So You Want To Become a Consultant?
At some point in their careers, many corporate professionals entertain the notion of becoming an independent consultant. Some decide to consult as a bridge between corporate jobs. Others choose to commit to an ongoing consulting practice. If you are among these individuals, it is wise to decide whether you are personally well suited to pursue full-time consulting. Here are some points to consider:
Do I Have a Compelling Value Offering? As with any product or service, successful consultants have a compelling offering relative to their competitors. Why should a client select you for their needs? Do you have a unique or distinctive skill set that you can bring them?
Do I Have a Viable Business Model? How will you earn your money? How much money do you require in order to sustain your business? For example, will you only work on a fee-for-service basis, or would you be willing to work on a contingency basis (i.e. your compensation is predicated on successfully achieving particular business objective)? What business model will work for you (and your clients)?
How Thick is My Skin? As a consultant, even if you are very disciplined about your prospecting and relationship building strategies, you should expect to be either put off (i.e. timing is not right) or rejected by the majority of the prospects you contact. These rebuffs are usually not personal, yet, it can be easy for a sensitive person to take rejection personally. If you can't handle rejection, consulting may not be for you.
Can I Weather The Start Up Phase? While it would be terrific if your consulting practice is successful from the get-go, most aren't. It can take 1-2 years (or more) in order to establish a consistent client base. Are you financially (and/or emotionally) able to manage a protracted start-up phase?
How Well Do I Deal With Uncertainty? One of the common characteristics of an independent consultancy is its fluctuating business cycles. Sometimes you may face the prospect of more business than you feel you can comfortably handle. Other times, you may be concerned about where and when your next engagement will occur. If you are uncomfortable in dealing with uncertainty, you may wish to stick with your corporate gig.
Am I Comfortable With Selling? In consulting, a substantial portion of your time will be spent servicing your clients. However, because many consulting engagements are of limited duration and or because of client churn due to varying reasons, you will also need to dedicate time to attracting new clients. To succeed at this, you must be comfortable with selling. Some folks aren't. If you wish to be a successful consultant, either build this competency into your practice (e.g. hire a capable new business developer) or be prepared to get comfortable in marketing yourself to prospects. It's a necessary and essential part of the business. A great book on this topic is Dr. Adam Rapp's Transformative Selling. https://wessexlearning.com/products/ts
Professional consulting can represent an exciting and rewarding career choice. Yet it is a better choice for some than others. If you decide it is right for you, and if you approach it with the passion and vigor that it requires, you can develop a very successful and satisfying practice. Good luck!
"Insight Driven. On-Target Solutions" BFS Innovations, Inc.