Where can you work as a Communication Consultant if work is a thing you do, rather than a place you go?

Today I’m continuing my series offering insights into the reality of working as a Comms Consultant, to mark All Things IC’s fifth birthday, including a video tour (below) of my office.

Thank you for all your kind feedback about the artwork I’ve had created to mark my business milestone, I’m thrilled to hear it resonates with you as much as it does with me.

In answer to my own question, I can work wherever my laptop is. Thank you to everyone who has sent me questions, I’ve addressed them in this article.

As ever, I’d love to know your thoughts – feel free to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC with any queries.

What do you miss most about working in-house?
That’s such a good question. I miss being able to check my thinking with someone else, or have a fresh pair of eyes reviewing a piece of work I’m close to.

I often ask my peers for their opinion and have a brilliant network of fellow independent consultants. I’m used to occasionally receiving extracts of their work to critique, in the same way they do mine.

There are certain times of the year when the fact you work independently feels lonely.

For example, buying cakes on birthdays, Secret Santa or sporting events. But my husband now works independently too, so we do those things together.

If I want to be surrounded by other people working, I’ll go to a shared working space, but with my new office space (see below), I rarely do that now as I’m so productive there.

I started my career as a Journalist in 1999, so grew used to working in a noise of a newsroom, with phones ringing and faxes whirring.

When I created All Things IC and dropped my daughter at nursery, I remember going home on day one of running my business. I sat at my desk and truly understood the phrase “silence is deafening” for the first time.

It was it the first time since being born that I’d been at home without her. The lack of noise was startling and I’m not ashamed to admit it made me cry. Then I had a cup of tea, dried my eyes and set about creating my business.

That first day was when I discovered podcasts all over again.

Listening to podcasts, particularly the FIR podcast network with Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson, became part of my working routine in 2013 to overcome the quietness. I’m a serial multi-tasker and still regularly listen to podcasts while I work.

How do you celebrate client wins?

I’ve always celebrated client wins. For example, I signed a new client today and the first thing I did was text my husband.

I used to celebrate signing a new client by buying shoes. But seeing as I have now worked with 65 companies, that wasn’t a sustainable idea, and thankfully I stopped that a while back! I now buy Lego models every now and then, and have a dedicated shelf in my office where I keep some of them.

I find creating models useful as a wellbeing activity and because I love Lego. Although – as you’ll see from the pic below – sometimes I celebrate a client win with something smaller like a packet of Squares crisps!

One thing I’ve missed over the past five years is having a team to share those exciting moments with. However, I now call my Executive Assistant Louise and we share them together.

A typical client win is when you sign up to work with someone. But I’m also delighted to hear when clients have changed roles, been promoted or grown in confidence through our work together. Their success spurs me on and I love hearing about their achievements.

Where I work

I answered Kim’s queries about part-time working in my second article in this series: How to work as a Communication Consultant: getting paid.

We turned our spare bedroom into my office when I launched All Things IC. Then I had my sons and every room had little ones in!

So I started to work in a shared office space in Paddington, London, when I returned to work after having my twins.

We moved house a couple of years ago and I had an office on the top floor of the house. It only had one desk and with two self-employed people in the house, we needed another solution. So in Summer 2017, my husband and I had an office built, which we’ve dubbed the shedquarters.

I still have my shelves of books in the old office room, but I’ve made my side of the office my own and work surrounded by visual stimulation, candles, plants and music. I have a large flipchart for my many doodles and mind maps and Miss M even has her own desk for times during school holidays when we both work in there together.

I’ve just recorded a quick video to give you a tour:

However, I have been known to work in the strangest of places…

Here’s a couple more pics of my office space. I’ve started hosting VIP days for fellow consultants in there and we spend the day brainstorming together (they get to sit in the VIP chair) and discussing all things comms related.

How to work
I spend approximately 50 percent of my time on site with clients and 50 percent working remotely from my office. This suits my family as it means I can do the school run fairly regularly and attend important meetings such as assemblies and sports days.

My workplaces vary from railway depots to zoos, from aircraft hangars to shop floors, as I get stuck in with my clients and experience their worlds to help them improve their internal communication. I love it!

I also rent training rooms at the fabulous WallaceSpace in London and The Office Group for Masterclasses, client meetings and coaching sessions.

Thanks for your question Ally. I choose not to take on interim contracts so the need to go to the same place every day, isn’t there for me. I thrive on variety, which is why I need to go to different places constantly.

However, I’ve worked with some clients consistently since I started All Things IC, so have returned to their workplaces numerous times over the past five years.

I’ve never thought about whether I’m as passionate about client causes as I’m not employed there. My immediate thought when I read your question was “of course I am as passionate about them” – which is my gut feel. I think the benefit of not being employed directly is my objectivity.

I often find myself in situations where emotions have run high in an organisation, everyone is stuck and then they call me in.

When I come into a situation I can be objective and cut through the red tape because I’m advising based on what I find and my experience, not because of hierarchy or internal politics.

Those are often barriers to organisations being able to solve their own problems and lead to them looking for external help. I can say the “unsayable” and challenge, because I’m there to help and move them forward.

I am committed to my clients and regularly share their successes e.g. via my own social media feeds (using #client to disclose the fact they are a client of All Things IC). It’s a privilege to be invited to experience the inner workings of organisations and I take it seriously.

Thanks for your question Laura. Yes I do turn down work, but it’s usually for good reason. This can include my availability, the location and the type of organisation. I’ve refused to work with a couple of organisations on ethical grounds, but it’s not appropriate to say more about those, so I won’t.

As the years have gone on, I’ve learnt how to plan my time effectively and prioritise family time.

I always have to plan holiday time, not least because my children attend pre-school and school, and my husband is also a self-employed consultant. That combination leaves little room for spontaneity! I plan my work around the school holidays. For example, I don’t hold any publicly listed Masterclasses in July and August, but may do bespoke ones for clients.

I hope that helps answer your queries and you found it useful. Do let me know your thoughts – you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Thank you for stopping by,

Rachel

Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog, 1 February 2018.

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