I have been a successful consultant for 15 years and I love it! I’m married and I have two kids, ages 14 and 4. I traded my corporate job for consulting and make more money than most executives.
What Do I Love?
I love being a consultant. The advantages are freedom, flexibility, control, interesting and engaging work, good pay and sometimes equity. You rarely get caught up in company politics and nearly all of your work is direct value add.
Even before I had kids, freedom and flexibility were important to me. I clearly remember a woman who spoke at my high school for career day. She worked with computers and did it from home even in those days (pre-Internet). Freedom and flexibility were key reasons why I chose to major in Computer Science (along with Music and French). At the time my plan was to live in Aspen, ski all day, and work at night. I always hated cubicles and especially hated sitting in one at 8:00 in the morning.
Now I live a blended life with hardly any boundaries. I work and play every day. I typically work half my work day during the day and the other half at night. I take several professional level dance classes a week and water-ski every other Friday morning. Although I love to cook, these days we mostly live on raw fruits and vegetables, peanut butter and frozen burritos. I’m quick on the mute button and I can tell you a foolproof way to do a professional conference call from Disneyland.
What Do I Hate?
On the minus side, there is no regular pay check, no benefits, no IT department, and no one to blame but yourself if something goes wrong.
No check goes into my bank account unless I go out and win the business. That is the cold, hard truth. My husband is also self-employed so our family has no benefits unless we purchase them ourselves. If you’re lucky enough to have a partner with corporate benefits, you are ahead of the game. The check I write each month for the health insurance is bigger than the check I write each month for the mortgage. But please don’t ever take the risk of going without health insurance. The leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States is medical bills.
The first time my laptop broke, I really missed the IT department. Now I buy a new laptop every few years, before the old one breaks down completely, and I keep the old one to use in an emergency. My system also backs up automatically to the cloud twice a day. There is no excuse for losing client work with all the options available today.
You will quickly learn to build your network of support professionals and then you’ll be good to go!
What Do I Wish I Would Have Known?
Many consultants start off with a bang only to hit the doldrums two to three years in. Don’t fool yourself into thinking your business will build itself just because you have projects for the first several months. I call this the “pent up demand phenomenon”. When I first started my practice, I was fully engaged for the first few years. I thought, “Wow, this is easy.” Then I hit a long dead zone. I realized that I had been working off the pent-up demand from all the people who knew me. I have spoken to many other consultants who have this same experience. It took me several months to develop a marketing plan and fill my pipeline. Thank goodness for zero interest credit cards! Start marketing day one and never, ever stop!
The hardest thing about being a consultant is bringing in the business. I get out the binoculars, climb the mountain, scout the herd, raise my bow and arrow, shoot it, cook it, eat it and throw away the bones. It’s all up to me. To repeat an important point, no check goes into my bank account unless I go out and win the business. If you want to build a sustainable consulting business, there is no way to avoid being directly responsible for landing projects. I always laugh a little at this example because I happen to be a vegetarian but you get my drift.
You Won’t Believe How Easy it is to Get Started
It’s easier than you think to start consulting. All you need is a computer, a phone, brainpower and business experience. The work is the same as the work you’ve been doing in your corporate job only better. You and I can be sitting here today having a chat, and tomorrow you could be working billable hours. All it takes is landing a project. Sure, there are many steps involved in building a sustainable business but for now, it’s all about generating revenue.
The best way to get started as a consultant is to dive in. The following three action steps give you the best possible chance of landing a consulting project. If you start right away, you can be doing billable work as soon as next week. Following these three action steps works for me and I see it work for others, over and over again.
Take control and take the plunge!
3 Action Steps to Generate Revenue Now
- Define your value proposition
- Outline your services
- Focus on benefit to the customer
- Draft, iterate and go! 80% is good enough.
A good value proposition is a short statement of who you are, what you do, and how your services can offer value to customers. It outlines your service and its promise to deliver. The focus is on the benefit to the customer. As Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” Brevity requires effort. Think hard about the essentials of the message and ruthlessly cut away unnecessary details.
- Make your list of people to tell – must be > 100
- Everyone can come up with at least 100 people to tell
- Make your list of contacts and include EVERYONE – everyone you have worked with, friends, colleagues, neighbors, parent’s friends, parents of kid’s friends, service providers, dentist, doctor, etc. Go back 10, 15 even 20 years for former co-workers. They’ll be glad to hear from you. LinkedIn is great for tracking them down. Google can work too. If you don’t have at least 100 on your list keep working.
- Tell everyone you know
- Send an email to everyone
- Then book meetings and phone calls with those people most likely to hire you now
Now that you have your value proposition and your list, it’s time to get the word out.
The best way to get started is to send an email to everyone on your list. Selling is a numbers game. You have to find someone who needs you now and has the budget to pay for it. Blasting everyone right out of the gate gives you the best possible chance of surfacing a few hot leads.
You are looking for those 3-5 people who are going to say, “Wow, Ashley is available? She does great work and I think she could really help us with XYZ. Let’s get her in here now!” You probably won’t close all five projects, but chances are very good you will land one or two good gigs.
For a deeper drill please join my Free Course – 3 Action Steps to Generate Revenue NOW.
Don’t Lean In, Walk Out! And serve it back to them on a silver platter at twice the price.