Louis Business Journal
The Pros and Cons of being a solo consultant
By Anna Navarro
a solo consultant is attractive to many individuals who
of dealing with the ups and downs of corporate employment.
It offers the prospect of getting control of your time,
escaping corporate politics, operating according to your
values and sometimes achieving more job security than
working for companies that can be merged or acquired.
But there are challenges to being
a solo consultant as well. Here are eight key questions to
Are you good enough at what you do ?
To be successful as a solo consultant you have to stand
above the crowd and do an excellent job. Otherwise
you may do an
occasional project but you'll have a hard time making a
2. Can you sell your services?
Being a great performer will get you nowhere unless you
can market yourself. You've got to be comfortable tooting
own horn and hopefully enjoy it because most solo consultants
spend a large chunk of their time selling.
3. Can you establish and maintain an efficient infrastructure or afford an assistant?
People who work in corporations often take for granted things like financial
record keeping, computer systems, office equipment, phone, fax and internet services,
physical space, cleaning, stationary and supplies and a myriad of other things
that are automatically provided in well run organizations. Can you do this for
yourself or afford an assistant to handle these important tasks?
4. Can you support
yourself emotionally or create an emotional support network?
Some people are able to function in a self-contained way. They can deal with
pressure on their own. Others need a great deal of support from bosses and
colleagues to get through tough times.
If you aren't adept at this, you will need a strong network of colleagues
to turn to when the inevitable difficulties arise.
5. Can you keep growing as a professional?
Every professional needs sources of inspiration and opportunities to keep learning,
otherwise the quality of their work will suffer in time.
Some people experience self-renewal
simply from doing new projects that offer challenge. Others
have strong professional
connections to associations that provide
workshops and seminars. Both of these are easy to continue as a solo consultant.
some individuals rely primarily on colleagues, mentors
or bosses for these sources of growth. If this is true for
you may need a network
of peers to
turn to for inspiration.
6. Can you be your own boss?
This means being able to set and stick to deadlines, motivate
yourself to meet goals and structure your time. If you
don't have the ability to do this, solo
consulting is probably not a great idea for you. It's a hard quality to compensate
for because it is so intrinsic to operating on your own.
7. Can you charge enough to meet your financial targets?
The fees consultants charge have to cover hidden costs that employees of well
run organizations take for granted. Determining whether you can charge enough
to cover these costs and still make a living will require several steps.
You will need to establish a rough estimate of your gross income based on how
much you charge clients and how much time you can devote to client work.
From that subtract your overhead
including rent, phone, compensation for an assistant, internet,
marketing materials, etc... This will give you
your net income.
Finally, from that net income,
deduct for taxes and benefits like health insurance and
pension. That will give you
an approximate idea of your take home pay.
Beware, most solo consultants will make less than in
a full time job, largely because of overhead and the
amount of time that must be devoted to non-revenue
8. Can you fund a startup?
It often takes one to two years for a solo consultant to
develop enough contacts and clients to operate at full capacity.
During this time, you may need to borrow money or draw on
These are eight very tough questions,
and answering them may be disheartening for those who long
from corporate employment. The price of
freedom can sometimes be high. But for some people who deeply value self-determination,
solo consulting may still be the best path to happiness and success.
is the founder of Work Transitions, a nationwide career consulting
firm that trains independent career strategists and consults
with individual clients.
was originally published by the St. Louis Business Journal.
The actual title of the column and date in which it appeared
in the Business Journal may be slightly different from what
appears on WorkTransitions.com.