Lessons Learned: Starting out as an Independent Consultant
This was a really busy week for me. In fact, it feels like the last few weeks have been busy, busy, busy. I’ve come to realize that a consultant’s life isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. At least not for one who’s starting out. Everyone has a different story with a different perspective. This is mine.
The Work Hours
The one thing I always tried to maintain throughout my work life was to avoid working on weekends. I would have to occasionally open the laptop at home, but I tried never to go into work.
Now I’m practically working seven days a week. It’s so ironic!
One of the reasons I quit my job was to have more time for my family, it’s turning out to be totally different. It would seem that I’m working more days a week, odder hours and life is just as busy. The only difference is, I’m still making my own rules and I suppose that’s what makes all the difference.
There is always the worry of money not coming in and dealing with the uncertainty of not knowing where my next deal will come from. I had prepared myself for the worst. However, I didn’t expect to be running out of money so soon.
Nothing prepares you for the harsh reality of being on your own without a salary.
You don’t immediately adjust your life. You start to cut down but probably not fast enough until one day you realize that you’re in trouble.
There are countless blogs out there from people who have made it. While they are very encouraging, they’re also a little misleading. Few people succeed quickly enough!
Deals fall through after you’ve put in a lot of time and effort. It’s probably acceptable when you’re a part of a large organization and getting paid anyway. Not so acceptable, when every minute of your day needs to go towards earning enough to stay afloat.
I’ve definitely gotten to meet a host of interesting characters. Even after walking this earth for 38 years and meeting hundreds of different types of people, I’m surprised. May be shocked is a better word.
I’ve met people who will do anything for money. People who will lie, cheat and steal. While I don’t condone it, what people do is probably none of my business. I can only choose to walk away. The problem starts when they try to rope me into their games. I’ve learned to always be on my guard and definitely becoming a lot more skeptical.
On the other end of the spectrum, are people who want help but, don’t want to help themselves. Unfortunately, they’ve been burned and cheated by consultants and freelancers, who’ve taken their money and just not done anything in return.
I keep bumping into people who seem to think I’m a con artist. I’ve learned to be amused at people like this instead of being annoyed by them.
Finally, there are the people in between… the other consultants. Some are very helpful and realize that we all need each other when we’re on our own. Others think we are out to steal their clients and cut them out of the deal. My word is my honor. But I suppose not everyone thinks like that. It would be bug me that people thought I could be that conniving. Now, I’m immune and I walk away. I’d rather not work with people who think the worst of me.
The Support System
The consulting game is not easy and it’s more of a challenge when you’re working on your own. You’re constantly on the go which means having the right equipment, great organizing skills and superior time management.
You have no support system and you are your own assistant. I’ve never double-booked or forgotten an appointment during my 15 years of corporate life. Seriously, never! I’ve already done it 3 times in the last six months.
I’ve painfully learned how to tune out noise, shut out the world and work from anywhere. The privilege of having my own quiet space no longer exists.
Not only do I need to manage my time and energy but, I also need to manage my own paperwork, legal work, file storage, stationery orders, courier schedules and books of accounts. I know there are services out there that could help me. If only I could afford them!
So, the key takeaways are:
1. Don’t’ think you will have the easy work hours because you don’t have a full-time job
2. Plan your money and be extremely careful
3. Be careful with people… regardless of who they are
4. Learn to work on the go and have good time management skills
As someone said to me recently…
”We Live to Learn!”