Not all consultants work for themselves, but for those who do, the stakes are high and the potential rewards are also high. We’re sometimes asked the question “What was it that made you decide to go out on your own?” Let’s take a look at reasons why some of us are willing to make such a sacrifice.

9:30pm, kids in bed, rachel can sit down and... do taxes? - _MG_3620
sean dreilinger via Compfight

First, many of us didn’t necessarily have a choice. We might have come to the decision after one more layoff or after dealing with one more lousy leader that we reported to and decided we could do better on our own. That might seem like the worst motivation ever but it’s probably something that drives more people into working for themselves than anything else.

Second, there’s often a belief that we’ve been under-utilized in some fashion, or that we were taken for granted. Indeed, what many consultants find is that once they go out on their own they tend to have great success in working with others because those people seek them out for their expertise, and thus are more willing to listen to advice. If the advice is followed, even better.

Third, there’s the possibility of making more money than there was working for someone else. Sure, expenses are higher and working from contract to contract can be dicey, but when one compares working for someone else a full year and making $45,000 a year as compared to being able to work possibly 6 months and make more than $100,000… well, that kind of money is hard to match. Not that all consultants can make that money but those in specialized fields, who know what they’re doing and have learned the lessons of how to charge for their services through groups like PCA certainly can.

Four, there really is a great sense of helping others. What one finds out is that most independent consultants go further than just dealing with what they do for work. Many will volunteer to be on other boards or help out in other organizations. Some do a lot of work for nonprofit organizations. It’s hard to work for yourself and be totally selfish because one of the things we learn is that none of us can make money without giving something back and meeting people.

Fifth, we’re more apt to go out of our way to keep accumulating knowledge than people who work for an employer. Some of us spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, trying to keep up with what’s going on in our particular industries. We can’t afford to remain stagnant because knowledge is money; the more valuable a resource we can be to others, the more money we can make. When you work for someone else, often you’re waiting for them to pay for something, including your learning time, and these days it seems like more employers are cutting back on training.

All of these are generalizations of course because there are some bad consultants in the world. But anyone who cares about their industry, being seen as an authority, and the respect of others, will do and exhibit the behaviors and beliefs above.

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