Baby Boomers will immediately get the reference, but in deference to those not born until after 1988, please permit me a bit of an introduction.  Nancy Reagan was of course, the wife of Ronald Reagan and the First Lady of the US from 1980—1988.  She was known for her sense of style, with her Chanel suits and Oscar de la Renta gowns, although she was a major champion of US designers as well. She was heralded as an icon of elegance, much like Jacqueline Onassis. She spent a great deal of time renovating the White House, which had fallen into some degree of disrepair. As part of that effort, she created a bit of a kerfuffle when she replaced the state china service just as the Administration announced that ketchup could be considered a vegetable in school lunches.

gig economyBut she is best known for the social issue she adopted as her cause during her tenure. She championed the prevention of recreational drug use through her ”Just Say No “ campaign.  The slogan headlined a major advertising campaign and became a normal part of pop culture, with references to it showing up on TV sitcoms on a regular basis.

So what does all this have to do with the Gig Economy?  That famous mantra, “Just Say No” is key to any professional workers building careers in the world of gigs. Although less important for the more commoditized gig economy services, like Task Rabbit and Lyft, where workers can just not opt to be available for jobs, the slogan is a must for those in the professional ranks.

As I explain in my new book, Thriving in the Gig Economy, before deciding to become a freelance writer, marketing consultant or independent software developer you need to evaluate how your personality and preferences fit the world of independent work. There are three key questions you must ask yourself.  One of them is: “Can you say no?”

With that question in mind, here is an excerpt from my new book:

“In the management novella, The Five Temptations of a CEO, Patrick Lencioni posits that one common flaw of a CEO is the inability to deliver bad news.  To avoid confrontation, he/she relies on metrics to make poor performance clear, rather than calling it out directly. Since anyone who is setting up a consulting practice is the CEO of his/her own firm, this flaw could be fatal, because you need to be able to say no to a client for many reasons. 

First you need to be able to tell a client that he or she is wrong. They may not like that answer, but you need to give it. The consultant who tells a client what he/she wants to hear, rather than bad news will hurt his/her practice in the long run. Remember, you are being paid for your expertise, not your political skills.

Secondly, you may need to tell a client that something they may ask you to do is not within the scope of a project. As employees, we are all used to doing whatever the boss says; if you are working on X and are asked to do Y you pivot and do so.  As a consultant, it is not that simple. You contract for deliverables.  If the client asks for something above and beyond those deliverables, you are facing scope creep, and the contract must be renegotiated. That is a difficult conversation to have with a client, but it is an essential one. 

Finally, if the client asks you to do work that is outside of your skill set, you need to say no to that as well.  Often a consultant will deliver a recommendation, and the client will then ask the consultant to implement it.  The consultant may be appropriate for that role, or may not be.  It is better to decline the follow-on work that is not in your sweet spot, then to take it on and perform poorly.  This is emblematic of a true consultant: a person who is highly ethical and fully client-focused, so much so, that he/she is willing to turn down work to best serve the client.”

So with full kudos to Nancy Reagan, when you need to, be sure to “Just Say No.”  As for the other two critical questions, subscribe to my blog to learn more.


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