Hiring an independent contractor is a common activity in cultural organizations that work towards implementation of successful strategies. Why these professionals are so important, what are the ingredients of smooth partnership between contractors and employers and what are the successful factors in the overall consulting process?
My work as an independent contractor (consultant, researcher, writer, trainer, and also, the positions I have held as an executive director, dean of academic department, working in an embassy, as a theatre manager and other positions, have taught me something very important: you MUST love what you do. I love my independency and work freedom! Working independently is great: you are the Boss, you have a flexible lifestyle and working schedule, you can choose your clients and projects…And the new technologies allow us to do our consulting work from almost everywhere around the world!
I do not consider my clients as “employers”, but as partners and collaborators. I regard them as professionals, good or bad is a question of character, which in a professional environment is not an issue. Working on a contract requires a lot of diplomacy, negotiation skills, patience, tolerance, putting yourself into the shoes of others, a helicopter viewpoint together with looking at details, being objective and professional.
The success of a consulting assignment depends on a few factors: negotiating general terms in advance (as much as possible, and in written), mutual respect and trust, informing each other all the time during the project cycle, looking for constant feedback from your client during the process, delivering on time interim and final results.
The culture and arts sector in almost all countries where I have worked is not “stable” but is “mobile and flexible”. Artists and cultural professionals work on a project-to-project basis, rather than with stable budgets. In many countries the role of external consultant, or the independent contractor, is not well understood and respected. But these professionals are important because:
- They can see the situation from an external viewpoint.
- They can have an independent position when talking to diverse stakeholders and are in the position to listen different voices in an objective way.
- They can provide an independent analysis-objective, without any attachment to people of settings.
- They can offer solutions that are “outside of the box” because they know a lot; they have been working on many projects and cases, and they can compare, bring interesting solutions, or suggest options.
Efficiently working cultural organisations in the 21st century are the so called “learning organisations”. They are open to newness; they are curious; they are flexible and adaptable to constant changes. This is because the external environment changes all the time, and very fast. The successful independent contractors are part of this learning process, as they bring a lot of knowledge and expertise from outside.
Independent contractors advise, assist, suggest, offer, but they are not the “decision-makers” in the organisations. They provide options as a result of a thorough analysis and diverse methods of research. Then it is up to the managers and the boards of the cultural organisation to choose among the menu of options and to decide further. So, the consulting work helps in the overall decision-making process, because the gathered informational and knowledge resources during the consulting process are very important for an informed decision-making in any cultural organisation that works towards a successful strategy.
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