By: Tchiki Davis
I remember when I took a big scary leap – I started my own consulting business. I had been planning and networking and building the requisite skills for years before actually taking the leap. Finally, I did it. But it turned out that even with all that preparation, I still had a lot to learn. In particular, there were 4 things I wish I would have know before I started my consulting business.
If you’re thinking about starting your own consulting business, you absolutely need to know these 4 things.
With 40% of the workforce expected to be independent contractors by 2020, it’s more important than ever that consultants start talking about what it’s really like. You may have heard that being your own boss is the secret to a happy life – it gives you money, freedom, and purpose. That’s partially true, but it’s only half of the story. If you’re considering starting a consulting business, you also need these 4 things.
You need a high tolerance for uncertainty
Like a lot of people, I grew up in poverty. Growing up in poverty had its challenges, but it gave me something I am now so grateful for – a high tolerance for uncertainty. As a kid, I didn’t know where I would live next month, where I would go to school, or whether we would have to get food at the church. I got so used to that constant uncertainty that I eventually learned how to accept it. And now that I am a consultant and coach… I have an amazing tolerance for uncertainty.
When I talk to people who are considering starting a consulting business, the thing that stops most of them is their fear of uncertainty. And I don’t blame them. Consulting (or coaching or contracting or entrepreneurship) is an uncertain career.
Don’t get me wrong; sometimes you’ll have more work than you have time for. But the reality is that before you know it, it might all be gone. The trick to managing this uncertainty is to cast a wide net, always have a backup plan (or several), and never stop learning and growing. You’ll get better, not only at managing the uncertainty, but at minimizing it.
You need to manage your money well
These days everyone wants the latest gadget or car or whatever. As a consultant, sometimes it will feel like you can have whatever lifestyle you want, and you’ll be eager to spend money freely. But before you know it, you’ll finish up with all your projects or clients and there will be nothing new on the horizon yet. It’s hard to see dry spells coming, and if you aren’t saving money when times are good, the bad times will be really bad.
The good news is that if you manage your money well, consulting gives you an incredible amount of freedom. The trick is to save money when you’re doing well – save for dry spells, for retirement, and for quarterly taxes. If you do, you can take long breaks from full-time work, travel, and even turn down projects that you don’t want to do. That’s what I call freedom!
You need to be comfortable selling yourself.
Let’s face it. Sales are an integral part of every business. When you are a consultant, the product you are selling is yourself. It’s your personality, your skills, and your impact on your clients’ lives. If you can’t sell yourself, you’re not going to be able to get clients, and then your business will go kaput.
But don’t freak out just yet. Selling yourself isn’t as hard as it seems. I still don’t consider myself a sales person because my goal is to help entrepreneurs build businesses with real positive impacts. I do that by teaching entrepreneurs how to get started, how to create high-impact products, and how to navigate challenges. I don’t really sell. I just have a conversation with prospective clients about their needs and tell them how I can help them do what they want to do. I want them to succeed and if they also want me to succeed in doing my job, then we make magic together.
You need to have a growth mindset
I don’t know about you, but I get bored easily. I need to continue learning and growing to thrive at work. This makes me the kind of person who will frequently move from job to job, because as soon as I good at something I want to go learn something new.
Although this style doesn’t make me a great employee, it makes me an excellent consultant. It means I have a wide range of experiences to draw insight from, I see the broader landscape of the health & wellness industry (where most of my clients are from), and I’m always staying on top of the latest trends. I’ve now worked on machine learning algorithms and patent applications and leadership retreats – all things that were completely new to me at the time. This career allows me to continue to gain deeper understanding of my industry, and I bring this insight with me to each new client I work with.
If you are the kind of person who loves variety, growth, and challenge, consulting can be incredibly rewarding. Every new project will teach you something new – not just about your work, but about yourself. You’ll get to learn from people with all sorts of backgrounds and do projects you never imagined you’d do.
Would you like consulting? Well, ask yourself this: Would you rather be bad at something and get to learn it or good at something and bored? I would pick just about anything over boredom.
Do you want to start a consulting business?
How did it go? Did you just discover that consulting is a good fit for you? Now what do you do? I always knew entrepreneurship was a good fit for me (I started my first business at age 15), but getting started can be tough.
To start, build, or grow your own consulting business, you need a plan. You’ll need to stay organized so you don’t miss things like quarterly taxes (I’ve messed this up). You’ll need to have agreements and rates in writing so everyone is on the same page (I’ve messed this up too). And most of all, you’ll need to understand your customer, your niche, and your strategy (yup, I’ve messed this up too).
Want to avoid making these common mistakes? Well, then you need a coach. Someone who’s been where you’ve been. Someone who can help you navigate land mines, avoid disaster zones, and overcome common obstacles. Someone who will be your cheerleader through one of the toughest but most rewarding times of your life. If you want to build a consulting business, then I’d love to help. Sign up and request to work with me or another business coach at BigPlans.