One of my very closest friends and mentors is a wonderful woman named Theresa Moore. She is the founder of Theresa Moore Consulting and spends her days working hard as a Leadership Consultant, Coach, and Speaker (that is, when she’s not volunteering as a mentor or teaching yoga!)
I had the pleasure of working for Theresa in 2017 and I have looked up to her since the moment I met her. Not only for her strong leadership and wealth of knowledge – but even more so for her authenticity, her desire to help others grow in their careers and her clear focus and dedication to teamwork and collaboration. She is truly an inspiration!
I turn to Theresa anytime I need advice/guidance/encouragement – so I thought she’d be the perfect first “badass” professional I feature on here. Below is the text from a blog post she wrote that provides AMAZING advice for consultants and solopreneurs (whether you’re brand new to it, or are thinking about diving into it – this will be so valuable for you!) Theresa dives into 7 key aspects of consulting and provides helpful advice on how to maintain success through it all. #puregold
So you want to be a consultant? 7 Lessons Learned
Written by: Theresa Moore, PCC, MSOD
I’ve been at this gig for five years now. And loving (almost all of) it. I can’t tell you how many invitations for coffee, lunch, and wine (mostly wine) I receive from people wanting to discuss what it’s like to leave the corporate world for consulting. (Just to be clear: I’m not talking about building an empire, but beginning a new career as a “solopreneur.”)
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way, working as a consultant and with other consultant collaborators. I hope they’re helpful to you.
1. Bunny slippers, fuzzy robe, and flexible schedule: Heck yes. Working for yourself gives you all the flexibility you want. You choose your clients, your schedule, the projects you want to work on, and most importantly, with whom you work.
But be careful: know your business model, your core competencies, and what you want to be known for. Once you take on a project outside of that, you risk becoming known for that and more of it comes your way.
I got really clear that I wanted to do consulting, coaching, and some speaking/team facilitation. While I am an expert trainer, I’ve been there and done that; I didn’t want to develop and deliver training week in and week out. I also know myself well enough to know that I enjoy working with corporate-like organizations that have the resources and infrastructure to support transformational change.
2. Taxes (and other trifling stuff): Be aware. Get yourself a trustworthy accountant who can help you navigate the wonderful world of working for yourself. Know that you have to pay quarterly taxes as a small business owner.
Also of importance: you are the IT department, the marketing department, the legal department, and the facilities manager.
Here’s what I’ve come to learn about all of this. Sure, it has the potential to become overwhelming (websites, blogs, Google analytics, city licenses, and on and on) but there are people who can help you (some for free, others for barter, some for cash, and many for wine and a home-cooked meal). Know that you can outsource this stuff. But you can’t ignore it.
3. Doing the work, getting the work, and balancing it all: That’s the million-dollar question. There’s a big difference between working in your business and working on your business.
It may seem like a chicken-egg dilemma in that you have to actually do work to get paid and to build your portfolio of client engagements, while keeping the pipeline full of prospective clients and future projects. I don’t have all the answers or a silver bullet here, but here’s my experience.
Networking is key. And when I say networking, I don’t mean reaching out when you need something. That’s not networking (that’s just selfish).
Check out Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone about networking as building (and sustaining) mutually beneficial relationships.
Let people know what you’re up to; ask them what they’re working on. Share something useful. Post interesting, thoughtful material- always being cognizant of your brand.
Some consultants and solopreneurs are more comfortable with the investment in social media than others. That’s not the point. The point is: if you are a well-kept secret, potential clients (and even friends and former colleagues) may not know that you’re available or have expertise in a certain field.
One final punctuation to “doing the work and getting the work”: one guaranteed way to ensure prospective clients come your way is to deliver excellence to existing clients. People are more willing to advocate for you and send work your way if you deliver outstanding results.
4. Clarity, sanity, and your reputation: Contracting is key. As a consultant you are hired to do a job. That’s what the client engaged you for. It will serve you (and your sanity and reputation) well to invest time and energy on the contract.
Generally speaking, consultants can serve as a “pair of hands” (doing a body of work that the client does not have the bandwidth to execute); sometimes you’re hired as the “expert” (giving advice and setting up structures to help the organization realize its goals); and third, the ‘business partner’ (working collaboratively with the client to create strategy and design execution plans).
It’s my experience that these three roles can exist simultaneously in a consulting engagement, and it’s important to contract clearly on the specific aspects and deliverables of the contract.
I like to draft contracts in phases and suggest that the client and I will revisit the contract after each phase. This provides flexibility to incorporate feedback and to make adjustments, as conditions often shift during organizational change.
Phase I, in almost all of my contracts, includes an analysis of the “opportunity”: current/ future state, success measures, desired behavioral changes, etc. More often than not, this assessment helps the client and key stakeholders gain clarity on the various dimensions of the issue.
5. Delivering excellence and exceeding expectations: Do your job. This follows from the previous lesson, in that you drafted, negotiated, and signed a contract. Now be sure to deliver on it! This is where you shine, add value, and make a difference… essentially living out the reason you went into consulting.
If you’re not living out your values or enjoying the work, whatever you do, don’t just not do your job. Suck it up and complete the contract. Or renegotiate it, or amend it. But don’t just “not do it”.
By delivering excellence, you earn the right to do the work you love.
6. Being a change agent is hard: Not everybody likes you. Get used to it. When you come into an organization, it’s typically because something is going on. Even when it’s good, there’s somebody who is not going to be good with you being there.
Any outside or foreign agent that gets introduced to the organization’s system disrupts the stasis. Humans are hard wired for stasis, and your presence can challenge that. Make sure you have a solid change plan, effective leader, and work with and through the team. Do it with the team vs. to them.
And sometimes when you work for yourself, it gets lonely and you can feel like an ‘outsider.’ Make sure you have a tribe to connect, learn, and grow with.
Which leads me to the final lesson learned about consulting.
7. Abundance vs scarcity: Working with other consultants can be rewarding.
When you’re an office of one, it can be energizing and stimulating to partner with other consultants. Like Brené Brown says, we are hard wired for connection. And there is enough work to go around. When you approach consulting and collaborating as a win-win-win vs. “this is my sandbox” you open yourself and your business up to even greater possibilities.
But be careful—collaborate with trusted partners who will help you protect your brand. Contract clearly, maintain clean conversations, and take good care of each other.
Together we’re better, so please use the link below to share this post and add your comments, experiences, and lessons learned. Ancora imparo!
View this blog on the Theresa Moore Consulting website to leave your comments, experiences and lessons learned!