Just about everyone dreams of becoming their own boss at some point in their career. Whether it’s for the flexibility, autonomy, high-impact work or all three, the allure of building something for yourself rarely goes away.
Add COVID-19, an unstable economy, homeschooling and indefinite work-from-home status to the mix and you’re looking at more professionals than ever asking themselves: Is now the perfect time to go out on my own?
This checklist will help you determine if you have what it takes—and if you’re ready—to thrive as a consultant:
You project confidence.
The most successful consultants aren’t always the ones that are the best at what they do. Instead, they are the most confident in themselves and their value, making it easy for companies to say yes.
If you are confident in your skills and capabilities, and know the value and impact you’ll bring to your clients, you are ready.
You have a track record of results.
“If she can do it for them, she can do it for us,” is the mindset of every potential client you’ll ever pitch. You’ll need to demonstrate exactly how you moved the needle for companies you worked for in the past. What results did you provide? Did you help grow revenue? Did you save them money? Did you solve big headaches quickly?
If you have examples of how you contributed to your past companies (including numbers and results), you’re ready.
Your network—former bosses, colleagues, clients, vendors, alumni—is your biggest asset as a consultant. Activating this network will generate your first and often your best-paying clients. The people in your network will open doors for you and will vouch for your results.
If you have a strong network, you’re ready.
You have a solid reputation in your industry.
Although a strong network is critical, it’s not enough. You also need to have a solid reputation within that network. Those who burned bridges or are not widely liked in their industry will have a challenging time building a thriving consulting practice.
If you have a reputation for excellence and are generally liked by former bosses and colleagues, you’re ready.
You have valuable expertise.
Being an expert in whatever it is you do is critical for launching a consultancy. Your expertise is your product and positioning. Plus, if you don’t believe you’re an expert, no potential client ever will either.
If you’re an expert in what you do, you’re ready.
Is now the right time?
Beyond the qualifications that make for a successful consultant is the personal question of whether or not you believe that you’re better off out on your own than working for a company full-time.
Going out on your own to consult means total control and flexibility of working when, where and how you want. That level of balance and optionality just doesn’t exist in a full-time role.
On the flipside, working in a full-time position means a steady paycheck and benefits; although in today’s landscape, no job or company is truly stable.
So, is now the time to become a consultant? Here’s the more important question to ask: Is betting on yourself a better long-term investment than betting on your full-time employer?
Erin Halper is the founder and CEO of The Upside, a private collective that helps consultants advance their business and thrive. Since launching The Upside in 2017, Erin has advised more than 1,000 professionals on how to build a respected consultancy practice that generates consistent clients and affords them the freedom and flexibility that come with being your own boss.