Podcast

Episode: 76 |
Will Bachman:
Prepare for Independence:
Episode
76

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Will Bachman

Prepare for Independence

Show Notes

Are you thinking about transitioning to independent consulting?

This episode provides eight steps you can take now to set yourself up for success when you officially launch your own practice.

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman: Ernie a listener in Connecticut whose been a friend and mentor of mine since my Navy days, recently emailed me and asked, I’ve got a year until I can take early retirement. And at that point I’d like to transition to independent consulting. What can I do now to be successful when I launch my practice a year from now?
Hey welcome to Unleashed. The show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is produced by Umbrex. And I’m your host Will Bachman.
For Ernie and for anyone else contemplating a transition to independent consulting at some point in the future, I thought about eight areas to work on. Number one, financial. Work on building up savings ideally at least six months of salary would be a good start.
Independent consulting on an individual day when you’re billing time can sometimes pay more than a full-time role. But there can also be big gaps particularly when you’re starting up your practice, so it’s great to see what you can do to reduce your expenses and also save up so you have some runway and you don’t have to say yes to projects that aren’t a great fit.
Number two, relationships. Identify your core network. We talked about how to do that with David Fields in episode one of this podcast so we won’t review it now. But identify your core network. And then begin reaching out to that core network and renewing ties. This is not about trying to sell projects or sell work. It’s just renewing the relationships.
If you haven’t spoken to someone in years, folks from the military days, from high school, from college, graduate school, just checking in saying, hey its been forever, would love to catch up, hear what’s going on. And don’t even try emailing them. Just call.
These calls aren’t about you. It’s about finding out what’s new with them. And just reestablishing those ties. You probably also want to set up a CRM system to manage all that and track it.
Because it starts getting easy to forget who you called and when and so forth. Get that infrastructure in place and start making the calls. It doesn’t have to be 50 calls in a week. Even just five calls in a week over a year would be 250 calls.
Market research, number three. Try to find out what actual demand there is in the market and identify what problems you want to work on. And I’m taking this again from David A. Fields. He talks about if you want to find problems that are pervasive, a lot of people have them.
Problems that are expensive if they don’t get solved, and problems that are urgent they want to get solved right away. And it’s also nice if you have the skills to solve them. Talking to potential clients, ask what problems have you paid someone external to your firm to solve recently?
Or if you’re talking to other consultants, what problems have you been paid to solve? And some consultants will keep that close to the chest. But some consultants are happy to talk about what they’ve been working on. And then work on figuring out what you’re gonna focus on, what problems you’re gonna focus on with your practice.
Number four, building on that is develop the strategy for your firm. And also you can get a lot of logistics and practical factors knocked out. In episode 14 of this podcast, I talked about developing the strategic focus for your firm, so maybe check out that episode.
And in episode 15 I talked about 27 steps to set up your firm. I’m not gonna reiterate that whole list now but includes things like picking a name for your firm, getting a domain, setting up an LLC, get a logo, set up a website, and you don’t have to publish it yet if you’re still employed. But you can get the website designed and ready to launch.
Get your customized email set up, brush up your LinkedIn profile. Get a good profile photo. Get some contracts ready to go, business cards, stationary, research what insurance you’re gonna need. There’s a whole bunch of practical factors that you can get knocked out before you are actually trying to make a living as an independent consultant. Just get that stuff done.
Step number five is brush up on your skills. Perhaps you’re relatively senior and maybe you’re a little bit rusty on some of the nitty-gritty skills like Excel, or Power Point. As an independent, you’re often gonna be expected to do that kind of work yourself. So unless you’re planning on hiring and analyst, or hiring someone whose gonna do the Excel modeling or create the pages, no longer have a staff, so brush up on those skills.
Number six, build out her virtual team. Find an attorney, find an accountant. Sometimes the accounting is a little bit trickier for independent professionals than if you just are getting a W2 from an employer.
Find a design person who can help you with Power Point and other types of design work. Find an executive assistant or administrator or start looking for such a person. Find an IT person who can be on call and serve your IT and security needs.
Number seven, start building your visibility. If you’re lucky your current role might give you the credibility to get something published in some prestigious place. Maybe you are currently a partner at Mackenzie or a senior vice president somewhere.
In that case, you might have the role credibility to get something published in Harvard Business Review or Mackenzie Quarterly. Or if you don’t want to aim kind of at that level a trade journal can be fantastic. Or creating some kind of white paper that is sponsored by your firm that has your name on it.
You might be able to leverage your role to get invitations to speak on panels or serve on industry committees. You can use your current role to work on raising your visibility, create content. Whether that’s either writing or speaking.
Number eight, learn and practice the craft of consulting. If you are transitioning directly out of a consulting firm, this is not as relevant. But if you’re an experienced executive whose risen through the ranks, even if you’re at a very senior level, your industry and functional expertise will obviously be helpful.
But there are some consulting skills that may not be as fully developed. And the role of adviser is different in some ways than being a principal. And all star hitter is not necessarily the best hitting coach. There are some craft skills to pick up. A couple ways to go about that.
You may apprentice with an experienced consultant. That would be probably the best way because consulting is really an apprenticeship craft. If that’s not available to you, offer to do some consulting pro bono for a non profit and learn on the job. And definitely do what you can to read and study some of the best writing about the craft of consulting. A great place to start is David Maister with the Trust Based Adviser and some of this other books.
If you can, you almost might volunteer to work on a paid project even if you have to discount your time, spend nights, weekends, or take a week of vacation to try to work on a paid project. Not necessarily as a leader but even if you’re kind of a project lead or advisory role, or even a senior associate role to kind of get back into the experience of consulting.
If you do these eight things over the course of a year, you’d definitely have a massive head start. I’d love to hear your thoughts on other things, maybe things I missed. You can email me at unleashed@umbrex.com.
And you can also if you go to our website at umbrex.com/unleashed, you can sign up for our weekly unleashed email. And you get transcripts of every episode, a bunch of bonus features that are available only to subscribers.
And if you’ve listened this far, a review on I tunes would be awesome. Thanks.

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