Have you ever thought of becoming a consultant, contract worker, independent contractor, 1099 or freelancer and then dismissed the idea, because you thought it was too risky or because you were not qualified?
Think about it again because there are far more benefits and fewer risks to becoming a consultant than you may think.
Here is some advice on the risks and rewards of consulting, freelancing or independent contracting from someone who has actually done it!
What Does It Really Take To Be A Consultant?
Contrary to popular advice, you don’t need a lot of start-up capital or an advanced college degree to become a consultant.
What you really need to be a consultant (business analysis, computer programming, software testing, project management, etc.) is:
- Strong research, analysis and problem solving skills
- Marketable skills, experience, resume or career
- Lots of personal initiative and a strong sense of responsibility
- The willingness to adapt to changing times, technology, market conditions or customer needs
So, What Does It Mean To Be A Consultant?
Above all other requirements, a consultant must learn a marketable skill and stay ahead of the technology curve.
Consulting work is all about your skills. While you may be cut some slack in a full-time job, you will always be held to a higher level of performance as a consultant.
While corporate politics and / or favoritism can keep you longer on the job as a full-time employer, consultants are hired or retained based on their performance.
So, does this almost absolute dependency on skill or performance mean that consulting jobs are less secure than full-time jobs?
In the Information Technology (IT) Industry, both the consultant’s and full-time employee’s job security depends on their performance.
The difference is that full-time employees are usually given more time to correct their skill / knowledge deficiencies than freelancers or contract worker.
So, given that employers are more accommodating with full-time employees, why would anyone want to be a consultant?
Compensation for Consultants vs. Full-Time Employees:
Consultants or contract workers get paid a lot more than their full-time colleagues (business analysts, computer programmers, etc). Sometimes the difference can be as much as $30,000/yr or even more!
The significant difference in compensation helps consultants take care of themselves during periods of unemployment such as when they are in between jobs.
Medical Benefits for Consultants vs. Full-Time Employees:
You may have heard that the benefits for consultants or contract workers are poor compared to that for full-time employees.
That is not always true. Some staffing / recruiting agencies offer full-time medical or health coverage to their consultants.
While some staffing / contracting agencies do not offer medical benefits, consultants are not at a disadvantage because they are expected to research each job offer before accepting it.
Keep in mind that some consultants prefer to opt out of medical coverage and then bill the employer at a higher rate!
Educational Qualifications for Consultants vs. Full-Time Employees:
Full-time jobs generally have more stringent educational requirements than consulting jobs.
While some employers may require college degrees for full-time jobs, consultants have more options because they are technically not employees!
Consultants are hired through staffing agencies who can match each educational background or qualification to the client’s needs.
What this means is that aspiring consultants should obsess over their skills instead of their educational qualifications.
Skill / Experience Requirements for Consultants vs. Full-Time Employees:
The consultant’s most important asset is his / her knowledge, skill level and experience.
Highly skilled consultants in marketable industries (e.g. web developers) are in so much demand, that all they do is show-up at job interviews to get hired … easily!
Some consultants are so valuable at their jobs that they retain the same jobs for several years just like their full-time counterparts.
In recent years, the line between consultants and full-time employees has become so blurred that some organizations have found it necessary to institute policies that limit how many years a consultant can work to a specific term (e.g. 5 years).
Job Security for Consultants vs. Full-Time Employees:
The consulting mindset is an important asset in today’s economy because no job is really secure and the best security is your investment or self-confidence in your own skills.
It is okay to be a full-time employee because you have a good job offer or because you like the job and employer.
However, staying in a full-time job because you think it’s more secure than a consulting job is ill-advised … here is why I say that:
Your job security really depends on your performance and not on whether you are in a full-time position or a consulting job.
So, sooner or later, if you are less than absolutely competent, you will lose your job.
However, if your skills are sharp and you lose your job due to no fault of yours (downsizing, corporate politics, etc.), you will be able to bounce back because you have the most sought-after qualification in today’s job market … your skills.
So, now you know the risks, rewards or benefits of being a consultant, what are you going to do about it?
Why not develop a consultant’s mindset?
- Stay ahead of the technology curve at any cost because your skills are your most valuable assets
- Always be learning. Study from books, blog posts, articles, video resources, seminars, discussion forums. Just get out knowledge at any cost!
- Improve your real-world, on the job performance. Performance is a better predictor of success than educational qualifications, degrees or job titles etc.
- Embrace change like a consultant. Be willing to adapt to changing times, technology, market conditions or customer needs
- Become a leader in your community. Do something to make your world a better place with what you know today.
- Become passionate and not passive about your work. Discover your passion, do the work you love and bring your passion to market!