So You Want to Be a Consultant

Posted June 27, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves

Perhaps you’ve worked in the corporate gig for just long enough, or you’ve garnered enough experience in a single area to make you an expert in your field. Maybe you’re drawn to jobs with lots of travel, or perhaps you’ve heard about big paydays from large firms. All of these are reasons someone might want to think about a move from in-house to consulting. But ask yourself this? Do I really know what I’m getting myself into?

So you think you want to be a consultant? There should be a reality television show for this. And whether you’re thinking of independently consulting with your own private practice or joining a large firm, there are key points you should thing through before making the leap.

  • Ask yourself, are you ready to have a full time job in sales in addition to your other full time job? Most consulting firms (and even more so if you decide to start your own consultancy) require that on top of your client load and travel schedule, you have an aggressive portfolio of prospective clients and complete most of your own sales to fill your pipeline with clients. To do this, you’ll need to craft time in your schedule outside your billable hours to complete business development work.
  • Do you love business travel? Now notice I didn’t say “Do you love to travel?” Because business travel is a whole different ballgame. Standing in a suit in LAX waiting for the redeye after a long day on site with a client isn’t glamorous, and to really be OK with it, you have to love that lifestyle. There are firms that are locally based and serve only local clients, so if travel isn’t on your list of things you want in a job, look for those types of firms.
  • Where do you get pride in your work? Are you process driven or results oriented? If you are a process driven individual, you might be fantastic for consulting. Working with clients on strategy and direction will be incredibly rewarding for you. But think twice if you’re driven by results and wins. Unfortunately, as a consultant, a client will listen to 100% of your advice, but may only implement 1% of it into their work. You have to be able to let go of the idea that your ideas will get the results you want for the client.
  • Are you an email person or a phone person? Because most consultants travel constantly and spend many days a month on site at clients, email is prevalent in the consulting world and often the only form of communication available. If you’re the kind of person who wants to have that daily phone call or in-person meeting with your team, know that your communications will need to change to move into a consulting firm.
  • Support yourself! If you’re coming to consulting from an area where you’ve had an assistant and a team of 10, the transition could be difficult for you. Especially if you’re on the road a lot, much of your time will be spent controlling your own schedule, perhaps even booking your own travel, and being accountable for small tasks like running to FedEx and the like. You may have administrative support at the central office, but on the road, you’re on your own

If none of what you see here scares you or gives you pause, it may be that you’re ready to move to consulting. But before you do, be sure to sit down with consultants from multiple firms and areas of practice and frankly ask their experience. It will be worth it in the end.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."