So how do you quit the rat race? Easier said than done, right?
Starting anything new can be daunting, and starting a new business especially so. [Read more…] about How to Quit the Rat Race
There are many obvious benefits of independent consulting (earning potential, flexibility, variety, and so on). But there are also plenty of not-so-obvious benefits – and they could make all the difference when choosing whether or not to become an independent consultant.
Ask 100 different people what work/life balance means and you’ll get 100 different answers, ranging from working less, to more holidays, to not working at all.
Finding work as an independent consultant (or rather the fear of not finding it) is probably the number one concern for most – especially new – freelance consultants. In fact, that fear is what stops a lot of people from becoming freelancers in the first place. And it can be tough sometimes, especially if the economy in your area/country is slow and there’s not a lot of work to be found.
But it doesn’t have to be that scary, as long as you follow some basic steps.
Recruiters & Job Boards
One of the first things I did when I quit my 9-to-5 job (back in 2007), was to sign up with and get to know a few recruiters. I also set up searches on job boards (I mainly used Seek.com). These are both great methods for finding contract work as quickly as possible, which allows you to show what you can do, build up some credibility, and make new contacts/build your network.
Find Opportunities While You Work
As a consultant working in someone else’s business/company, you’ll find that you see opportunities for improvement everywhere. If you see a genuine opportunity in an area that you could help with, let someone know that you could assist. If they’re happy with your work, and they can see the value in your proposal, you could generate your next contract.
But don’t create an opportunity where there is none. Being dishonest about that, or about your abilities, just to secure some work is a sure-fire way to ruin your reputation. And as an independent consultant, your reputation is everything.
Use your network
I’ve written before about the importance of networking, especially when you don’t need to – when you’re busy working is the best time to be working on your network. That will ensure that, when you do need some help, you have a network to call on.
Don’t be afraid to ask for work by letting people know you’re available, or that you will be soon. Social media (particularly LinkedIn in my experience) is a great way to do this.
If you’ve put the work into building and maintaining your network, you’ll find that it pays you back ten-fold when you need it.
Building your network is the key to your long term success as an independent consultant.
Work Will Find You
When you’re starting out as a freelance consultant, it can be tough. Ideally you’ll have some money set aside to get you through at least six months, just in case. But even if you don’t (I didn’t, in fact I was in debt) you can still get by – you just have to try a little harder.
After some time, once you have built a reputation for good work, and built a solid network, you could be in a position where the work finds you. And I can tell you that’s a great place to be.
Have any other methods for finding work? Please share them by leaving a comment, thanks!
Could you imagine anything worse? Always worrying about getting your next contract. Constantly stressed about not having a steady income. Having to deal with all the ‘business stuff’, like marketing, invoicing, taxes, and so on. No thanks!
Anyone against (or even afraid of?) freelancing can easily rattle off a long list of cons, like:
The reality is, it’s not all doom and gloom. IMHO, most of the reasons given are either just plain wrong, or they’re actually positives looked at the wrong way. For example:
2020 update: The last two points are probably the greatest fears people face when considering freelance consulting, but the reality is, finding work is not that difficult. And more than that, it makes you more adaptable and resilient – it prepares you for the worst. When times are tough – like during a recession, or a COVID-19 pandemic(!) – people get laid off. If you’ve only ever had steady employment, that can be really scary – I’ve seen the terror in the faces of my recently-made-redundant coworkers who haven’t had to look for work in 20 years. But as a freelancer, you’re used to finding your own work, and not relying on anyone else. It’s not so scary.
I also want to point out something that many people don’t seem to get. Generally speaking, your hourly rate is much higher as a freelancer than as an employee. So to earn your current full-time employee salary, you only need to work 3 or 4 days per week as a contractor.
Let’s say you’re on a $150K salary. Assuming you can make $800/day as a contractor, that equates to 188 days per year. That’s about 38 weeks (roughly a 3 month plus a 6 month contract), meaning you have 14 weeks of flexibility. That’s 3 months to find your next contract, or to take as leave, or to work more if that’s what you want to do.
The point is, you don’t have to be working every day of the year for 48 weeks – that’s just what we’re used to because that works for employers.
At the end of the day, freelancing is not for everyone. For me, the best thing about freelancing is the freedom and flexibility. If those are important to you, it might be worth a try.
Not sure if you’re cut out to be a freelancer? This worksheet can help you decide.
As a freelance consultant, you chose to work for yourself, but that doesn’t mean you have to work by yourself.
We all know it can be lonely as a freelance consultant, especially if you work from home a lot. That’s why you’ll often find us at cafes – so we can work and be around other people. Or we’ll organise meetups, where groups of freelancers can discuss common issues and problems, share ideas, or just socialise.
Or maybe you need a professional meeting place to take clients, but the idea (and cost) of a serviced office doesn’t thrill you.
Welcome to coworking!
What is Coworking?
At it’s core, coworking provides a place to work – that usually means desks, an Internet connection, and coffee, plus meeting rooms and a common/lounge area. A coworking space is where freelancers, start-ups and other independent workers can come together in a shared office. But it’s much more than that.
Coworking has exploded over the last few years and is still growing in popularity with new spaces regularly popping up all over the world. CoworkingResources and Coworker estimate the coworking market to double between now (2020) and 2024.
What are the Benefits of Coworking?
Many people who leave their jobs to become independent consultants often miss the camaraderie and social interaction of the office. Coworking can definitely help there.
I believe coworking is an excellent example of the saying “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. It’s the collaboration and sense of community that differentiates it from other office environments. What you get is a knowledge pool made up of people from various fields all, willing to share and collaborate, and that allows for the cross-pollination of ideas.
Not to mention it’s very handy to be able to bounce an idea off someone for a quick sanity check. Add to that regular social and educational events, and often even access to experienced mentors, and the value to members is huge.
In short, the networking and connections that coworking enable are invaluable.
Oh, and membership usually costs a fraction of what you would pay to rent an office or use a serviced office, and you can come and go as you please.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with coworking.
Independent consulting (also known as “freelancing”) is the dream. You get freedom, fulfilment, and you’re well paid. In fact, about half of all independent consultants say that there is no amount of money that would get them to stop freelancing and take a 9-to-5 job instead!
I wrote the text at the end of this post in 2015. I thought it was time I updated it, because some things have changed since then – and some things haven’t.