Wanna be a freelance consultant?
Wanna do the same thing you’re doing today as an employee, but on your own, getting your own clients directly?
There’s an easy way to tell if you’ll be good at it: start doing it today in your full time role. Here’s how.
Step 1: Treat your internal users like customers. Think about these people as paying your check. Rather than cringing when your phone rings, you want to get into the frame of mind where you’re excited. Try to figure out how you can make them happy, make them want to work with you again, and advocate for their own managers to give you more of their department’s money. These internal users are the easiest consulting customers you’ll ever have because they don’t actually have to pay you, you have no competition, and you don’t have to harass them for late checks. It only gets harder from here on out.
Step 2: Treat every multi-day task like a paid project. Don’t try this at first with help desk tickets or multi-hour projects, but for multi-day projects, work with your customer to:
- Define what’s in scope
- Define what’s out of scope
- Agree on deliverables and a finish line
- Recap this stuff in a written email before you start work
- Give them daily status reports on your progress, especially when you drift ahead or behind schedule
- When you hit the deliverables and the finish line, give them a formal handoff and get agreement that the project is complete
Step 3: Schedule more than one project in advance. Coordinate with your customers to line up multiple projects with defined start/end dates. If one of your projects runs long, work with the next project/customer to reset their expectations on when you’ll be able to start that next one.
Step 4: Start tracking more granular details. As you get comfortable doing this with multi-day projects, start doing it with multi-hour projects. Communicate between your internal customers so that multi-day project users understand when urgent short-term projects come up.
Step 5: Recap your work to your manager. In independent consulting, you’ll be your own boss – but you need to be accountable to yourself, understanding what percentage of your work is billable versus what time is spent learning, growing, paperworking, and calling in sick. At this stage, you understand what kind of overhead is involved in this project style of thinking, and you’ll be honing your customer satisfaction skills.
Presto: you’re a consultant. And more importantly, the folks at your current company will be your first customers. They’ll already know exactly what to expect from you, and you’ll have an easier transition to the freelance lifestyle.
Or, you’ll completely suck at it, and you’ll suddenly be thankful that you have a full time job. That works too!
Want to learn more? Register for the 24 Hours of PASS. At Hour 14, I’ll be presenting my 500-Level Guide to Career Internals.