Consultant portrait: Sven Totté

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Why did you decide to start working as a freelancer?

I never really planned to work as freelance, it just sort of happened. I had been working for a long time in different senior managerial roles, at a wide range of companies. I realized I always appreciated the first few months at a new employer – when you got to learn new things and meet new people. It was also those months I felt I contributed the most with new ideas and solutions. 

I started by doing some projects on the side of my full-time job, but over time I became more and more of a freelancer and less and less of an employee. A big difference for me was that unlike being a manager – where I had less control over my agenda because most things I did were organized by somebody else – I was fully in charge of my time as a consultant. 

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What’s the best part of being a consultant?

Since I choose what projects to take on, there is always something new, different and exciting for me to do. I don’t ever get stuck doing boring things or getting pulled into teams I have no desire to be in – I’m there for my expertise and can focus on doing what I do best and enjoy most. And therefore, create the highest possible value for my customers.

I guess in the end it’s about the freedom – the freedom to work when I want, where I want and with what I want. Sure, in the beginning I was nervous because I didn’t have a safety net, and those perks a full-time employment brings, like insurance, etc. But I easily fixed that myself. I basically have all the perks, but none of the boons of being an employee!

What’s the worst?

I wouldn’t call it the worst per say but being responsible for all parts of a job can be daunting. I wasn’t very good at bookkeeping or invoicing in the beginning, so I had to put a lot of time into learning. On the upside, there is so much help to find. Nowadays I use a freelancer to take care of all that, so that I can focus on the things where I can add value.

Why Ework?

I am great at what I do – but that doesn’t mean I’m great at matching my abilities to companies, pitching myself, finding the right projects, nor at invoicing. 

The people at Ework, however, are experts at these things. They have a much better understanding of who fits at what companies, and what projects would be right for whom. So, when they suggest something, I know it will be good. And then they sell me to their client, which is usually a long process – if you do it yourself. If I do, I have to reach out to the client, book meetings, run the meetings, negotiate, organize the contracts, etc, etc, etc – with Ework I can just skip ahead to focus on doing the things I like and where I add value!

An added bonus is that it’s very comfortable to have all jobs in one place. I can log into the Ework portal at any time and there will be hundreds of jobs listed.

Tips for aspiring consultants?

Most people who ask me about this are worried about losing the “safety net” their employment provides. And sure, you have to think twice about how much you need that safety – if you’ve just gotten a kid, or bought a new home, it might not be the best time. But truth be told, if you’re good at delivering results it doesn’t matter if you’re employed or freelancing. Once you’ve got the references and experience, there are so many jobs available. 

Honestly; freelancing is not for everyone – but for some it’s everything. So, if you enjoy freedom and responsibility – and believe you can deliver great results – don’t hesitate, at least try it. More and more employers are open to letting staff work less hours, in order to try out other things. Talk to your boss, tell them you want to go down to part-time to work some more on something you love doing, but aren’t in your current work. But don’t do it behind their backs, be honest and upfront. I was, and my employers actually became my first real client.

I know a big worry is not delivering good enough or timely results for in a project. And losing the trust of the customer. The main reason projects don’t go as expected is that not enough time was put into the project brief. You need to make sure there is an aligned and clear description of expectations (such as KPI’s), timing, responsibility and mandate. This is where it’s great to have someone like Ework’s staff helping you! Naturally, some days will be less good than other days, but as long as you can explain what went wrong, what you learnt, and how you will hinder it from happening again, it’s often not that bad and your problem solving skills will create even more trust between you and the project owner.

Anything else you’d like to mention? 

Yes! Something I want readers to keep in mind: as a consultant you don’t automatically belong to a social group or team – so it can get lonely. You won’t always be invited to the 'fika' or AW or have water cooler chats. It takes work and effort to become a part of all the companies you’ll work at, so put extra effort in building relationships with your customers. Many often underestimate the importance of the social aspects – so make sure you don’t.

Oh, and if you’re still on the fence: just go for it, it could be the best decision you ever make!

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