How I made it: Elisabeth Prager
Elisabeth has over a decade experience in the consulting, financial services and healthcare sectors. She has worked for leading for- and non-profit organisations across Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. Elisabeth recently relocated to Europe as a freelancer and has run projects for the UN and initiatives sponsored by the Visa Foundation. Before this, she led the strategy team at the Tata Trusts Cancer Care programme in India.
So why did you go into independent consulting?
I fell into freelancing. It was something I had always considered doing, but never had the guts to do, until life threw it in my path. I first considered it when moving to India on a fixed-term contract. Then, when we moved back to Europe and I was already almost 6 months pregnant, I thought I’ve always wanted to do my own thing and no one’s going to hire me now, so why not give it a try…!
I was lucky that throughout my career, I had established a good network, so when I reached out to some people I had multiple offers to go and work at.
Is there anything you wish you had known when you first started out as an independent?
Especially as I do work across multiple geographies, I wish I had known more about how best to structure my company and maximise the “efficiency” of the administrative set up.
What are some pros and cons with freelancing that you don’t think people realise?
- Flexibility – you can organise your own time
- Alignment to you values – i.e. you can choose which projects you’ll take and which ones you won’t
- You are in control of your situation and finances
- You can charge what you’re worth
- Risk – you don’t have the sense of “stability” and security as you do in a ‘normal’ job
- You are running your own business – this means you are responsible for your business development as well as everything else
- A fair amount of admin to set up and run
Is there anything you still struggle with as a freelancer?
It’s always a challenge to build new relationships in order to find work in locations where I want to work.
Are there any resources you have found useful as a freelancer?
I would say the most useful thing has been speaking to other freelancers about how they have dealt with certain situations. In my case that has mainly been around admin things, such as taxes and bank accounts. My accountant has also been valuable.
Are there areas you would like support but haven’t yet found anything useful?
If you move to another place, understanding how to set up, what you can charge, how to register for VAT, etc. Example – I recently moved to Denmark and I had to find out what a consultant typically charged for the services I offered. Also, I found out that whereas in other countries you charge on a day rate, here you charge on an hourly basis.
Finally, what are your top tips for people thinking about going into freelancing?
- Connect and talk to others who are already doing it
- Try to find your first freelance gig before you take the plunge and quit your job
- Build a network that you can leverage to find clients
- Also, if you’re not on client site, but working remotely all the time, find a fun co-working space that you can use and where you can meet others. It’s good for networking and also keeps you sane 🙂