By now, most of us have digested the entire library of free Simon Sinek articles on purpose or read and applied Seth Godin’s advice to our suite of business offerings.
Depending on your turnover, you may have signed up for an SEO or data insights package to bring our customers closer to our orbit.
Now we’re all swimming in the same pond of certifications, tools, advice and recommendations, what are our differentiating features?
With technology at our fingertips more at our fingertips than ever, our greatest assets are as they have always been. The ingenuity, empathy, creativity and ability that make up human capital.
They are intangible; they don’t come with a certificate or degree, but they are the skills that you have at your disposal to create a positive experience for those who work with you. The kind of experience that clients keep coming back for.
You may have found your way to the top of the Google page, but without the right intangible assets at your disposal as a business, you might struggle to leave a lasting impact on your clients and customers.
An intangible asset is simply an asset that is not physical. When organisations refer to their intangible assets, they are usually talking about brand recognition, intellectual property and patents. These assets though not physical, represent potential revenue for companies.
Intangible assets are all differentiating traits for a company; no one has the same brand or the same IP. These are the unique elements; no matter what tools they have.
Large corporations all around us; especially those who have responded successfully to the pandemic, understand that their business’s actual value is human capital.
Small businesses and freelancers can also harness this capital without having to pass a strategy through a large HR team or tiers of management by focusing on our intangible skillsets.
Sometimes it will transcend measurement or articulation, but intangible value remains long after a project has finished.
An Intangible Handbook
Your intangible handbook is one that you can start to create right now. Think back to the positive feedback, or even the changes you’ve enabled for your clients that they’ve appreciated because you know when you’ve made a difference.
The quote from Bruce Lee sums it up perfectly.
The intangible represents the real power of the universe. It is the seed of the tangible.
And that’s it. The perfect analogy; how you can plant a seed in the projects you work in, enabling the project and others to grow? It’s not even something you need to be good at in your own life; but what are the things you can bring to your project or client that elevate you above your work delivery?
Here are the top soft skills that have boosted my business value over the last year. Long may it last.
1. Organisational Capability
Years ago, I worked as a project engineer for a good hourly rate. Although it felt agonisingly dull at the time, it left me with an understanding of the simple principles that underlie organising a project.
Definition, segmentation, schedule, delivery and measurement.
Simple! But it’s much easier to be organised for someone else than it is to apply this discipline to your projects; otherwise, I would have already finished all of my hidden treasures. It’s furthermore, much easier to be organised for a client because you’re being paid.
Business owners are busy, busy people, especially entrepreneurs and you can help them greatly by being organised within the job you are doing and the whole project.
What does being organised look like from your freelance perspective?
· It involves you understanding the total size and scope of the project. If you’ve been taken on board to create a landing page for a business, take the time to understand the project’s goals and ambitions beyond the landing page.
· Communicating your progress
· Keeping live lists of actions, actionees and overdue items
· Microscopically understanding the end to end process.
· Offering to keep a spreadsheet of the action list.
2. Problem-Solving Mentality
Imagine yourself as the client right now; you run into an issue and have no idea where to turn. You contact your developer or writer or manager to tell them you’ve reached a bump in the road. What would you prefer? A freelancer who nodded their head and slinked off into the background to look for better opportunities or someone who put some effort into helping to solve the problem?
You might not have the right solution, but being onside or putting effort into solving their problem may have a significant impact. Also having trouble is a lonely place sometimes; by offering a solution you’re offering a hand, and even if it’s not the right solution, it will mean a lot to the client.
But when it is a workable solution, guess who is the favourite on the project!
We sometimes forget that clients are human beings; we see them as significant, power-wielding, all knowledgeable creatures. The truth is that everyone has doubts and vulnerabilities, and the ability to be enthusiastic about your client’s project is valuable.
Looking once again from a client perspective; the benefit of someone be enthusiastic about your project is huge; it gives you confidence, it gives you ideas, it gives you validation, and it can come from anyone.
Enthusiasm; swatted down by bosses of the past, discouraged by realists, ridiculed by BBC Radio 4 presenters, has a right home.
Share your client’s ambition by adding your ideas or even just upholding their level of enthusiasm. Make yourself their partner in crime in exceptional product or service delivery. Share an ambition loop where positive experience and feedback pushes the project onto high levels.
5. Shared Vision
How does your role tie in with the more significant element of the project? It’s easy to get insular about your particular piece of the glory, and when I’ve focused inwards, the results have never been as good as the ones where I’ve seen myself as a part of the same goal with a shared vision.
6. Agility — Emotional and Operational
No-one wants an overly emotional and irrational freelancer in their team. When you can keep your head in the face of disappointment or an operational challenge, you will stand out. Disappointments or challenges can be fleeting moments No one owes you a project or a role and keeping level head about your expectations will always be preferable to
I recently heard a story about a middle-aged engineer having a loud tantrum about some technical kit not working on a digital meeting. What was working was the audio, so the guy was heard swearing and blinding across multiple countries and declaring the incident a ‘disaster.’
If someone is going to get worked up so quickly at a small failing, how will they handle real challenges of the world and business? Keep that head on.
The whole world is exhausted with COVID-19 and economic gloom at the moment. If you can offer a positive experience when you deal with your client, they may not mark it at the time, but when they think back to people they’ve enjoyed working with you might be top of the list on positivity.
A smile, an enquiry about their family, a funny story you heard on the radio the other day, a story of triumph from the reading you’ve been doing in your spare time. There must be something you can find.
Things aren’t changing; they have changed, the ship of business best practice has sailed, representing an evening out of the playing field in your favour if you’re not an old marketing guru.
Give your client confidence that you can deliver and that you have confidence in their business. You don’t have to pretend you know everything, or that you’ll provide something perfectly the first time around. It’s the confidence that you’re onside with the client and their goals it will mean a lot.
These eight human capital skills are the ones that have fared me well this year and ones I try to provide within my business alongside the services. They’re also traits I’ve recognised in other people that have drawn me towards wanting to collaborate. Because as I said earlier, the capacity to use these skills on others is often stronger than our ability to use them for ourselves.
All these skills fall under the umbrella of seeing your project through your client’s eyes. I don’t mean to sound glib, next year is likely to be challenging for many people and sorting out your intangible capital will put you in good stead, but there are many ways to give back to the world and make yourself.
The opportunity to develop your intangible skills lies solely with you.
Thanks for reading.