If you have called yourself a consultant for more than, say, five minutes, you have likely contemplated some version of the following: Hallelujah, I am finally my own boss! Now, how exactly will I get through this complex journey on my own?
A journey it is. It doesn’t have to be as solitary as it seems.
In my 16 years as a consultant, I have engaged in hundreds and hundreds of conversations with others in this line of work—as peers, mentors, mentees and later as attendees when consultant extraordinaire, Don Tebbe, and I led workshops for those entering this line of work. Most of those discussions eventually touched on the perennial ideas of working alone and refining our businesses. What they boiled down to was consultants’ craving for community and information.
The irony of starting your own business is that you can only go solo if you have a robust cast of supporters. A community.
Yes, you are going solo from the entrepreneurial standpoint. But your networks fulfill everything from water cooler conversations to ethical quandaries to your own career development. They provide
- Moral support
No consultant I know claims a long-term business without a robust professional network. Even those of us who consider ourselves introverts find ways to ensure that we are meeting people whose careers we hopefully bolster and whose trust in us might eventually result in one or more of the above assets.
It’s worth saying that your network’s benefits rarely materialize if you seek them outright. The relationships that percolate into business-building “perks” nearly always sprout you’re your own mentoring, referring or otherwise supporting someone in ways that build trust.
Your network will be most effective for you if you have your sights set on some specific business goals. That way, as soon as someone offers to take action in support of the generous things you have done for them, you understand your own direction well enough to talk plans.
You may define “big” in terms of your number of clients, their size, project scope, staffing, publishing, thought leadership, income or flexibility.
To achieve any of your goals, you will find yourself learning on a scale you may not have undertaken since you were last in school. These key aspects of your consulting-related know-how feed directly into your every goal:
- Content knowledge
- Sector or industry knowledge
- Business-building concepts
- Consulting process
- Consulting presence
Most of us come to consulting having mastered only the first two items above. Yet no matter how long or how comfortable you are with the bulk of this list, good consultants know that each topic includes an endless set of skills and wisdom.
By embracing the unlimited nuances of these five areas, you can guarantee yourself a creative, fulfilling and even lucrative career. It’s an ongoing pursuit, and one that the best consultants understand they must integrate into their regular routines.
Going Solo, Going Big
If you are one of the many who is Going Solo and Going Big, no matter how you define each of those terms, I hope you will join Don and me, along with dozens of others at all experience levels, to network and learn as part of the Going Solo, Going Big community.
Let us know where you are in your career, your current challenges and what you’d like to learn.