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With connectivity being so easily available today, an explosive trend worldwide is that of setting up shop for yourself as an independent consultant/freelancer. This is not restricted to the more developed countries but is seen increasingly in developing countries as well. The percentage of those who are self-employed as consultants is shooting up across the globe. They engage in fields ranging from law, medicine, human resources or accounting. What attracts people to becoming consultants in the first place?

There are many reasons but perhaps are the most cited are:

  • The urge to do something on their own
  • The need to be their own boss
  • The desire to do what they like best

Why is the number of consultants/freelancers increasing so rapidly? There are a variety of reasons. Working women who want more time and flexibility in their lives- to manage their families, for example- seek an environment which meets this need. For young professionals being independent gives them the opportunity to back their abilities and take risks to achieve their life goals. More recently, for early retirees and those who have lost full time employment, this represents a chance to move on in life-using their expertise, for monetary and psychological fulfillment.

If the rewards are great for those who succeed, on the flip side so are the challenges. One must necessarily have the traits to succeed in a business which can be, certainly at the initial stages, extremely lonely. You need to have the temperament to be many things rolled into one. You are both the strategist and the implementer at the same time. You are, in a sense, the CEO as well as the mailroom guy in your outfit.

I rate the ability to take calculated risks, the ability to persevere and the ability to adapt to different situations as being essential for success as a consultant/freelancer. You ought to be prepared to face what I would call a “feast or famine” phenomenon. It is unlikely that you will get assignments like clockwork all through the year, every year. There will be peaks as there will be troughs. What will matter is your competence and ability to get business. And deliver outcomes to the satisfaction of your clients. You need to do this constantly and profitably.

The rewards are seemingly obvious – perhaps that’s why they are more often talked about than the challenges to attain them. They include:

  • Considerable independence and control over your time
  • Being able to stretch yourself to the extent necessitated by what you wish to achieve
  • The joys and sorrows of running a business without the trappings of a large firm
  • Getting to spend more time with your family and on your interests

Indeed many consultants do claim that at the end of the day the satisfaction they have derived from working on their own- often from home-makes up for anything they may have lost in giving up a more formally structured corporate career.

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This is Post No: 288 of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.