Tanya had created a successful independent planning business about 10 years ago, managing a number of meetings and events for corporate and association clients. She maintained an office close to home and the majority of the work she did for her clients was primarily in a virtual work environment; she’d never had a client request or require her to work in-house.
But when the recession hit, unfortunately all of her clients decided to put their meetings and events on hold. Tanya always thought that because she’d established a diverse client base, she had protected herself from this kind of thing happening.
With her income dramatically reduced, Tanya began exploring other options for generating new business. She continued to market her services to companies and organizations, networking with other meeting professionals she knew from her involvement with MPI and PCMA. She did, however, pick up some short-term projects and helped some of her fellow independent planners with their meetings.
After almost eight months of sporadic work, a former client contacted Tanya and asked if she’d be interested in a six-month assignment. Her client, “ABC Corporation,” was on the verge of launching new stores in 15 states.
In addition, Tanya’s client realized they needed to put more emphasis on their employees who had sacrificed during the recession, so ABC Corporation wanted to create a series of employee recognition events. The director of marketing at ABC Corporation asked Tanya if she would spearhead managing both of these events.
There was one condition: Tanya would need to dedicate 100 percent of her time to this project and work in-house in ABC Corporation’s marketing department. She had to weigh the pros and the cons of working full-time in her client’s office versus maintaining her independence.
Location and Communication
While Tanya had traveled to her client’s office numerous times for planning meetings and stayed for a portion of a day to work on a specific aspect of a meeting or event, she had never worked there for any extended length of time. The last time Tanya reported to one location on a daily basis was 11 years prior, before she started her independent meeting planning business.
One of the benefits Tanya could see by working in her client’s department was that she’d have direct contact with the rest of the marketing team as well as internal partners she had to interface with on these projects. A friend of Tanya’s who had also worked in-house found it very beneficial because there would be a lot of idea sharing and the ability to react immediately to challenges as they present themselves. Setting up meetings with internal partners would be a lot easier, too, because she’d be in the same building. Because Tanya would have an internal phone number and e-mail address, she wouldn't have to explain to internal partners who she was; it would be more transparent because she’d appear to be part of the marketing team.
Tanya’s friend also found that working in her client’s offices gave the team an opportunity to see her work style and get to know the depth of her knowledge first-hand. As a result, she became an even better asset and created new client opportunities.
Established vs. Flexible
Although Tanya went to her own office every day, she determined her own schedule. When business was slow, she could focus on non-work related activities. She enjoyed having a flexible schedule so she knew it would take time getting used to reporting to the same location every day. Having that flexibility also meant that Tanya was able to be more involved with a couple of professional associations, and she’d created a wonderful professional network through these organizations. Working for her client, her volunteer efforts would now truly “be on her own dime.”
Tanya also had to consider what she’d do if another client asked her to manage one of their meetings. She would have to figure out how to handle this outside of the time she was working on her in-house projects.
Based on the IRS list of factors it uses to determine a consultant/independent project manager’s status, Tanya clearly would lose her status as an independent business owner for the next six months. For more information, go to www.irs.gov/businesses/small and then click on the link titled Independent Contractor (Self Employed or Employee). Her client would run Tanya through the temporary agency they used, which meant receiving payment on an hourly basis and a W-2 at the end of the year, so Tanya wouldn't have to deal with setting aside money for taxes as she did when she received payment for other client meetings she managed. Another tax resource for small business is http://smallbusiness.answers.com/taxes.
One important thing for both independent planners and their clients to keep in mind is that while this person is working in-house they’re not an employee of the company or organization. Make sure your client doesn't view you as a regular employee, but as a business owner who’s providing services and expertise to them.
Sheryl Sookman, CMP, is principal of The MeetingConnection, a company that offers placement services, career coaching and resume design services to individuals in the meetings industry. Sookman presents workshops, keynote speeches and webinars on career- and employment-related issues. Her book on career strategies and resume design titled Who’s In Charge of Your Career? Creating a Strategy for Success, is available on www.amazon.com. You can reach her at 415.892.1394 or via e-mail at email@example.com. The MeetingConnection’s website is located at www.themeetingconnection.com.