So you want to be a consultant?
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
What is your situation?
Are you working in an office or are you working from home because of COVID? Are you tired of working on someone else's terms? Do you want to have flexibility in your work and what you take on? For years, I thought the same way. How many books did I read about business and consulting? How many sites did I visit online to read about how to set up a business and a consultancy? How much time did I spend setting up my own websites, at first with my primitive programming in HTML, then using website authoring programs? A lot!
Beginning the transition while working
While I was still working for someone else, I checked with them: "Am I allowed to consult on the side?"
"Yes," they said, "as long as it doesn't interfere with your work here, and there is no conflict of interest." I was lucky. Not every company thinks that way.
I registered my own company using an online legal service. I got a tax identification number, a business bank account, and launched a website I had made with a hosting service. Then I began to consult on the side - only a little, because I was incredibly busy.
At last - moving on
Finally, I handed in my notice and left my job. I told my family and friends, "If I don't make it within 6 months, I'll get a "real' job." But it never happened. That was more than a decade ago, and I would never go back to a 'real' job. No sooner than I had handed in my notice, I began to receive calls from people I had worked with in the past. They knew before I told anyone outside of the organization. They were asking whether I would be interested in helping their new organizations. Also, I reached out to a number of people I had worked with. Right away, I realized that the people that I collaborated with and helped along the way were my best asset. I didn't provide them with the help, encouragement or advice for any reason other than I wanted them to learn and succeed. How important it is in any job to learn as much as possible, develop your skills, and help others to do the same, and to give your best efforts to move ahead the work and goals of the organization!
Soon, as a consultant, I was just as busy as before, but no one cared what time of day or where or how I did my work. Of course, teleconferences and meetings were on a schedule, but how I organized my work was up to me. If I decided to go for a walk at 3 pm in the afternoon, no one cared. If I decided to take off Friday and work on Sunday, it was my own concern as long as the work was completed seamlessly and on time. Also, the best part was that I was bringing in more money. In a regular job, most people work on a fixed salary, but with consulting, you can earn more money for more work.
Why the delay?
Of course, I reflected, "Why did it take so long to move on to consulting?" The truth is I had a family to take care of. Even though I had accumulated enough to take some time off from working, I was concerned about the long term.
Will I have enough for retirement? Certainly, I went online and looked at retirement calculators. What if I live to 80, 90, or even 100 years. What would I need to avoid being a burden to my family?
What would happen if I left my job and couldn't find another one? Sometimes, the only way to find out is to take the risk and see whether a new venture might work for you. You know your circumstances and your risk tolerance, and you have to make the best decision for yourself.
If, despite being really good at what you do, you have lost your job because of the pandemic, consulting may still be feasible for you.
What should you do?
This is all up to you. You know your circumstances, skills, and how much you want to live the life of the self-employed.
If you know any consultants, reach out and ask questions.
Learn as much as you can about consulting and the basics of running a business.
Find out if your employer will allow you to consult on the side.
If you are committed to making the transition, register your business, get a tax identification number from the IRS, start a business bank account, get a business credit card. These can all be done while you are still working elsewhere.
Visit the Getting Started pages on this website for more details about what steps you need to take move into consulting.
What your thoughts?
Please leave comments.