How I became a consultant | Consultant Journal

How I became a consultant | Consultant Journal

At parties, once people realize that I really am a consultant and not someone covering up for unemployment, they inevitably ask how I got into consulting. I became a consultant about 10 years ago, but not all at once. You see, at the time, I didn’t have any clients. Most people who become consultants are in the same position at first. (Unless, of course, someone tosses them some work and, boom, they’re a consultant.)

I ramped up to consulting work…

I’d thought about starting a business for years. I’d even figured out how to become a consultant. I’d put together a business plan, printed up business cards, carved out a niche and put my name out there. I’d even gone through a self-employment program, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything along the way. However, when I finished my launch plans with the self-employment program, I realized I wasn’t quite ready to strike it out on my own – at least not on a full-time basis. Coincidentally, I was offered a full-time contract at a local software company and I leapt at the chance. After all, I’d planned to target my marketing services to local tech firms!

But I got a job instead!

And so, instead of pursuing consulting on a full-time basis, I got a job. No, not a second job — a full-time job. And I worked really hard at that job. I put in long hours and lots of unpaid overtime. I soaked up everything I could. And then someone who remembered me from the self-employment program gave me a call. They asked if I could put together an ad campaign for a local computer store.

And moonlighted…

Pretty soon, I was moonlighting as a marketing consultant. I stilled worked hard at my full-time job, but the occasional weekend and evening saw me doing consulting work. I loved it. When an ill-fated dot-com lured me away from my job – but blew up before I even started – I suddenly found myself out of work. And yet I wasn’t out of work. I had my consulting clients to keep me going. My old employer even hired me back on contract for a couple of months. Then, when that company downsized, my network spread across the city and I quickly found I was making more than I’d made in my full-time job, even after adjusting for benefits.

My older, wiser career advice…

The lesson I learned is that nothing has to happen overnight. Once you decide to become a consultant, you don’t have to take on the world. You can do it one step at a time.

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