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Trainers: Which animal are you?


As today is National Freelancers Day, I thought that this report about the various types of ‘animals’ inhabiting the freelance ‘jungle’ made for interesting reading. Which one are you?

According to the Small Business Research Centre at Kingston University, there are 1.4 million freelancers in the UK and this is set to grow. Trainers are of course freelancers and also embody the spirit of freelance. Based on Perfect Pitch Communications' Elizabeth Conley and Natasha Tobin's direct experience of coaching freelancers and observing how they set out to win new business, there are seven UK 'animal' caricatures that symbolise the inhabitants of the freelance jungle – so which are you?

The Bear

Profile: Bears are used to being in charge, are confident about their expertise and their supreme network of heavy hitters in their field. They would have previously worked at director level, or be confidants to board members. They may now be working as interim managers or senior advisers. Bears can be easily recognised at events: their incisive questions dominate seminars and they're the first to volunteer to chair conferences or prestigious events. This is a boon to professional associations.
Weakness: As freelancers they miss the loss of the power they enjoyed when they held coveted senior in-house roles. But they still apply the same behaviours to their new work environment. Bears are charming, but can become easily irate if they feel the client is prescribing a different approach that doesn't measure up to their expectations. Generally Bears feel more comfortable working within their peer group. Much of their contract work is through former CEOs or directors they have already forged bonds with. However, this reduces the number of contracts they can conceivably win.
How to fix it: The Bear is a good at networking, but needs to show clients a more flexible and open approach to their work. This might mean changing their personal behaviours when advising less powerful clients or staff. Bears should also structure their offer to provide a service as well as advice element, so clients can see where the Bear is adding value to their company.

The Cat

Profile: The Cat is fussy and likes to pick and choose from the cream of their industry's contracts. They don't waste time competing for small fry business. Their reputation is very important to them, though they are most attracted to creative roles and are drawn to luxury, excitement or flexible working hours. They can be uncompromising, but charming. Cats can be identified at meetings: they're the ones with beautiful stationery, designer briefcases or diaries. Even when business is thin, they give the impression of success.
Weakness: Cats' fussiness and preference for independence may reduce the number or value of the contracts they win. Their reputation for style and quality serves them well, but sometimes they fall down when trying to deliver most elements of the brief and can become overwhelmed, eating into their quality of life.
How to fix it: Cats would do well forming associations with other like-minded cats to win more of those lucrative contracts. They are naturally charming with clients, but need to clarify how they will meet the client brief and agree a schedule for delivery. This will protect their coveted reputation. As Cats can give the illusion of success, even in hard times, they need to compete more and be prepared to go the extra mile for clients.


The Dog

Profile: Dogs offer quick solutions for tenders, are good problem-solvers and reliable team workers. Dogs get a high turnover of business but generally get typecast into the average-end of the market. They work on projects where they can offer ready built solutions. They may hire other freelancers with complementary talents to achieve the conditions of the contract. They are expansive in nature and like the idea of running a business empire.

Weakness: Dogs need to take more care to read the client brief carefully and ensure that the freelancers they outsource work to our vetted and able to deliver the service quality they promise. They can get obsessed with quick fixes and may not take the time to listen to what the client is saying. Dogs are very sociable, but need to ensure that they achieve a profit from the many short contracts they win - focusing on quality rather than quantity.
How to fix it: Dogs need to target their market more discriminately and charge a realistic fee in order to expand. Dogs would benefit from taking time to develop a business plan and marketing strategy so their offer is differentiated and clear to customers. They should try not to overstate the size of their business (e.g. 'I have offices in New York') if these services are provided by individual freelancers. They should try to structure their team, service quality and standards. Clients will resent it if the Dog's associates do not match up to expectations.

The Eagle

Profile: The Eagle observes the market; they watch other successful freelancers closely, emulate their good qualities and make a pre-emptive strike when an existing agency looks shaky. Eagles frequently lurk on client and competitor websites, and use social media like Twitter effectively to swoop and offer advice where it will make the greatest impression. They are creative, quick and have an eye for detail.

