There is no template or blueprint for being an independent consultant. There is no governing consulting body or spirit that is going to come down from above and say, “Hey! You’re doing it wrong!”
That said, below are some of the themes for you to consider if you’re thinking about becoming an independent.
1. What is meaningful to you about becoming an independent?
What are you after? Going independent is a means to an end. How do you make sure that your journey as an independent fulfills those deeper goals?
2. How are you with structure?
You’ll be responsible for everything from how you set up your accounting, how you do business development, how you contract, how you spend your time, when and where you work, how you manage your professional development, and a myriad of other decisions.
As an employee, many of these decisions are taken care of for you by an employer. In what areas do you enjoy having more structure? How can you facilitate that? Know what your personal preferences are for structure and how to manage it in your practice.
3. How are you being solo?
Being an independent consultant can be lonely and isolating. You won’t have a built-in team that you work with every day. You may work in teams and partnerships on some projects, and on your own at times. Either way, you’re the sole person responsible for your practice. When you have a fantastic success, or epic failure, will you want to celebrate the victories and face issues on your own, or do you prefer to do so with others? If you have a strong preference for being in a team coworkers, how can you find and develop those supports for yourself?
4. How are you and your people?
As an independent consultant, you will likely be less independent than ever before. Your relationships will become the lifeblood of your life and your work. You will probably need the understanding and support of family, friends, and colleagues about your journey. This may mean less time with certain people, or that you will be showing up a little differently, maybe more stressed at times, and maybe your schedule is going to look completely different. And you will probably have to reorient, re-introduce, or rebrand yourself to some of those people and groups. So, who are the important people in your life? How will you nourish and maintain those relationships before and during your journey?
5. How do you feel about getting clients?
- Do you have a strong network and sources of potential partners and clients?
- Do you feel comfortable marketing and selling yourself?
- Do you have the skills to convert potential clients into paying clients?
- Do you prefer to be the “prime” consultant or do you to be a “sub” and work with or under other consultants or firms?
6. How are your finances?
- How much do you want or need to make in a year? And how does that break down in terms of number of clients / your rates / average income per month / quarter?
- Do you have other sources of income that can supplement you?
- How well can you manage having variation in income each month / quarter / year? How long can you go without a paycheck?
- Do you have enough of a cushion to cover yourself when starting up or during slow months?
7. How are your skills?
Are you confident you have the skills needed to win and deliver the work you propose to do? Do you have the right business skills needed? How might you be able to get some feedback to identify any areas that may get in your way as an independent?
8. How is your mind and stomach?
How will you deal with rejection, conflict with clients or partners, and phases of “feast and famine” in your journey? Are you open to constructive feedback and working on your own skills and taking responsibility where you mess up? And are committed enough to something larger than yourself so you don’t get in your own way?
9. What is your plan for the business logistics?
Do you want to incorporate as a business entity, setup a business bank account, get an accountant, have a website? If so, do you want to do these things yourself or outsource some of these things? The good news is there are probably more resources and tools available now than ever for getting support to develop your business front end and back end functions.
And the one question the probably matters more than any of those…
In your heart of hearts, do you want to become an independent?