Career stability isn’t what it once was.
That’s why many workers frustrated with today’s corporate climate are venturing out on their own, offering their skills and experience to those very same corporations, but on a consulting rather than fulltime basis.
Certainly, there’s a lot to be said for going independent, says Aaron Zwas, a consultant and author of “Transition to Independence”, a book that serves as a guide to making such a change.
“You have more freedom and a healthier balance between work and family,” Zwas says. “It’s the be-your-own-boss opportunity many people crave.”
But not so fast.
Before you take the plunge, there are drawbacks worth knowing about.
“When I made the transition about 15 years ago, I didn’t have a lot of guidance,” Zwas says. “I didn’t really understand what I was getting into, so there was a bit of trial and error. The good news is that others can learn from my mistakes.”
If you’re considering going it alone, Zwas lists at least four pitfalls you’ll want to avoid:
- Prepare yourself financially. The transition from working for someone else to being independent almost certainly will require you to dip into savings. Take every precaution as you prepare yourself financially. A conversation with an accountant is a good start and so is reviewing your monthly budget to see if you can cut spending. Build up savings – preferably enough to sustain you through one year of expenses – before ending fulltime employment.
- Set your social calendar. When you’re independent, you have no co-workers to chat with, bounce ideas off of or play tennis with on the weekend. If you’re not careful, it can be a lonely existence. To compensate, Zwas recommends setting up regular dates with friends and family. You can also take up new interests or hobbies. “Get out of the house and be with other people,” he says.
- Stay focused on your expertise. Being a one-person team has its advantages, but it can also be a double-edged sword because many independents get pulled in too many directions by spending time on activities unrelated to their expertise. There’s no problem in admitting you don’t want to take on certain activities, Zwas says. For example, bookkeeping could be a chore you despise or aren’t suited for. You might want to contract out and let someone else handle it.
- Spend time on your personal brand. Some independents thrive without any branding efforts, but most need to do at least a little branding. A logo, a website, business cards, a presentation template, social-media accounts and a blog can help you create a professional image.
“A little advance preparation can go a long way in helping you become a successful independent,” Zwas says. “The most important lesson I’ve learned is that consulting is more than a job – it’s a lifestyle. Even on my worst days, I’m grateful for the freedom I have.”
Aaron Zwas, author of “Transition to Independence,” www.t2iplan.com, is a consulting journeyman with 15 years of independent experience as a strategic technology advisor. His T2I Plan (for “Transition to Independence”) provides a step-by-step approach that helps people move from traditional employment to a career as an independent consultant while minimizing the risks.