In parts 1, 2, and 3 we talked about the three most important things for consultants – networking, networking, and networking. But why consult in the first place?
One possible reason would be for money. Since money is functionally equivalent to goods and services, if you don’t like money, what do you like? There are enough subtleties to this that it perhaps deserves its own post, but briefly, the situation is reminiscent of a story I once read where a man makes a deal with Devil, and then eventually has to pay his soul. He takes some consolation in having at least got something for eternal damnation, but the Devil cheerfully informs him that diabolical pacts are limited to offering only what could be achieved by hard work and trust in “above” – there are no consolations available to the damned. In our case, you can certainly make a lot of money as a consultant, but more than by diligently climbing the corporate ladder? It’s unclear.
What about freedom and flexibility? Perhaps freedom is just another word for nothing left to bill. But consultants may at times have more flexible work schedules than regular employees. On the other hand, they might end up with less flexibility when a deliverable becomes due. And although you can choose to take a client or not, contracts may come at awkward times, so you can’t take two good ones at once. (A network of consultants can help with this – see parts 1, 2, and 3.) Still, there’s something to freedom and flexibility as a consulting advantage.
Perhaps the best reason to be a consultant is liking variety. When I was consulting, I worked for organizations ranging from 20-person startups to Fortune 5 companies, in a number of different industries. It’s worth noting that you might be able to get similar variety as an employee in the consulting arm of a company, and that depth can end up being sacrificed to breadth. But if you like the new, and don’t mind uncertainty, consulting could be the career for you.