Consulting as a solo entrepreneur, when you must create all your own new client work as the key rainmaker, is a tough gig. I am surprised at the constant commitment it takes, even after 25 years of doing it.
This kind of creative work, making your own work, insists that you stay aware of market shifts, and adjust to them, often re-positioning yourself (or re-creating yourself) to meet new market demands. Sometimes this can feel like “starting over.”
If you have no patience, you should not begin. If you are deeply accustomed to an extensive corporate team to support the work you do (especially bringing in the work for you to do), you may not be suited to the unending diligence this kind of solo career demands.
If you are not deeply optimistic, you should re-consider this kind of work. If you tend to the bi-polar, this work will drive you nuts.
This optimism and patience is critical to your success. It is the secret ingredient that keeps you going when the dark days come. Listed below are common events for the solo consultant, and you need these traits (patience and optimism) to allow these happenings to be part of your daily work.
- Prospects can take months to commit when you need the revenue.
- You can be passed over for speaking at that important national conference, waiting a full year to reach that particular audience.
- Despite your best efforts at getting paid in advance, the client may be slow to pay, hurting your cash flow.
- Folks who were eager to meet with you about your work, when you were speaking at that event, fade away and do not reconnect, victims of “conference fever.”
- Colleagues, prospects and clients can be so busy that it seems they are being rude, or ignoring the plans you made together, re-scheduling at the last minute, or simply not answering your emails and phone calls.
This is a grim but realistic perspective on consulting, which of course is also filled with the rewards of freedom and welcome and celebrity, and your clients saying “Thank you — I couldn’t have done it without you.”
But you must stay optimistic, upbeat, and patient with the world to get to those rewards.