The Joy and Sorrow of a Freelance Consultant
Working as a consultant can provide a unique insight to the life of person with a bipolar disorder. We can be extremely excited while we watch our clients faces as we explain them how we solved a painful problem they were dealing with. And we can reach the deepest lows as when we find data is missing and the client’s team is less then supportive of our efforts. Surprisingly there is little in between. We move from extreme bliss and excitement to deep frustration.
Recently I have left the management consultant firm that was my home for four years to become a freelance consultant. In this transition, I found that the lack of support that a large firm provides entails challenges I was unprepared for; making the gaps from excitement to frustration ever wider. Reflecting on my new found challenges, I was able identify four that I’m constantly struggling to address:
• Social Support:
A lot of time we find ourselves stranded on a deserted island filled solely with members of our client. This leaves us alone without the social support from our peers. We have little people we can bounce ideas with, get feedback on, or simply gossip.
• Getting the Client Team to Support You:
As an outsider we have little means to get people to help us help them. Although this is true for any engagement team, the resources and prestige that are brought to a client provides a natural attraction and incentive to your work. This 'attraction and incentive' are lost once you go solo. As such getting a client's team, which has little incentives to help you, requires developing a new type of leadership skills.
• Steeping the learning curve:
The ability to further develop your skills requires a good supporting network with couches and mentors. As a freelance you need to find these people outside your immediate sphere of interaction.
One of the things that always gets’ me excited is innovation. I love to try out new things, look at a problem from different angles and talk with people from different discipline and together come with new ideas. However, being a freelance consultant means you don’t have a huge bandwidth that will allow you to try new things, new methods and explore additional fields. Innovation is always cool but not on the client’s dime.
Dealing with these issues, I have found that writing has been very helpful. I’m hoping to use Consulting Café as a place of exchange to discuss and share ways to deal with professional challenges.
What challenges have been faced with as an independent consultant? Let me know in the comments.
If you want to read further about the issues and problems that surround being an 'outsider' in the consulting industry, click here.