Career Choices: Getting Set for Life as a Consultant
Life as a consultant can be exhilarating and liberating. Do what you like (…uhmm love) to do, when you want to and how you want to do it. Crack the ubiquitous work-life balance code and in short, live the “I get to have my cake and eat it too”, life. Well, it could definitely be all of this and then some. The reality is that this path of career choice comes with its own share of highs and lows. There are some hard realities that one should be aware of when it comes to the consultancy gig life.
Lets decode this and make it as simple as possible and not ominous! The main thing to have a sense of is how to get started, the positives and well, the pitfalls.
So whether you want to take the plunge from the comfort of a full time well paying job to spread your wings in the same space or change paths completely and live your passion. Or use this path as first steps to getting back into the work force without actually having to feel overwhelmed by diving into a 9-5 (or well 10-8, who are we kidding!) job, then here are a few guidelines to getting ready for life as a consultant.
*Area of expertise and goals
Take some time out to calibrate yourself, your skills and your interests. The most important thing is to work to your strengths. Up-skill yourself if required in your area of expertise to be relevant in the current scenario and to a prospective client base.
Have a good understanding of what you aim to achieve financially by moving into this role.
Have an understanding of how you want to work this role; is it more of a part time commitment or do you want to grow it to a point of employing people etc.
Based on this you would automatically figure out your weekly/monthly time commitment
*Set your target business audience
Once you know where your forte lies and have a sense of the above goals, narrow down the avenues/businesses, to target.
Decide how you want to charge your prospective clients: whether project based or time based. And accordingly arrive at your rates.
Start reaching out to people you know and alumni networks that you might be part of among other platforms and business forums. Don’t hold back; advocate for yourself across networks both personal & professional including various social media forums. You never where the penny drops.
Consultancy can be liberating and mind expanding; breaking free from the shackles of SOPs and hierarchies, you have the ultimate power to create your path & vision and forge ahead. Meetings and deadlines can be scheduled as per your convenience. And Life can seem so much more fulfilling, with so many more boxes getting a check mark. Such as, more sleep, the ability to get in a workout and most of all, no manic daily commute and inevitable road rage! But, for this almost Utopic scenario to be a reality, one needs to ensure that a certain rhythm and discipline is maintained. It is very important to understand that as a Consultant, the buck stops at you. Setting certain timelines for monthly processes such as billing, regular updates, client reports etc. are what will set you apart. Maintaining a professional decorum and etiquette at all times is imperative. The ability to say ‘no” is also important. Don’t take on more that what you can chew; it will affect your credibility.
Honesty is always appreciated. Your works speaks for you, your ethic and professionalism.
And the flip side; it isn’t always Utopia. Being on your own means, just that. You are your own motivator, boss and colleague! It can get tough to navigate this day in and day out. Signing up to be part of forums and support groups of like-minded professionals can be helpful. In addition, there is always an element of unpredictability while being a Consultant. Income may not always be regular; you may have good periods and lull periods. One has to be prepared for this, financially and mentally. Perks of full time employment such as health insurance and other allowances are obviously not part of the deal and thus these aspects need to be factored in. Last and certainly not the least, when businesses face a downturn or when curveballs like COVID-19 hit the world, it is usually the Consultant who is “let go” in most cases. Having good practices in place like a contract for every project, which clearly protects you to the best possible extent is advisable.
Times are constantly changing and the world has truly shrunk with digital mediums being the order of the day. WFH is the new normal. We all want to live life on our terms and “have it all”. Ride the wave of the gig economy and why not! And so, whether by accident or design, if life as a Consultant is your gig, then adhering to these three touchstones should hold you in good stead.
Good Work Practices & Integrity | Discipline| Self-Motivation
Views expressed are the author’s own.