5 reasons to become a consultantBy Paul Ballard
In my last post I pointed out a few reasons why making the switch from employment to consulting might not be all its cracked up to be. In this post, I’ll talk about the positives and why you might want to choose a life of consulting over being an in-house employee.
- Politics and bureaucracy. One of the most common causes for stress and dissatisfaction in the workplace is office politics and bureaucracy. As a temporary resource you know that your long term ambitions lay beyond this specific client, so it’s easier to avoid involving yourself in office drama. Being a consultant won’t necessarily keep you from being affected by politics, but with some tact you can largely avoid any situation that would put you directly in the firing line and let you concentrate on what’s important: keeping your customer happy.
- Variety. One of the best aspects of moving from project to project is that you get to experience many different teams, industries and technologies. Over time you’ll learn to blend into any organization — a skill that will serve you well no matter what you do in the future. Moving between projects will also allow you the opportunity to switch technologies as things shift within the industry. While remaining flexible in the face of constant change can be its own challenge, if you are the type who enjoys new experiences and new technologies, this can be one of the best reasons to make the move to consulting.
- Recession proof. Consulting often remains lucrative in spite of economic downturns. When the economy in an area starts to slow, employers are less willing to take on the long-term costs of a full-time employee, and they look for consultants instead. When the economy is going well, companies expand and build new products which may be beyond the capacity of their current staff. You may sometimes need to travel or even relocate if things get bad in your geographic area, but there is almost always work somewhere.
- Travel. There’s no better way to see the country than while someone else is paying for it. As most travel for consultants is reimbursed or tax deductible, you’ll be able to see the country — or even the world — and it won’t cost you much of anything. Now keep in mind that it may not always be the most scenic of places. You could end up some place like Mondovi Wisconsin in the middle of January, for example. But there will be plenty of summers in Chicago or New York as well.
- Money. Okay, so money doesn’t buy happiness, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. As long as you follow the suggestions I pointed out in my previous post about the negatives of consulting, you can make much more as a consultant than you probably ever will as an employee. Once you get your own marketing and sales machine running it’s not too hard to expand and bring on other consultants. That is when you start making the real money. In fact, the key to a lucrative career in consulting is to ultimately untie your income from your billable hours by leveraging what you’ve done right on the business side, and let other people do the work.
So there you have it, the good and the bad from my experience as a hired gun. If you decide to take the leap into consulting then I wish you the best. And if you decide that full-time employment is the way to go, then that’s great too. No matter which way you go, it’s ultimately your choice and you should base it on what’s right for you.
About the Author
Paul Ballard is a Chief Architect specializing in large scale distributed system development and enterprise software processes. Paul has more than twenty years of development experience including being a former Microsoft MVP, a speaker at technical conferences such as Microsoft Tech-Ed and VSLive, and a published author. Prior to working on the Windows platform, he built software using a vast array of technologies including Java, Unix, C, and even OS/2.
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