The major downside of consulting is that when you are working you aren’t finding new work, and vice versa. As a consultant, you are only making money when you’re working. That means that all your vacations are unpaid. You may also have difficulty getting extended health benefits or a pension plan, but there are more options available today. Keeping a balance of potential work and contracted projects takes some time to master. It also helps if you have some cash in the bank when you start, as there will likely be slow times. Keep your costs low and don’t overestimate how much you will make. Also remember that many clients pay 30 days or more after being billed. Make sure you get some money up front. Freelance consulting does have its advantages: You set your own schedule, you can take advantage of opportunities as they arise, and you personally reap the profit of your work.
That was the conclusion to my 2007 article: So you want to be an e-learning consultant?
I recently wrote about 5 considerations on becoming an independent consultant:
- Have a clearly defined product or service that is simple to explain.
- Sincerely love doing that work.
- Be willing to give your all for your work and promoting it [it’s not a hobby].
- Have clear long-term objectives and align your daily work to them.
- Enjoy doing sales and business development [because you will be doing a lot of it].
Here’s my personal experience after 7 years in the business
My services are definitely not easy to explain to the average business person, though I’ve done several re-writes of my consulting services. The sweet spot is to offer services that few others do but for which there is still a demand or need. In my case, I’m one of the few Canadian independent, web-focused workplace learning specialists around. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m worked off my feet.
I love what I do, especially constantly pushing the edge of my professional expertise. I firmly believe that we need better models, systems and practices to integrate learning into our daily work, hence my focus on PKM and social learning in the enterprise.
I usually work seven days a week, either writing, researching or doing project work. I take time off for exercise and other personal activities but my work is not a hobby, it’s a vocation.
My long term objective is to be recognized as an expert in the field of collaborative work & networked learning and become less dependent on project work, with more long-term retainer type engagements as a trusted advisor. I am a very long way away from that objective at this time. Freelancing is a slow-growth strategy.
I like business development and getting to know new clients. However, I am not good at direct sales. This post is as close as it gets. That is my major weakness and is one thing that I would make sure anybody considers before embarking in the profession. Sales drive everything.
After +1,500 posts and +4,500 comments on this blog since early 2004, I know that there are people who like what I write. I would ask my readers and past clients for recommendations on any of these 5 points and also ask that if you think I’m providing a good service, please pass it on. We independents don’t have large marketing budgets. Our network is our sales & marketing channel.