Freelance Success Doesn’t Require a Projector

To build a business as a library trainer, consultant, begin by building relationships and maintaining integrity

June 24, 2016

Pat Wagner and her easel pads.
Pat Wagner and her easel pads.

Attention all librarians and conference planners: Do not offer Pat Wagner a projector for her presentations. She doesn’t want it, nor does she need it. The woman can captivate a room for hours with only the sound of her voice and an occasional thought jotted down on a paper pad posted on an easel.

With more than 40 years experience as a trainer, educator, and consultant, Wagner doesn’t need to be fancy. She’s honest about that. She’s more concerned with building relationships and maintaining integrity, while helping as many people as she can along the way. It’s why ASCLA chose her to speak about “Freelance Success: Building a Business as a Library Trainer, Educator, Writer, Researcher, or Consultant.” She’s good with people, which is imperative when working as a consultant. And it shows.

But as Wagner quickly points out, that’s not enough for those librarians wanting to pursue professions as library consultants or trainers. One must be good with finances to negotiate contracts and fees, be your own marketing and public relations team constantly reminding people you exist, and most of all, be patient, as it often takes 3–5 years to get established in the industry.

Intertwining stories of her successes with tales of challenging clients unwilling to make change, Wagner showed the room of 30 aspiring freelancers that being trustworthy and honest goes a lot further than having the right credentials or library degree.

“Being objective is important to me,” she explained. “By not being a librarian or a member of any association, my clients know I am not biased in my opinions and advice.”

It’s probably why her work at Siera with her husband Leif is so successful and the reason most of her clients are from word of mouth. And even then, she doesn’t always take on the business.

“If I encounter a difficult person who is not in a healthy environment for me to do my work well, I’ll have no problem saying ‘I’m not the right person.’ And I’ve lost a few friends that way too, but we have to stop rescuing people.”

And offering projectors to people who obviously don’t need them to do their job well.


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