What is an independent consultant?
Consulting is providing your expertise to help a person or organization solve problems or reach their goals more efficiently and effectively.
Independent consulting is when you do consulting by yourself instead of with or for a consulting company.
Example: Donna Bates is an independent strategic planning consultant who helps companies plan new initiatives, execute marketing plans, track their performance, and optimize their results — so they can grow their revenues.
Although running an independent consulting business means you’ll be wearing many hats…
…you’ll have tremendous flexibility, freedom, and choice for designing your lifestyle.
Eventually, you can productize or build a team around you — and free up more of your time (instead of doing it all yourself).
By the end of this post, you’ll understand 7 signs that suggest that independent consulting should be your next big career move — and why.
- You Feel Like You’re Not Making The Impact You Could
- You Want To Earn A Higher Income
- You Feel Like You’re Lacking Control
- You’re Not Learning New Skills
- You’re More Than Just A “Pair Of Hands”
- You Were Laid Off At Your Job
- You’ve Got The “Itch” To Start A Business
1. You Feel Like You’re Not Making The Impact You Could
Do you feel content with your corporate job…but deep down, you know there is something missing?
A few years ago, independent consultant Dan Pontefract was on vacation, looking out at the final Maui sunset before heading home.
Dan had an amazing gig at Telus, one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies.
The company even created a role for him as the “Chief Envisioner.”
Despite the fact that he was thriving in his corporate life, he couldn’t help but think about starting his own consulting business.
As he looked over the water, he heard his father’s voice…
“Dan, don’t you think it’s time to put on your big-boy pants?”
Deep down, Dan felt as though he could create a bigger impact if he went out on his own.
The last thing he wanted was to live a life of regret.
Listen to — or watch — episode 168 of the Consulting Success® Podcast to learn more about Dan’s story:
The # 1 reason people leave their corporate jobs to become a consultant?
To realize their full potential.
What does it mean to realize your full potential?
It means to do what you’re truly capable of doing.
For most of you, that’s much more than what you are doing currently.
You might be limited by your 9-5 jobs — even if you are happy there.
If you’re truly content with your job, that’s completely OK.
But if you want to do what you’re fully capable of — even if that means discomfort and growing pains — then becoming an independent consultant will help you do just that.
2. You Want To Earn A Higher Income
How much money can you make as an independent consultant?
As much as you want.
As an independent consultant, you have unlimited income potential.
Now, that doesn’t mean you’re magically going to make 7-figures in your first year in business.
Like anything else, earning a higher income as an independent consultant takes time, experience, and hard work.
But here’s an important difference between your salary as an employee vs your income as an independent consultant:
- As an employee, your employer determines how much you make.
- As an independent consultant, you determine how much you make.
In a 9-5 job, you’re paid by the hour.
As an independent consultant, you determine how you’re paid.
You could charge by the hour.
Or, you could charge by the project.
You could even charge based on the value you create.
(See our Consulting Fees Guide to learn how to set your rate)
Want to make $250K a year?
Let’s break down some numbers:
- If you work with 5 clients per year, that’s 5 $50K projects per year — about 1 every two months.
- If you work with 10 clients per year, that’s 10 $25K projects per year — about 1 every month.
- If you work with 20 clients per year, that’s 25 $12.5K projects per year — about 2 every month.
Independent Consulting Monthly Earnings:
With clarity around your ideal client, the right offer, and the ability to have meaningful conversations, this is very achievable.
Use tools like our Consulting Fees Calculator to work backward from how much you want to make per year.
Take nonprofit consultant Doug Nelson for example.
After going through our program, he grew his consulting firm to over $2M in revenue.
That’s far more than you can make in your corporate gig.
Compensation and pay consistently rank as one of the top factors in job satisfaction.
Why give that control over your compensation to someone other than yourself?
3. You Feel Like You’re Lacking Control
Are you tired of taking orders all the time?
Would you rather work with a flexible schedule that matches your energy — instead of being forced to work 9-5?
According to our Marketing for Consultants Study, a flexible schedule is one of the top 3 reasons people become independent consultants.
There’s nothing like waking up when you want to wake up, working on the projects you chose (instead of ones that were assigned to you), and knowing that you can work hours that work best for you.
There’s a sense of freedom you get as an independent consultant that you’ll never get at your 9-5 job.
As an independent consultant, you have more choice over how you spend your day:
- What type of projects you’ll work on
- Who you’ll serve: handpick your clients
- When you’ll work: set your own schedule
- How you’ll work: your own unique process and methods
- Why you’ll work: using your business as a vehicle to create the world you want to live in
If it’s more freedom and flexibility that you’re looking for, then your corporate career will never be able to match independent consulting.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can just work for 1 hour a day.
You’ll still have to work just as hard — if not harder — than in your corporate job (especially in the early days).
But the fact that you are working on your terms will motivate you more than anything else.
Waking up and having complete control over your day is one of the best things about being an independent consultant.
4. You’re Not Learning New Skills
Does every day at work feel like “groundhog day” — a repeat of yesterday?
Sure, it might not be stressful…but the monotony and routine are boring.
You work on the same types of projects and do the same tasks every single day.
People get bored of their jobs because they stop learning.
Continuous learning is essential if you want to advance in your career — and for many, you can’t get that learning in your corporate job.
However, as an independent consultant, you’ll be forced to learn continuously.
Don’t have a clue about marketing?
You must learn marketing in order to attract the attention of your clients.
Never made a sales call in your life?
You’ll have to learn how to have meaningful conversations with your clients — or you’ll never generate any revenue.
