Are you a “doer” or a “thinker”?

In today’s virtual workforce, organizational structures are rapidly evolving. If you’re trustworthy and competent, clients will throw all kinds of assignments at you. In the short term, this is great for your personal bottom line. Your billable hours go up and so does your income.

However, in the long run, if you spend all your time “doing” things (as opposed to thinking), your perceived value by the client could be in jeopardy.

Why Be a Thinker?

Positioning Yourself with ClientsTo answer this question, consider your personal household. The guy who mows your lawn (let’s call him Ryan) is extremely dependable and a super nice guy. He always shows up on time, pays close attention to detail, and even bags the grass clippings. For $40 per week, you can have a great looking lawn without ever lifting a finger. If Ryan ever decided to raise his prices, there are probably 20 other people in your town who can provide the same services. This creates a problem for Ryan, as his only options for growth involve hiring cheaper subcontractors or altering the business model. Providing a relatively commoditized service forces Ryan to limit his long term earning potential in exchange for short term wins.

Conversely, consider your family’s legal counsel. When dealing with an estate or other serious matter, you’re paying for your lawyer’s ability to analyze the situation and apply knowledge to achieve your goal. Lawyers are able to command much higher hourly fees than our friend Ryan because they are thinkers – not doers.

You Know You’re a Doer If…

So we’ve established that it can be more beneficial to be a thinker than doer. You might want to take a step back and reevaluate your career track if this sounds like you:

  • Your client rarely asks for your thoughts on how to improve existing systems
  • Your entire job description can be summarized in a few bullet points
  • Your client never asks to meet with you directly
  • You seem to do the exact same tasks every single week
  • Your client never reveals any sales revenue, cost information, or other metrics with you
  • Your client does not share his or her “pain points” with you

You Know You’re a Thinker If…

If you would like to become more of a thinker than a doer, here are some things to consider:

  • Most of your billable hours are spent considering, planning, and implementing new strategies for the client
  • Both you and your client view your role as “big picture” in nature
  • You host weekly or bi-monthly meetings with the client to discuss strategy and progress
  • Each week presents new challenges and opportunities
  • You routinely review important metrics as a team
  • You work with a team of “doers” who can implement your vision for the client
  • In general, you are focused more on the “why” than the “how”

Take the First Step

If, after reading this post, you have suspicions that you’re more of a doer than thinker, it may be time to regroup. Although your current lifestyle may seem comfortable, never get too comfortable. Those who can continuously redefine themselves tend to have the greatest careers as freelance consultants. Redefining oneself takes a commitment to ongoing self-education and an awareness of the bigger picture.

You can do it!

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Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and

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