The Myths of Consulting

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mythsHad enough of corporate life? Thinking of hanging out your own shingle? Many people consider consulting as an alternative to a career working in corporations or small businesses. The flexibility and challenge of being your own boss can be exciting. But before you take the leap, examine your assumptions. For example, do you know the truth behind these 5 myths about consulting?

1) Anyone Can Consult
Consulting takes a specific combination of skills and personality. Proven expertise in a functional area is essential, as is an established work history. Many businesses don’t hire consultants unless they have credible in-house experience.

How well do you know your working style? Are you more comfortable being part of a company team or do you like working independently and stepping into a team as needed? Are you able to manage several clients and projects simultaneously or do you like to focus on one project at a time? Can you live with the uncertainty of not having a regular paycheck? You must realistically answer these questions for yourself to understand if you will be able and like to independently build your business, develop business, and at the same time, do the client work that you have.

2) Consulting Is Not a Business
Even for a solo practitioner, consulting is very much a business. Self-employment means wearing many hats and juggling many roles. You are chief executive officer, chief financial officer, senior vice president of sales and marketing as well as your own administrative assistant. You are responsible for your own medical and retirement plans. And you are the one who will market and sell your services, create invoices, collect receivables, all while doing the actual work you contracted! Certainly some of these areas may be able to be outsourced to others, but you will still be responsible for managing (and paying) for these services.

3) My Network Will Provide Me with All the Work I Need
While it is true that networks can be helpful in getting started, networking, marketing and sales development are never-ending. One network may not serve all of your professional needs. Much of your energy will go into expanding and refreshing your network through good marketing and business practices.

4) Starting a Consulting Practice is Simple
Consulting is as demanding as any startup and should not be entered into as a part-time hobby. You are selling your time, which means you no longer completely own your schedule. Every client will expect your full attention for the duration of the project. That can mean juggling the time requirements of multiple clients and as a result, working nights and weekends when required. Time not spent “on the job” will be spent on business development and administrative activities—and those hours are non-billable.

5) I’ll Create Strategies That Others Will Implement
The glamorous image of the consultant who devises strategies that others implement is far more the exception than the rule. More likely, you will be asked to do both. After all, if your client had someone in-house to do the job, why would they hire you to tell them how to do it? Your professional reputation and future referrals can be based on your implementation and measurable results as much as your skills as a strategic thinker.

For the right person, consulting can be an exciting, rewarding career. Just remember to do your homework first before you take that leap. If you still think consulting is for you, then know that you don’t have to go it alone.

Organizations such as Women in Consulting bring professional consultants together to share best-practices and tips for growing their own businesses. Not only are they ideal for expanding your networks, but they also are places for creating life-long friendship and colleagues.

About Deborah Henken

A former president of WIC, Deborah Henken has 20 years of management and marketing experience with companies ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups to educations and non-profits. She spent seven years as head of marketing for Learning@Cisco. Earlier, she ran the Highland Team, a strategic marketing consulting firm. Deborah’s focus is on 1) how to keep your clients extraordinarily happy with your services, 2) how to use your network to grow your business, and 3) how to build your team, hire contractors, and create partnerships.

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