Many a professional, frustrated or tired of their jobs, have asked me what it’s like to be a consultant, and if they should try it. They envision “the good life”: World travel, your own boss, free time, and excellent income. Question: Why does an organization need a consultant In the first place? Primarily, the organization needs help with an issue that requires an outside, objective view. They need an outside expert. Note the word “expert”. If you are not an expert in a field or subject, why would anyone want to hire you as a consultant?
Here are some pro and con thoughts to consider:
You’re your own boss. You can make your own decisions. Well, at least some.
You have a great deal of freedom and flexibility in your work, schedule, time and fees
You have a great deal of diversity and variety in the work. Each consulting project is uniquely different. On the other hand, the expectations for results are very high.
Financial rewards are much greater than your current income. Well, maybe.
If you’re very well known in your profession, you have a leg up on the competition
Marketing skills and excellent contacts are two of the keys to success. If you don’t have either, move this consideration to the minus column.
If you’re not the very best, forget it: Competency, relevant experience and prior successes
Others will be implementing your recommendations. It’s frustrating when you can’t do it.
Consulting assignments are gained through referrals. Who is going to refer you?
Travel is unending with marketing presentations, actual on-site consulting or follow-up
Marketing is a constant never-ending process. It usually takes up to 30% of your time.
Your financial horizon is about 3 to 6 months out. Your income is zero when not consulting.
The lack of social contact in an office means there is no one to bounce ideas around
The costs are high: Personal/family benefits, insurances, retirement, creating a corporation, legal advice, accountants, tax support and so on.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS – What happens if… ?
The economy falters, companies can’t afford consultants and few full-time jobs are available
Your reputation for quality work isn’t widespread. Where do the referrals come from?
Your family life is disrupted with your travel and lack of time with them
Major swings of income cause pressure that some families can’t handle.
This list is only a small insight into the issues to move from a full-time job to consulting. You need to be: Expert in your function, known in the industry, independent in your work, highly confident in your abilities, interpersonally swift, have a skill in marketing and a group of influential leaders willing to refer you to others. No small feat. Think very long and hard before making the jump. On the other hand, I never regretted nor questioned my decision 35 years ago.
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