By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC
Consulting sometimes gets a bad rap. But the reality is that there are a lot of upsides to the profession too.
You can earn good money. You can contribute valuable ideas to various organizations, and see them grow as result of your input. And to some extent, you can set your own hours.
But this isn’t to suggest that it’s all glitz and glamor. You’ll need to do your homework. You’ll need to travel. You’ll need to be able to sell yourself and charge a fee that’s in keeping with the value you can provide.
Here are five things to consider if you’re thinking about becoming a consultant.
1. Are You Willing & Able To Travel Often?
Consulting often requires a lot of travel, and many consultants give up a good part of their week to their work because of this.
So you need to ask yourself if you’re willing to live the plane-and-hotel lifestyle. And if you have a family, you have to think about whether or not two to three days of your time on the weekend is really enough to sustain your relationship with them. Additionally, this is the only time you will have for yourself, your errands, doctor’s appointments, and so on.
2. Can You Adapt Quickly?
Many consultants find their work anything but predictable. One moment they’re talking about business strategy. The next, they’re addressing regulatory and legal concerns.
For better or for worse, you can’t just make a to-do list and tackle items one by one. You’ll have to be flexible with your work and be prepared to adapt quickly.
You will gain experience in many different fields as a consultant, but in reality this is out of necessity – it’s really part of the job description.
3. Are You A People Person?
Consulting requires you to network and meet new people constantly. You will also need to be able to demonstrate and convince people of your worth.
But there’s more. You have to be able to present at a moment’s notice, communicate well, and be able to keep a finger on the pulse of the value you’re offering. If you can’t summarize how your work is going to benefit the company, your client or one of their colleagues might question your validity and ability to deliver on the promised results.
4. Can You Sell Yourself?
If you get into consulting, you’ll be selling yourself to new organizations and clients all of the time. It’s like a job search that has no end, because you’ll be going in to do job interviews frequently.
One opportunity can certainly lead to another, but you can’t assume that this will happen. As a consultant, you will need to be very proactive about finding your next job. This can be challenging, because you can’t be selling while you’re working, and you can’t be working while you’re selling.
If you’re not the aggressive selling type, you will likely require a system to attract and convert prospects into paying clients.
5. Are You Reliant On A Steady Paycheck?
There is an opportunity to earn a considerable amount of money as a consultant. But this doesn’t mean that you will automatically make droves of money, or that your income level will be consistent from one month to the next. In most cases, you won’t even be paid for your work until after 45 to 90 days have passed (and that’s the best case scenario).
And even if you put your best foot forward, there’s always the chance that you won’t have any clients for several months at a time. If you don’t believe in yourself and your ability to provide great service, you might give up before the going gets good.
In consulting, you’re in for an up-and-down ride. Can you handle it?
If you love challenges, and you pride yourself in your ability to help businesses, then there is tremendous upside to being a consultant. Carefully consider the above, and think about whether or not you can handle the workload and tension involved.
Let’s get to work!
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