If your interest in starting a consulting business stems from a desire to break free from the corporate rat race and work for yourself, that’s as good a reason as any. Certainly, with your own business, you’re no longer lining the coffers of an employing organization. The money you earn is limited only by your ability to attract clients, set lucrative rates and limit your overheads.
However, I think it’s important to qualify what it means to be your own boss when launching and running a consulting business.
You see, the truth is that while you certainly aren’t dependent on an employer for your livelihood, you only get to be your own boss for a small proportion of the time you spend as a consulting professional.
When Running a Consulting Business—The Customer is King
That’s right: you’re truly only your own boss during the hours for which you’re not billing a client. What’s more, during those hours you’re not actually making any money.
For the vast majority of the time, you are not your own boss—your client is your boss.
There are two reasons I felt it important to share this reminder:
- Because consultants who forget this fact, typically come across as arrogant and tend to alienate their clients. I’ve seen it happen and heard plenty of anecdotes to support this point.
- Because if you REALLY don’t like the idea of answering to anyone else in your professional life, you may want to consider a different line of work.
It’s Just a Cold, Hard Truth
Being your own boss is a compelling reason to set up shop as a business consultant, but remember that clients will hire you to advise them—not to tell them what to do. The clients pay you and while you are working on tasks for which you charge them, they are your bosses: The rest of the time you spend running a consulting business … well, that’s all your own.
My comments on the meaning of being your own boss in consulting are not meant to discourage you. As with any new venture though, understanding the cold, hard facts from the outset will help to avoid disillusionment—especially when you land a client who turns out to be a little more domineering than you’d like.
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