One question I’m frequently asked by friends, colleagues and students: What’s a typical day look like for you, as an independent consultant?
My typical answer: There is no typical day. Not by a long shot.
But, I usually go on to detail out my prior day just to give them a feel for how wide-ranging it can be.
Today, I thought I’d answer that question in a more comprehensive fashion by focusing on a full week in my professional life (in this case, we’ll be looking at last week from Sept. 23-29).
So, want to know what a independent PR consultant’s life looks like? Here’s a “typical” week for me.
A rare day “at my desk.” Now, keep in mind “desk” in this case means either: 1) My kitchen table, or 2) My porch chair. Nevertheless, I got a ton done. This is one of the huge advantages of working for yourself in a closed work environment (read: your home office with no distractions). I swear, I can get 10 hours of work done in 6 hours. No lie.
Tuesday was a great example of life as a solo. Woke up and got my kids down to school, as I do most days (I walk my kids to school, as we live a block from our community school). Spent the bulk of the morning cranking on work. Again, at my “desk” (see above for reference). Around 11:15 I headed down to the University of St. Thomas where I was set to speak to the PRSSA chapter–their first chapter meeting of the year. I spoke to roughly 40 kids about the value of networking, blogging and skills necessary for a career in our industry. After that, I decided to grab a quick bite to eat with a friend (and PR professor and advisor to the PRSSA chapter) in the UST union. After that, I had a 2 p.m. conference call with a client, but I clearly wasn’t going to make it home in time, so I took the call in the Union. Found a quiet spot and took the call (on my handset), took notes and provided my input, just like I would if I were taking the call in my office. Headed home after the call, and prepped for another client call at 3:30, which lasted until roughly 4 p.m. I spent the next hour wrapping up emails and prepping a blog post for the next day. Grabbed my kids from school at 5, had dinner with them, got them down to soccer at 6 (less than a mile from our house). Got back and got them down for bed by 8 p.m. Caught the most recent episode of Breaking Bad on iTunes and then wrapped up a bit of work from about 10-11. Hit the hay around 11:30. What a day.
After dropping the kids at school, and getting just a bit of work done from 7:45-8:30, I ran over to Starbucks to meet two women I had met at a speaking gig a month earlier. I had followed up with the organizer of the event I spoke at and asked her to introduce me to folks she thought I might benefit by knowing. So, I spent an hour getting to know two incredibly smart women who work for a company (a big company based here in MN, by the way) where I barely know a soul. We talked about our jobs, social media, and our families. I call this “new business.” Nothing may result from this meeting. Or, they may turn into a client. Or, they may talk to a friend who has a friend who has a friend who may need my help at some point a year from now. I’ve learned: This is how “new business” works in my field. I spend the next few hours cranking through work, then head over to another Fortune 100 company (and former client) for a quick coffee with my former client. Again, staying in touch with former clients=new business. And, unlike the morning meeting, I’m hopeful I will be working with this client again at some point in the future. I return home around 4:30 and spend a bit of time catching up on email before picking my kids up. I hop back online later that night around 9:30 for a few quick emails, some monitoring and tidying up a blog post. In bed by 11.
I spend the first two hours of the morning cranking on work because I plan to spend the better part of the day over at 3M in St. Paul at an event a new friend has invited me to. This is a particularly important event for someone like me as it will be full of large, brand-side marketers. The event is fantastic. I bring a client along–and learn the following day that she found tremendous value in it (win). At the event, I see many familiar faces, and reconnect with someone I hadn’t seen in quite a while. I also put meet, in person, two people who hold leadership positions with large companies in town that I’ve been chatting with via Twitter and LinkedIn. We solidify plans for coffee soon. I leave the event around 4 and head across town, back to Minneapolis, for drinks with a friend I used to work with on a PRSA committee. My friend is a bit late, so I pull out my laptop in the bar and crank through some work for half hour while I wait (yeah, I get some strange looks, but this is life as a solo for me). He gets to the bar close to 6 and we share drinks and stories until about 7:30. My friend now works for a Fortune 500 company in town and it was good to catch up with him and learn more about what he’s up to. I also leave the meeting promising to him I’ll connect him with a couple people I think he’ll benefit by meeting. Who knows? Maybe he’ll return the favor some day. And if he doesn’t, that’s perfectly fine, too.
I spend the morning hours cranking on work in my office, but take a quick break mid-morning to hit the gym (nice benefit of working for yourself–you don’t have to ask permission to hit the gym). I then take a new business call around 11 that lasts about 20 minutes. It’s a referral that came in from a former client (the best kind of referrals). I’m confident the lead will pan out next week. Then, I hop on a call with a reporter for a local online magazine who’s interested in running a story on the 2013 MN Blogger Conference–an event I’m spearheading again this year. The conversation goes great, and it also gives me a chance to reconnect with a reporter I haven’t talked to in a while–and give her a heads up on a new client I’m working with that I know she’ll be interested in soon. After that, I eat lunch, work a bit more and head downtown to a new client’s space for a meeting at 1:30. The meeting goes great, and we get a ton accomplished. I push off from the meeting and head to midtown for a happy hour with a former client and good friend who’s leaving her job and taking a great new job that starts Monday. I chat with her for a bit, meet a few of her colleagues (again, new business now), and tell her I have to take off early to pick up my kids. I head back home, pick up my kids around 5 and we eat dinner. We head down to soccer around 6, come back home, take a bath and they’re in bed by 8 p.m. Watch a movie with my wife, start writing this blog post and call it a night around midnight (most of my blogging happens between the hours of 10:30 and midnight).
Weekend mornings are my favorite times. Coffee with the family and a lot of couch time. But after breakfast, I hop on my laptop for a little work/blogging while the kids play “forts” in the living room. It’s then “date day” with my daughter as we head to the Mall of America for three hours of rides, shopping and hanging out. We head home, eat dinner as a family and enjoy family movie night on the couch–another Hanson family favorite. After we get the kids down, I spend some time with my wife on the couch, and I then spend a bit of time tidying this post up.
Another weekend morning with coffee and the kids. And again, I spend a bit of time blogging. I also do a little community management work for one of my clients–I’m on point for this particular client every Sunday. Around noon, we eat lunch and I’m off to Hastings Country Club to play golf with a friend. It’s the fifth time I’ve played golf this year. 16 years ago I remember playing upwards of 50 rounds in a year. Now I’m lucky to get to double digits. I miss dinner with the family, but make it home for bedtime. I help clean up the house a bit and prep for the week ahead. Then, I hop on my laptop to do the same for my workweek. I do a bit more client work (probably about half hour’s worth), start with invoicing for the month of September (even though we technically have one day to go) and head to bed around 10:30.
And then today, I work up and did it all over again. Except one thing: None of this will be the same.