Teach Others Not To Need You

Freelancers and consultants think that they should work to get clients on retainer to stabilize their revenue.

Full-time employees think that they must become “indispensable” — often by cultivating a unique skillset or by retaining institutional knowledge.

Agencies learn to keep their strategies, tactics, and often their results to themselves so that their clients learn to depend on them.

Throughout my career, I’ve found myself in each of these roles and employing each of these strategies. Each time, I was acting out of a profound fear that doing otherwise would leave me obsolete & unemployed.

I was wrong. So, so wrong.

Trying to force others to need you will always end badly. When they realize they don’t need you (it’ll happen), they’ll be justifiably upset. And you’ll be rightly fired.

The best projects of my career — the ones with the best results and the happiest clients — were the ones in which I made the active decision to teach others not to need me, where I empowered them to be the heroes of their own story, where I did my part and then got out of the way.

As much as people resent when you keep them in the dark, they respect when you bring them into the know. That respect will manifest in the forms of positive references, new opportunities, and increased responsibility. 

So tell your clients how to fix the webpage themselves. Bring your coworkers up to speed on the history of the project. Be open and honest about your strategies and tactics. Trust me — it’ll be okay.