shift from fixed to flexible employment driven by the pandemic, independent consultants and contractors that have already walked the path can help and be a role model to others. This path can be particularly attractive to those older workers who are being displaced. In this new flexible path, they can find both purpose and a paycheck.
- Help one other person understand the pros and cons of going solo. This article from Stanford is an excellent primer.
- Consider mentoring someone from a diverse background so they can learn how to be successful in independent work; review these tips for being a good mentor.
- View the special in-depth report on high-earning consultants.
- Successful solopreneurs often share some key traits – ask mentees to self-evaluate on these 20 areas shared by Inc. magazine.
Thanks to our friends at Gallup for sharing a compelling visual and 5-part article on well-being, shown below. It helped inspired our partner 6-part post on the independent consultant.
Read the Gallup story on how leaders can help employees maximize well-being here. And follow along as we continue our journey in July with more content on how to engage with – and unlock the power of – America’s growing independent workers, in times of workforce change.
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