What is it Really Like to be a Consultant?

Do you at times find it difficult to follow the directives of your

management? Do you even know who they are? Do you wish you could have

complete control of your time? Would you like to eliminate your

commute? Would you like to live where you really want to? Have you

dreamed about having your own business? If your answer is yes, maybe

it's time to think about becoming a consultant.

I became a consultant in 1993 after working as an executive in a

software company specializing in communications software. Five years of

running as fast as I could on a treadmill, with stock options always in

the ephemeral future, convinced me that I had to do something

different. I became a consultant, and it was the best decision of my


Work finds me

I run a successful consulting business specializing in wireless and

Internet communications. My work spans from architecture design to

network deployment and market research. Now that I have become

established, work finds me and one project leads to another. I work on

a wide variety of projects with a diverse group of clients, and I love

my work. I live in a beautiful little town in Oregon, and work from the

comfort of a home office.

In this column I will report on what has worked for me and other

consultants I know. My motivation is not that writing a column pays

better than my consulting practice but that I am constantly asked what

being a consultant is like and how to become one. I would like to see

others benefit from my experience and improve the quality of their

lives as I have. Though I work hard, my job has given me huge freedom

with respect to when and how I work, how I live my family life, and how

I pursue my other interests. Ironically, though I have no permanent

job, I feel greater job security than when I had a full-time job. I

also derive a huge sense of satisfaction from having created not only a

business but also a true balance between work and personal life.

Consultant vs. contractor

Who is a consultant? I am referring to experts in a field who in the

course of a year will typically work for more than one client and often

for more than one client at one time. Last year I worked for 18

different companies. I differentiate consultants from contractors, who

usually work for extended periods of time as virtual employees of one

company. Much of what I will discuss will also apply to contractors,

but my emphasis is on consulting.

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