Starting a New Job? Walk in Like a Freelancer.
Pretend you’re a consultant if you want to be a better full-timer.
Since starting Honor Code Creative, I often find myself in the position of a) walking into a new gig and b) seeing how new full-time associates walk into their new gig. There are certain things I do now as a freelancer that I didn’t do when I’d start a new full-time job (and it turns out, most people do the same). So, voila. 5 tips.
- Go shopping. Okay this one, I have always done as a full-timer and a freelancer (go figure), and I’m pretty shocked that most people don’t. Before a new B2C freelance gig, I always BUY THE PRODUCT. It seems so obvious, right? If it’s wearable, I WEAR THE PRODUCT. For the most basic reason: You want to show support and belief! You want to be optimistic and on board. And have team spirit. I’ve always been amazed that someone starts a new job with a fashion brand and doesn’t wear something by that brand on day 1 and as often as possible. Don’t tell me it’s too expensive — it’s an investment and it’s tax deductible. It also leads right into #2.
- Be an outsider. Buying something from the brand you’re about to work for allows you to experience the entire flow as a true consumer. I take notes about every little thing. What’s unclear? What sounds cold? Because from then on you’re an insider, and you won’t have as easy a time observing from the pure consumer vantage point. (And you should still practice being an outsider from then on as often as possible.)
- Be gracious about what’s come before. As a freelancer, you never criticize the work you find unless you’re asked to. The person who brought you in may have led that work, for one thing, and even though s/he’s now bringing you on board to improve it, there’s no need to be critical. (It’s also just a shady thing to do if there’s no productive reason + life is too short to be shady.) Just go forward. So many times over, I’ve seen people walk in on Day 1 of a job and devote time and energy to hating on the work that’s been done rather than starting to map out a productive go-forward plan. It’s a habit that suggests your own insecurity and wastes time.
- Listen + fact-find. As a freelancer, you want all the information possible so that what you present is on target. Because you’re not part of the business at the start, questions are expected and of course you ask them. As a result, you understand the context of the project and what the limitations are, so you know where to push productively. Maybe in a bid to add value right away, people new to full time roles often skip the listening phase. I’m always amazed when someone starts a new role and doesn’t take 15 minutes to a half hour for a meeting with each team member to ask what the challenges are, etc. As a freelancer, I’m starving for this kind of information; it often leads to big ideas and helps me see a work-around to something that’s been a sticking point.
- Don’t forget the big picture. It’s mystifying (to everyone!) when someone comes in full time at a leadership level and starts digging in on something really small. Apart from the fact that micromanaging demoralizes the team and wastes time, it makes people wonder: how are they going to have time for the big ideas I thought they’d bring to the table if they’re nitpicking about a rule in the design? I think this comes from a combination of wanting to have an impact and feeling overwhelmed. But this is the time you should be using to listen + fact find. Find out why things are the way they are. Dig into the org. and the limitations. It doesn’t make you less of a perfectionist to let an email go as-is while you’re looking at the email flow generally, end to end. Or the overarching creative approach. It makes you smarter.