“He left the corporate rat race a year or two before me and told me what he loved about working from home was that he could work in his underwear.”
Why Expertise isn’t Enough: Time to Close Sales, Perform Work, Manage Details.
An excerpt from Book Two in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you make more money from a lifestyle businesses you’re truly passionate about.
So, how can you tell when people are in transition – that is between jobs?
The tell you they are consultants.
Even before the Great Recession, more than 11 million people looked for work and there were only 4 million job openings — about three people for every available regular job.
The reasons are familiar to you by now.
Employers are hesitant to hire new workers so they turn to temporary staff, contract workers and consultants.
The so-called “1099” crowd.
Whether you’ve been forced into it or decided to chose the professional advisory path you should seriously consider how you will be offering your unique talents, knowledge, skills, interests and assistance as a consultant.
What are the keys to success?
Actually they are very straight forward.
- You need to possess some expertise that you’ve mastered in your career to date.
- Then, all you need to do is identify an adequate number of prospects who need or want your special knowledge.
Pretty simple, right?
Most consultants I know, myself included, dwell on the mastery of their expertise — further developing their specialty to the exclusion of the self-promotion part.
- Feeling like used car salespeople, we equate promotion with sales and fail at the most important part of the consulting business.
- Promoting your services to the target individuals and organizations who need you.
- Many professionals give up.
- And, probably 80% who do secretly want to trade their variable income streams for a steady pay check with some benefits.
But, for them, the consulting option can turn into long-term retainers in recessionary times.
And that leads to “permanent” employment.
Is becoming a trusted advisor right for you?
Starting your own consulting “business” like a start-up venture requires planning and preparation.
If the benefits of a flexible consulting career far outweigh any inconveniences, obstacles or risks and you’ve got the knowledge you may be ready to take the leap.
But if you’re not sure don’t give up just yet.
- Spend some time evaluating your options.
- Develop plans for dealing with the small problems that may crop up before you jump.
- Face it you’re basically managing a small business.
- Only in your case the product is you.
Yes you need valuable expertise.
But, you must be willing and able to develop your business.
- Close sales.
- Perform the work.
- Make time for administrative details — invoicing, collecting, filing estimated quarterly taxes and managing you accounts.
The list goes on.
But you get the picture.
So is being a trusted advisor for you?
Consulting can be a great career option for the right person.
Like other ‘Preneurs you are your own boss.
- Other than your portfolio of clients, you report to no one else – except, of course, to your spouse or partner.
- And you get to choose which clients to take on and which projects appeal to you.
- I enjoy the flexibility.
Establish your business, get all the moving parts synchronized and then enjoy the variety of your lifestyle pursuits.
Your time is your own.
If you have kids, take time off to coach little league or watch your kids soccer match.
And, you control your earning power directly.
- Sure you need to compete with other experts in the marketplace, set your rates up or down within the range your clients are willing to pay.
- You can also decide to take on extra assignments to earn more.
- Or, you can specialize in the challenges larger clients face and which command higher fees.
Best of all, your consulting business probably won’t require a large capital investment as a barrier to entry.
Especially compared to buying a business or purchasing a franchise.
Many professionals choose to work from home after saying goodbye to their former boss and corporate career.
But, check into any local zoning restrictions or deed restrictions first, of course.
Many successful businesses started out as a “third bedroom consultancy.”
- You’ll value the low overhead expenses as you establish yourself.
- No rent.
- No office utilities.
- No rush-hour commuting.
- And, one of the most attractive features may just be the fact that you can claim tax deductions.
One of my former colleagues who left the corporate rat race a year or two before me told me what he loved about working from home was that he could work in his underwear.
That’s not the reason he’s a former colleague.
Another told me he loved the Fridays when he could invoice someone.
And, he wasn’t a lawyer!
Of course you have to weigh the tradeoffs.
Lots of hard work, long hours and stressful deadlines to complete proposals and negotiate contracts.
The stereotypical consultant is the one you see in commercials rushing through airports, narrowly missing fellow travelers.
She’s waving one arm to make a point as she speaks on her smartphone with an earbud in one ear.
Another colleague told me that he knew when the 70 hours a week he spent plus traveling finally got to him.
He finished an international assignment and looked forward to relaxing for a few weeks at home between assignments.
After he arrived home late Friday evening, he got up around 6:30 or 7 am the following Saturday and discovered that he didn’t have eggs or milk in his refrigerator.
His local grocery store was about two miles away.
So he jumped in his car.
About an hour later he discovered to his horror that out of habit he’d been on auto pilot commuting in and out of traffic on the 405 freeway just moments away from the LAX exit.
Being your own boss means the buck stops with you.
If you haven’t been marketing and selling, the bucks might not be depositing themselves into your business banking account.
Sure you can still be successful, but getting over your shyness, distaste of selling and disdain for meeting new people represent personal grown areas to be developed.
Desire and expertise count.
But the most frequent reason why independent consultants fail is because they don’t generate enough clients and the revenue that flows from new business.
Without a boss and an assistant to keep you on track and organized, you need to become a self-starter and self-disciplined to focus on priorities.
You’ll need to become an expert at project management with assignments unfolding at different phases and timelines.
One of the most helpful bits of advice I received from a successful colleague was not to book more than three days a week.
- A day to manage the administrative details to keep them from falling through the cracks.
- If you don’t, your reputation and brand as an expert will suffer.
- And, you need another day devoted to marketing and networking to keep the pipeline full.
The good news is you’ll be able to find apps and software programs to help you stay on top of your business as the volume grows.
Make what you can predictable for your own sanity.
But, if you’re the type of person who is a freak for total consistency and a predictable routine you never would have kissed your corporate job goodbye.
- I must admit to a certain thrill associated with the erratic nature of my schedule.
- A mix of short days and long nights.
- A variety of clients and duration of projects.
Sure, I’ve negotiated multi-year retainers, but most often, especially as you establish your business, you’re the specialist engaged on a temporary project to solve a problem and then move on.
Managing your cash flow is a beast.
- The unpredictable nature may stretch you to the edge.
- You may go weeks or months without income.
- Not only do you defer payment until the project is over, or based on meeting milestones, but your clients may stick to a 90 day disbursement policy after you invoice.
If you don’t have a pipeline full of projects you could be forced to tap into the money you saved for a rainy day.
- Don’t forget that not every hour you work is in fact billable.
- You’ll need to devote many hours to just running your business.
- Expense tracking, for instance.
And when you roll up your time devoted to just invoicing and collecting your fees for each of your clients, it can be significant.
Although my “underwear wearing” colleague said that was one of his most enjoyable tasks – billing someone.
Add costs for taxes and insurance to the frustration of spending extra non-billable time for all those administrative tasks and the romance of consulting begins to fade.
Especially when you need to devote more billable time and expertise to your clients, and you realize there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
(5) Choose the ‘Preneur’ business model that brings out the best in you – freelancing, consulting, franchising, Internet marketing or establishing a Knowledge ATM.