For friends and associate consultants, here is your revenge for an article about how to work you hard and a light take on the advice we might have to give those with the aspiration to enter the consultancy world. Please enjoy!
You’ll take less holidays and not more – you may imagine all the freedom in the world. In practice, it will take a good while before you trust that there’s enough work around the corner to relax on an unpaid beach for a fortnight
Satnavs can stop – and when they do, it’s without warning, on a road without signposts that mean anything to you and always on the way in to work and not the way home
Sometimes it is better to give up – at least until the morning. Fresher brains find solutions and your client might prefer to have an honest 90% of scope delivered than a wasted day satisfying a perfectionist mind-set when it comes to your technical prowess
Understanding train tickets is actually quite easy – believe it or not, there will come a time all too soon when you can work out why thetrainline appears to deliver random answers on price
Notes are vital – I make the same recommendation to those working with you, but you really will forget. If you don’t forget, your client colleagues might well and then your note-taking system will prove worth its weight in light-as-a-feather-thin-device
Prepare for month one cash-flow – moving from a salaried job to payment after invoice payment terms means a month of coping on nothing. Plan how the mortgage is going to get paid for the interval until you’re into the swing of when your money comes in.
Appearance matters – to a degree. Remember that it takes a while before real trust is going to build in your credibility as a professional and many consultancy engagements involve shorter-term contact with the people you will need to impress. By all means have your own style, but do look like the professional you are.
A consultant is not just there to say “yes” – the best consultants don’t necessarily agree to everything in the way in which it has been suggested. Your role is to offer expert advice and if you can see a more effective way, your clients are going to appreciate the suggestions, if supported by the right explanations as to impact and outcomes.
Assume nothing – and especially not onsite facilities. Many clients will look after you wonderfully, but even access to water, tea and coffee is not necessarily a given. Incredibly it is possible for your daily rate to get in the way of remembering anything other than that you are an expert there to do an awful lot of a very good job. Arrive early and you can do both.
It is rather like public speaking – consultancy days involves lots of speaking and most of it public. If you like to avoid this, then pick your jobs carefully. And I quote a favourite colleague “There may be more of them than you think!” Sometimes the best value day for a team means involving everyone. It’s sensible to ask who you’ll be working with – and their job roles are useful to know too.
Even easier than train tickets – is setting yourself up as self-employed sole trader with HMRC. Rather less easy is un-setting-yourself up and, if you’ve earned anything, you’ll find yourself completing self-assessment. You do need to decide if you’re going to operate as a sole trader (easier) or a limited company, so read some no-nonsense advice about the risks and (in)efficiencies with tax if you want to take the easy option.
The concept of a capsule wardrobe is not ridiculous anymore – you will end up with a bag packed and ready to go and your working wardrobe will be carefully constructed around a minimum number of interchangeable options. Having two tubes of toothpaste is a good idea too.
You may crave eggs or beans on toast – hotel dinners or delicatessen sandwiches start out really good and after a while everyone wants back home comfort eating
A personal phone is not your client’s friend – I’m not impressed if I engage someone for the day and it seems like their wife/friend/the garage people take a good chunk of it. You will have distinctly less opportunity to deal with personal issues during your working day than in the course of employment with a steady team. For which reason not least:\
You need your friends – there is nothing more valuable after a difficult day or on a difficult mission not to be on your own with it. Sharing your knowledge does not diminish your personal value and it will bring you all that you may miss of “ordinary” office life.