Whether out of desire or necessity, many people are foregoing traditional full-time employment in favor of contracted consultant work.
Going this route means you are your boss, which can be both a blessing and a curse. It means you must be your own marketing, finance, and human resources departments. It also means you need to develop and maintain a business strategy, collect on outstanding debts, and even book your travel accommodations.
In light of all the added complexities of striking out on your own, here are a few key do’s and don’ts.
Do – Find a Niche
Specialization is vital when starting as a new consultant. This can be quite a change from being an employee at a company, as companies often ask their workers to be flexible and take on duties outside their core competencies occasionally.
Start by specializing in the two or three things you are very good at and have a significant amount of experience doing. Your chosen niches should have minimal competition.
Also, your niche should be framed in terms of what companies seek in a consultant. Choosing an obscure place with little competition won’t matter if you can’t find work.
Don’t – Be Shy About Tapping into Your Network
If you’ve worked in your field for a while before becoming a solo act, chances are you have a few industry contacts, and those contacts could turn into consultant work.
Don’t lay low out of insecurity or fear of the unknown. You’ve decided to take the plunge, so now’s the time to jump in with both feet!
You must go out and find work when you are a consultant. Because getting a job is easier when you already have experience, you need to tap your network as soon as possible and get some momentum for your consultancy.
Do – Grow Your Professional Network
If you need the most expansive professional network, now is the time to start growing it. Get involved with professional organizations, community organizations, and online discussion groups.
Even innocuous things, like joining a recreational softball league, can lead to landing that one big client.
Do – Get Used to Working Remotely
While it would be nice to rent a fancy office space to meet with potential clients, it is optional. Businesses will be interested in your skills rather than your surroundings, so working from home can be cost-effective.
Working from home takes some getting used to. From chores around the house to TV shows to getting the brakes done on your car, some distractions abound when you aren’t in a structured office environment all day, and you can’t expect your personal life to be on hold when you need to be working.
Scheduling and boundaries are vital to maintaining a good work-life balance when working from home.
Don’t – Get Lazy with Finances
If you are starting your own business, that means running it like a business, particularly regarding finances. Ensure you keep your personal and business finances separate and follow all tax laws.
Furthermore, it can take a while for new consultants to get a steady income going again.
Therefore, it’s recommended that you have around two years’ worth of expenses sitting in your savings account.
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