HR Executive and Co-Founder of Gig Talent, a modern talent agency connecting organizations with elite HR consultants and coaches.
There are countless articles about how organizations can engage with the gig economy and tap into gig workers (what I call “gig talent”). As the co-founder of a company that connects companies with this type of talent, I’ve written a few myself.
But from my perspective, there are not nearly enough articles on how gig talent can engage with organizations. Often, it can be a fine line — one that consultants and other independent contractors are careful not to cross. We don’t want to “step on toes” or overstep. So, in an effort to not rock the boat, we either stay silent or go along with popular opinion. But by doing this, we aren’t doing ourselves any favors.
I’m on a mission to elevate consulting as a profession and to show that the gig economy provides a deep pool of extremely experienced and talented individuals. It is incumbent upon each member of the gig economy to help organizations evolve their thinking around talent strategy. If you want organizations to engage with you differently, you need to learn to engage with organizations differently.
Below are some ways that gig workers can approach their engagements differently:
Set the tone from the start.
Building relationships is a big part of gig work. Regardless of the length or requirements of the engagement, you have to set the tone at the beginning of the relationship. What can the client expect while working with you? What expectations do you have as a consultant? Building a relationship at the beginning allows you to set the tone for the entire engagement, even if you don’t know the desired outcome yet.
Take feedback, for example: If feedback is important to you (both positive and critical), and it is something you expect or like to receive, communicate that with the organization. It could also help prevent miscommunication or “toe stepping” along the way.
Consider yourself a value add.
You are there to help the organization achieve results and reach their business goals and objectives. The experience and skillset you bring add value. Try not to think of it as completing a “job.” When you do this, you can end up in a silo, and the organization can view gig talent as another cog in the machine. Instead, have a sense of pride in your engagement and make your voice heard.
Also, remember that organizations pay for solutions. The solutions and insights you bring to the table are valuable, and that is what organizations are ultimately paying for.
Take chances and speak up.
A great way to add value is to be vocal in meetings or when engaging with those around you. If you have an idea, share it. If you have experience in a particular methodology or system, speak up about the pros and cons and what you learned from your previous organization. You are there because your expertise is valuable to the organization, so take each opportunity you have to communicate your thoughts and ideas. The worst thing gig workers can do is to be wallflowers because they think, “I’m only a consultant.”
Be clear about your focus area.
You could do many things in your chosen field. However, does that mean you should? While it’s important to speak up and share your opinions and ideas, try to stay within your zone of expertise. For example, if someone brings up the need to redo an organization’s website in your marketing meeting, don’t volunteer to help unless you actually have experience with website design and, more importantly, a desire to do it.
Tap into your network.
Recommend those in your network or people you know. If you’re a human resources consultant and your client wants to partner with an executive recruiting firm, look at your network to see who you may know and/or who you can call for recommendations. This is one way to add value and develop a deeper relationship with your client. Your client trusts you and therefore trusts that you are going to provide strong recommendations. Plus, you are also helping out your friends and colleagues by providing them with new business.
Regardless of the engagement, taking these steps to actively engage with each new client will set both parties up for success. In order to grow as an independent contractor or consultant and ensure success in your work, engagement is key. With business strategies shifting toward a collaborative workforce, it’s more important than ever for gig talent to deliver strong results, both for now and the future. Shift your thinking and approach, and you will show organizations the value that partnering with gig workers can bring.