Not sure how to package, offer, and price your service?
Strategic offers are another essential skill that can make or break your consulting business.
Now, some people look at these skills and think…
“Forget about it, I’d rather stay in my corporate job than force myself out of my comfort zone.”
But some of you read about what you don’t know and are excited by it.
You know that learning new skills — even if they make you uncomfortable — is the BEST thing you can do for both your personal and career development.
Consulting and learning are synonymous.
You’re always learning…
- New skills to improve your business
- New industries when you sign new clients
- New strategies as you read books, work with mentors, and collaborate with other entrepreneurs.
Imperfect action is the best learning.
And as an independent consultant, you’ll be doing new things that constantly push you out of your comfort zone — and as a result, you’ll transform who you are.
5. You’re More Than Just A “Pair Of Hands”
At your job, are you doing more than just providing a “pair of hands”?
Are you providing your knowledge and expertise to your company?
Example: You’re a software engineer, and instead of spending your entire day writing code, you are also helping the company make important decisions: how to structure the engineering team, what technology to use and why, hiring and training junior engineers, etc.
Remember — consulting is the business of providing knowledge and expertise to clients to help them solve problems and reach their goals.
It’s different from freelancing, where you are functioning similar to an employee.
As a consultant, you are advising your clients. They aren’t bringing you in to write code for them. They would hire a freelancer for that.
Instead, they’re bringing you in to tell them what kind of code to write, how to write it, best practices for writing code, etc.
If you’re in management or in an executive role, there’s a good chance that your brain is what you’re being paid for.
And that’s a sign that you have the expertise to become an independent consultant.
If you don’t have expertise in a specific area, and you’re mostly working as a pair of hands, then freelancing might be a better fit for you.
But if your company pays you for your knowledge and expertise, then other companies will do the same — and bring you in as an independent consultant.
6. You Were Laid Off At Your Job
Have you been recently laid off at your 9-5 job?
This is actually a common reason why people become consultants.
Think of it this way.
When you’re laid off at your job, you begin the job-hunting process.
- Upgrade your resume
- Improve your LinkedIn profile
- Reach out to your first and second-degree connections
- Start learning new skills
- Apply for jobs
You are doing all of these things as an independent consultant, except…
- Instead of upgrading your resume, you are upgrading your public-facing marketing materials: your consulting website, your bio, etc
- Instead of applying for jobs, you are looking for new clients
You’ll have to apply for jobs anyway…so why not “apply” for clients and projects instead?
Here’s another important factor.
Being an independent consultant teaches you why companies hire and lay off employees — because it teaches you how to position yourself as an investment instead of an expense.
If you were laid off at your job, think about why you, in particular, were laid off.
It probably has little to do with the fact that your employer didn’t like you — and more to do with the fact that your role wasn’t adding enough value to the company.
As a consultant, you deliberately position yourself and your services as an investment so that clients hire you,
And who knows — your former employer can even end up hiring you as a consultant, like engineering consultant Husain Shekhani.
Getting laid off is stressful.
But it can also be the force you need to make the changes you’ve always wanted to make — like becoming an independent consultant.
7. You’ve Got The “Itch” To Start A Business
After interviewing hundreds of successful consultants on the Consulting Success® Podcast, we’ve learned that many of them got the “itch” to start a consulting business.
And that’s what prompted them to go out and become an independent consultant.
The “itch” is something you can’t ignore.
It’s that voice you hear in the back of your head.
The good thing about independent consulting is that it is a low-risk, high-reward business.
It’s low-risk because you can choose high-profit margins.
As a consultant, what’s in your head — your knowledge and expertise — is your product.
In the Clarity Coaching Program, we work with consultants who have 70%+ profit margins.
Another low-risk factor?
You can start a consulting business while still employed at your job.
Cover your expenses with the income you make at your 9-5, and then on evenings and weekends, work on consulting projects to supplement your income.
Then, when you’re making enough in consulting to cover your expenses, you can leave your job with the confidence knowing you can pay the bills.
And independent consulting is a high-reward business for all the reasons we’ve outlined in this article:
- You choose your level of income.
- You choose your schedule.
- You choose the services you offer and the clients you work with.
If you’ve got the itch to start a business — but are scared of the “risks” of other forms of entrepreneurship — then independent consulting is perfect for you.
It removes a lot of the risk, but provides you with the same upside.
Again, being an independent consultant isn’t “easy.”
But it’s much easier than wasting your way at your job…
…wondering what could have been if you’d given it a shot.
Which of these signs resonate with you the most?
What’s made you interested in the world of consulting?
Leave a comment with your answers below.
Independent consulting is a very broad topic that we’ve written extensively about in our consulting blog.
If you’re interested in the world of independent consulting, you owe it to yourself to explore this interest.
As we’ve seen, nothing can transform your career (and your lifestyle and income) like starting your first independent consulting business.
Check out some of our most popular articles for independent consultants below:
- How To Start A Consulting Business In 2021 (6 Steps)
- Consulting Fees Guide: How Much To Charge For Consulting (3 Formulas & Examples)
- The WINNING Consulting Proposal Template (& 7 Proposal Writing Tips)
Are You A New Independent Consultant— And Want A Proven Path To Six-Figures In Consulting Revenue?
If you’re interested in starting a consulting business and…
- Nail your marketing messaging so that every word you put out helps attract high-value clients…
- Dial-in your fees strategy so that you can earn far more than your corporate career (without working more hours)…
- Create a marketing engine that brings in new consulting clients predictably, like clockwork…
We’ve built our consulting course, Momentum, for up and coming consulting business owners like you: