Is Consulting for You?
The ability to set your own hours, choose your own clients, and be your own boss. What’s not to like?
But in actuality, consulting or freelance work is not for everyone. Before you strike out on your own and blaze the consulting trail, ask yourself honestly: is consulting for me?
Do you have a strong industry network?
Whether your goal is to move into consulting full-time or simply moonlight after your day job, you must be able to make connections. The broader your existing industry network is, the more opportunity you have to identify new opportunities for work. Networking is an on-going way of life for consultants; be sure you have the early connections to start and the drive to continually network moving forward.
Are you a self-starter?
As a consultant, you’re running your own business. An entrepreneurial spirit and time-management skills are a must to keep your business thriving and provide value to your current clients. If you thrive in environments with little handholding and only guidelines and deadlines to light your way, then consulting may be a good fit for you.
Are you a thought-leader in your industry?
Companies hire consultants for their expert contribution and mastery of a specific skillset. While no one has definitively “mastered” their profession, consultants are brought in to fill knowledge or bandwidth gaps that currently exist within the organization. To align with this need, it’s crucial that you establish yourself as a thought-leader in your field. Social media is a great way to showcase your expertise, as platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn allow you to connect with colleagues, clients, and prospective clients. Blogs are also a fantastic way to increase your exposure. Whether you host your own blog, or contribute regularly to an industry blog, this original content is invaluable in highlighting your presence in your field.
Are you a perpetual learner?
To maintain your thought-leadership in the long-term, you must always be learning. In the digital age, landscapes change quickly and you must be able to pivot and adapt to fit client needs. Make reading industry trades, articles, and blog posts a daily habit to ensure you’re fresh on current trends. Attend industry conferences to learn from others in your field. When appropriate, invest in continued education courses to broaden your skillset or keep your certifications fresh. Immersing yourself in your industry will ensure you stay relevant and valuable to your current and prospective clients.
Can you financially support yourself without steady income?
If you plan to move into consulting full-time, you’ll need a healthy savings buffer to support you if your income fluxes. Especially when you are first establishing yourself, there will be times when your client work won’t cover your full income needs. To help take the unknown out of the equation, calculate the hours you need to work each week at your desired hourly rate to cover your current expenses. Then calculate exactly how long your savings could support you at various tiers of income.
This will give you a strong idea of how flexible you can be with your consulting work and remove some of the immediate worry if you don’t meet your income needs.
While not an exhaustive list, if you answered “yes” to all of the above questions, then consulting may be a strong fit for you. If you strive to enter the consulting world, talk with other consultants in your industry to get additional tips, advice, and guidance as you start your journey. Strong mentorship will help keep you grounded and focused on your core priorities when starting off in consulting.
Burchard & Associates is an executive search firm specialized in accounting and finance recruiting across all business sectors, including manufacturing, retail, wholesale/distribution, healthcare, financial services, and more.