Five Tips To Transition From Corporate to an Independent Consultant was originally published on Ivy Exec.
There are many reasons why you might want to transition out of your corporate job. Perhaps you appreciated the work-life balance and flexibility you achieved during the pandemic. Or maybe you want to help many companies thrive with your particular brand of expertise.
But now that some offices are returning to pre-COVID business, as usual, you might worry that you have no alternatives other than returning to the daily grind.
Why not consider consulting?
Companies hire consultants for many reasons. Some want help solving a persistent process or updating outdated processes. Others may seek to eliminate blind spots they might have or identify issues they don’t even know they have.
Consulting might be for you if you appreciate the thrill of finding new opportunities and building your own business. Though you may not have the stability of your corporate job, at least not at the beginning, you can work on your own time and set your own hours.
If consulting sounds intriguing, though, you may wonder how you can make the shift.
Here, we’ll share our top tips for making the transition from corporate to consulting.
Define your consulting parameters.
Consultants are typically experts in a particular field and use their expertise to advise companies. That said, you may have experience in multiple areas or only be interested in consulting in a particular sector.
So, before you start your business, you want to be clear about precisely what you want to consult on.
Larry Cornett suggests writing a business plan so you can more accurately define what you plan to do.
“A useful exercise is to transform your current detailed job description into a business plan. Describe your proposed services as solutions to the problems that you know your target clients have,” he said.
Consider starting your consulting business on the side.
You may be gung-ho about your consulting business, but that doesn’t mean you have to rush into it full steam. Instead, you could start your business on the side. This way, you can make sure you’re interested in the work and have an established client list before giving up your regular paycheck and benefits.
If this is your plan, however, be sure you discuss it with your employer; you may want to develop a non-compete agreement, for instance.
“Let your employer know that you will not solicit your employer’s clients or do or say anything that would be perceived as unethical. If you approach it openly and without confrontation, your employer is more likely to feel part of the process and less likely to spend time on legal review,” said Gene Zaino, President, and CEO of MBO Partners.
Create a marketing plan.
Before you start courting clients, you need to share your consulting philosophy and successes in the corporate world on a website and on social media platforms like LinkedIn. You may also want to develop a services brochure and a white paper so potential clients know what you’re offering.
You want to have these services in place before announcing to your network that you’re leaving the corporate world. This way, you’ll have materials to guide people if they’re interested in your services.
Michael Zipursky, the CEO of Consulting Success® and Coach to Consultants, shared these formulas with Ivy Exec:
I help [WHO] to [solve WHAT problem] so they can [see WHAT results]. My [WHY choose me].
Amanda Hill, former P&G Director and the CEO of a consulting business, shared this example:
“We help CPG brands sell more effectively to women and achieve a 300% ROI by positioning your brand to appeal to women.”
As you transition from corporate to consulting, see if you can work for your past employer.
One of the most significant stumbling blocks for those aiming to transition from corporate to consulting is finding that first few clients. So, why not reach out to your past employers? If you left on good terms with past companies, you might discover they’re excited to use your services.
In fact, past employers are how many former corporate employees get started in consulting – over 50 percent of new consultants count their previous employers as their first clients.
One consultant shared their story about how they made this happen:
“My very first client was my past employer. I told them that I was quitting to start a consulting agency. They tried to persuade me to stay as an employee. I declined, so they immediately said that they wanted to hire me as a consultant and take all of the hours I could give them,” said one consultant.
Prepare for ambiguity.
Veronica Thraen for Forbes suggests that one of the biggest challenges in transitioning from corporate to consulting is preparing for the unknown. You don’t know what’s coming, so you want to be prepared for financial contingencies, including a period where you’re waiting on clients and need to support yourself.
You may also need to prepare for more breaks between clients than you’re used to.
“Having an extended amount of time off between projects can be really unnerving, especially if you are used to having the standard 2-3 weeks off a year. Instead of focusing on the stress of the situation, take advantage of the time by meeting new folks in your industry, taking a vacation, or volunteering,” she said.
She also mentions that transitioning from an insider to an outsider at companies – especially where you’ve worked before – can be a shift. Use your new perspective to your advantage in identifying problems and issues rather than seeing them as a drawback.
Making the Transition from Corporate to Consulting
Employment in the corporate world has many benefits, from stability to predictability to reliable benefits. But many people have discovered the satisfaction of growing their own independent consulting businesses. By highlighting your expertise, using your network to grow your client base, and preparing for mental and financial contingencies, you’ll be well on your way to becoming your own boss.
Do you want to build your authority and position yourself as an expert in your industry? If yes, sign up for Michael Zipursky’s webinar 4 Proven Steps to Build Your Authority and Attract High Value Clients.
Michael Zipursky is the CEO of Consulting Success® where they specialize in helping entrepreneurial consultants grow profitable, scalable and strategic consulting businesses.