What is it Really Like to be a Consultant?

By Peter Rysavy, ITworld |  Opinion

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
life.

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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