When you come to a fork in your career path, the question of whether to continue in the same direction or branch out on your own often arises. Whether you were recently downsized out of a job or you have chosen to make a career transition, you may be wondering whether the option of becoming a consultant or independent contractor might be worth pursuing.
Of course, as with any type of significant career move, it’s important to carefully consider your options before making a move. While being self-employed certainly has its perks, it’s not for everyone.
If you’re currently in that state of limbo and trying to decide which direction to head in, here are a few things to consider:
Is Self-employment Right for You?
The most important thing to consider in any career change is the likelihood of success. Launching your own consulting or contracting business means you’ll have to find jobs on your own, so you need to be ready to make that adjustment.
Before taking the leap, ask yourself the following three key questions:
- Do you have any prior consulting experience?
- Do you have a solid network of business contacts?
- Do you have a specific skillset or expertise that is in high demand?
The answers to these three questions can help you determine whether or not it’s wise to jump into self-employment.
Do Your Research
If you’re still leaning toward making the switch, being proactive and planning ahead – before you launch your new career – is critical. It’s time to think about the following:
What services do you want to provide? These services should align with your expertise so you can differentiate yourself and effectively market your services.
- Is there a need for these services? Conduct a market survey. Meet with 10+ organizations to determine if there is a need for your offering. Also ask how often would they need your services – monthly, quarterly, once a year, every two years, etc.?
- What is the fee you will charge? Ask your sample market how much they would pay for your services, i.e. what do they typically budget for this type of work?
- Can you multitask? In the start up phase of your business you must be able to juggle marketing, business development, administration, billing, as well as service delivery.
- Do you have the energy, time and commitment? Working 10 to 12+ hour days, 7 days a week is what it takes to launch a business.
- What is your tolerance for ‘steady income’ vs ‘roller coaster income’?
The goal is to assess whether there is a true market need for your services and, more importantly, whether you’d be compensated well enough to make it worth pursuing.
I can personally attest that this dedicated market research pays off. When I first launched my consulting practice I met with nearly a dozen HR leaders to inquire about their needs and budgets. As a result, I was able to land one of my pinnacle clients who I have been working with for over 14 years!
Conducting in-depth research ensures you are launching a feasible business and there is a good chance that at least one of these companies will engage your services.
As respected business professor and marketing expert Nirmalya Kumar once stated: “You can’t be a professor without having been a student. You can’t be a consultant without having been a research associate.”
Making Your Launch a Success
To successfully launch a consulting and contracting business, you need to be able to clearly speak to the value you add to organizations. You also need to be able to clearly communicate your key differentiators.
Use your market research along with your answers to the following questions to develop your unique brand:
- What do you want to be known for?
- Who is the audience you are targeting? Be specific – size of organization, location, sector, etc.
- What is their key issue or problem that you have experience resolving?
- What is your unique differentiator as a consultant or contractor?
- Do you have a unique philosophy, process or methodology about how you deliver your services?
- What education or training do you want to highlight?
- Are there any personal attributes you possess that create your unique brand?
Then, hit the ground running. Create a compelling elevator pitch. Start putting feelers out with your network of contacts. Be prepared to sell your unique value proposition and be ready to work when that first contract comes in.
Deloitte Global Consulting CEO Jim Moffatt summed it up perfectly when he said: “To be successful as a consultant, you must be different; you must be strong; and you must be committed.” If you have all of those attributes, self-employment may very well be a great fit for you.
Author: Joanne Loberg of JL Careers Inc. is a Certified Executive Coach and Internationally Certified Career Management Professional. She has a reputation as a highly sought after Career Consultant and she has been referred to as “an absolute expert at navigating the complex territory of career advancement.” Copyright JL Careers Inc. All rights reserved.
Wishing you much career success!
Certified Executive Coach & Internationally Certified Career Management Professional
JL Careers Inc