First Published August 12th 1998. Computing Canada:
So you think you too can be a Consultant?
Are you feeling "lucky" kid?
It is a strange thing, but, once you are inducted into the great full time work void, it's often only because you are laid off, the mortgage has to be paid and no other full time position is available right now (!), that you first get the - possibly "desperate" - idea, that your skills and talents may be a marketable commodity.
Consulting certainly is not for everyone - you have to have a vicarious mix of talents, traits and determination to succeed, and it is also not for the easily dissuaded, or squeamish.
Being an "entrepreneur" as this trait is known, is not, as most "full timers" are encouraged to believe, a talent or other less complementary epithets, that you are born with, on the contrary, it is like everything else you do, a learned expertise. You may be better or worse than your fellows in this pursuit, but you CAN do it. Unfortunately, without any training course to hand, YOU have to fill in the blanks.
Let's get Real here.
What is it that marks the difference between someone who is in a full time position, and another who make the leap into the uncharted territories of "consulting", especially if you are setting up your own one man band consultancy?
Anyone who has followed the trends of the nineties, and has studied the stream of "consultants" tracking through their offices will be able to say with some degree of certainty "not very much!" This is in fact, quite true
Making the leap from "secure" full time employment to the uncertainties and sink or swim of "consulting", can be a harrowing and usually adrenaline pumping leap into the unknown.
The move to consulting is not an issue that can be dealt with briefly, or with a few well chosen banalities, anecdotes or apocryphal stories. Indeed, it is usually a harrowing experience, which not only you, but also your family, and occasionally your bank manager, will share and experience at first hand, in all it's technicolour detail.
If you MUST make the Mortgage payments, - don't bother!
Consulting can be anything from the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, right through to the professional equivalent of skid row. Your abilities, stamina, and to a large degree, luck and connections, are the major deciding factors.
Frightening? It should be: or rather, it can be. Leaving the "safety" of an office, complete with phone, e-mail server, water cooler, free coffee, fellow employees (admittedly, this could be a plus or a minus), and fax machines, means that YOU have to fill in the details AND pay for them and those expensive training courses too!
Do you have the personality to deal with the typical multitudes of managers, users, presidents and vice presidents, ego's, politics, lunches, full time workers hostility, working hours which can be anything between non existent and 350 per month, government paperwork, legal and accounting issues and problems, marketing propaganda, contracts....... and , and, and....: notice something..? we have not even mentioned actually getting down to work, or anything closely connected to getting some cash in the bank yet!
Experience does the talking!
Of the few marketable talents I would recommend any would be leaper to possess, it is undoubtedly the ability to be confident with themselves, and to be a confident and convincing public speaker - talent to do the job at hand? - that comes much later.....
To be continued.