Weakness: Eagles operate under the radar, but their predatory style is easily identifiable by other freelancers, so they tend to work in isolation. Clients may be impressed by the Eagle's insight, but feel preyed upon if they are targeted only because of their optimum timing, such as during a crisis.
How to fix it: Eagles offer highly strategic ideas and solutions, but would do well to expand their offer by building a small team of freelancers who can deliver the day-to-day services of a contract. They need to work on their interpersonal communication and team building skills, so that clients will trust them more and want to work with them for the long-term. This may involve becoming more visible and relaxed at industry events, or using their strategic strengths to build a stronger offer to clients.

The Fox

Profile: Foxes are shockingly bright and extremely charming. They are quick thinkers are highly creative, and enjoy both the competitive cut and thrust and people elements of the job. They tend not to be too discriminate in targeting their market. A tactic for winning business is to seize part of another agency's account by persuading the client they can offer a better or more inspired service. They love using their powers of persuasion and seducing clients over the telephone or drinks.

Weakness: Foxes are excellent at winning new business bites, but not bigger contracts that will sustain their profitability over the year. Clients may find that the spin doesn't measure up to the service delivered, but may stick with a fox for less risky projects because they're such good company.
How to fix it: Foxes need to work more strategically to identify long term areas for financial growth, rather than seizing quick-win opportunities. They should also try to gain a good reputation among associates for trustworthiness and for delivery. Foxes are natural opportunists, but would benefit from forming alliances, so that they can grow the size of contracts they work on and show evidence that they can manage more complex work. 

The Pigeon

Profile: The Pigeon works steadily on a stream of rank and file projects. They achieve new business with loyal clients due to their reliability and also because their fees are lower than their competitors. Pigeons are good at surviving in harsh economic conditions because of their consistency and availability. They work steadily and achieve the results specified their clients need, but lack the spark and drive of their competitors.

Weakness: Pigeons are not by nature entrepreneurial. They apply for the same contracts that are openly advertised on freelance websites or through professional associations. They are best at providing a good standard of service, but their offer is too focused on delivering value on a low budget. Creativity is not a strength for the Pigeon. They need to differentiate themselves in the marketplace so that their talents are rated as well as competitors, who may not provide such reliable service, but command greater project rates.
How to fix it: Pigeons would do well to develop a personal marketing plan that helps them to communicate their evident strengths of service quality and delivery. This may mean turning their offer into a structured product that can be sold-in to clients during one-to-one meetings. Pigeons should use case studies in the trade press that focus on their reliability, as well as their clients' loyalty. This will help them to win business with companies that have bigger budgets available. They may also need to hook up with more creative or entrepreneurial colleagues to ensure that their next contract achieves a stronger profit.


The Squirrel

Profile: The Squirrel is an engaging character that has a happy go lucky approach to winning new business. They network at events and collect contracts - but these are usually smaller, quick fix projects, from different clients. Squirrels know how to manage resources effectively and can weather financial storms. They are happiest working on small, creative projects that are visible and imaginative. They tend to work in isolation and may disappear off the radar altogether while they identify a fresh solution to a problem.

Weakness: The Squirrel has to continually look for new business because their preference is not to stay with a client for too long, lest they get bored. They do win contracts because of their creativity and easy going manner, but these are generally smaller nuggets that don't deliver longer term profitability.
How to fix it: The Squirrel needs to stop to take breath and spend some time building their profile in their industry for creativity, innovation and results. They should be more conscious of developing their relationships with existing clients to win repeat business, if they are to avoid being perceived as a plug-in service to be called upon on demand.

One Response

  1. No Rabbit?

    Hmmmm…. seriously, when I see a report that starts "According to Nosuch Research Centre at Wotsit University" or "Scientists at Someplace have reported they have carried out tests on mice and found…" I wander away and find something else to do. But in the interests of research I thought I ought to add my findings.

    I’m part Cat in that I like to have a few naps a day and really like culing up under the duvet, part Dog in that I often run around after my tail; part Bear in that I can become grizzly if West Ham lose (I’m like this a lot); part Pigeon as I like my own coup and always find my way home; part Eagle in that I soar away on flights of fancy occasionally and part Fox in that I can be pretty crafty if I want something badly enough. I was going to say part Squirrel and make a reference about nuts but I think, in the interests of Science and Research,  I’ll leave it there…


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