“I could never go into independent consulting! It’s way to risky!!!” – That’s the typical reaction when talking to other technologists (mostly all who are better skilled than I am, it seems) about going off into the big bad and scary world of independent consulting. Truth be told, it’s where I sort of found myself for a bit before I decided to chase that dream and jump into the pool. You know what, though? It really isn’t that scary…
This week I’m going to share a few observations from the “almost one year” point of my life as an independent SQL Server Consultant. I figured I should come clean in this first post this week and tell you all that I’m cheating but I figured I’d let you copy off of my paper while I’m at it.
Unemployment Is High – But Not In All Fields
The first cheat? For good resources with skills (heck, even for me) – there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of database related jobs. Even the ones that aren’t so glorious, that don’t pay so well and have long drives and other annoyances associated. I can’t speak for where you are but I bet you’ll find a similar situation in your job market – It seems hard to find good people. I’ve helped clients interview and phone screen through a LOT of folks to find quality people (even ignoring most of my “6 reasons I won’t hire you” it is tough to find lately). Jumping off of a perfectly good cruise ship to build a boat of your own sounds risky, but not that bad when you are moored 125 yards from a boat factory.
What is “Permanent” ???
Not only am I a cheat – I’m a liar… I just said going off on your own means jumping off of a perfectly good cruise ship. Well that cruise ship is only as good as long as it stays good. What I mean is your full time job is only full time as long as it makes sense for your employer to spend their budget on salary and benefits for you. They may be the nicest employer in the world but if it doesn’t make business sense, you are being kicked off of the cruise ship – no matter where it is. Sure you’ll hopefully get a life raft (severance pay) of some size, but you are still at risk of getting kicked off. To steal a line from the Princess Bride – “Job Security” you keep using that word but I don’t think it means what you think it means…
I Know I Can’t
With a self defeating attitude, who needs enemies? It is tough being independent. I’ll talk about that later this week. There are things you have to take care of that are different. There are non-billable tasks. There are taxes to pay. There are contracts to sign. It isn’t really that scary though. Let me put it this way – it isn’t as scary as you’ve convinced yourself it is. Like I said in that pool fear analogy post linked above – don’t be paralyzed by “I think I can’t” – that’s one prediction that always comes true, because it is self defeating. If I can? You can. I KNOW you can.
Have a Plan
If that cruise ship was in the middle of the pacific – and you still jumped – I’d call you a complete moron (in love, of course…) Just because you can and you have a lifeline (the ability to get even a 3-6 month contract position with long hours, a long drive in an industry you don’t like – but pays fine), it would be really irresponsible to leave without a plan. Later this week I’ll share some ideas about how you can slingshot, parachute or partner your way into independent consulting. I chose the parachute approach with a little slingshot added. It worked. There are other options, I’m sure, but the point is – work out a plan, create some savings and test out your relationships to see if work can find you first. I can’t think of a bolded sentence to end this paragraph with, just make a plan!
What’s the worst that can happen?
I’m a man of faith – this paragraph is about that – quick warning… I’m a Christian. I believe the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God. I believe that God is a loving (among other attributes perfectly balanced) God. I believe I am Heaven bound when my time in this messed up body is done (I’ve blogged about this a lot already. The really long version of my testimony is here if you care to read.. In short – A loser w/o a high school diploma, living for himself avoiding God and “His followers” at all costs met the real Jesus and my life hasn’t looked the same since, in spite of my attitude at the time). That gave me a peace about this decision and was probably my biggest cheat of them all. What’s the worst that can happen to me? Even if I somehow managed to really screw this up and could never get a job doing anything ever again, my pitiful savings dried up and my church and family abandoned me and no safety net existed whatsoever – the worst that would happen probably involves death. Maybe even a slow or painful one. So? My God has a plan for eternity, I’m included in it and my eternity (I’ve seen some horribly slow queries in my life, but none were that long) is secure. I’m going to live forever in the presence of God. The one who fashioned this world, the one who created me, the one who holds the keys of life and death – my friend, my father. How risky is it to go off on your “own” when you’ve got an adoptive father who runs the show and already promised an ending that never really ends and is filled with goodness?
It’s a simple one – you can be a consultant. I think there are a lot of reasons to consider moving that way. I’ll touch on some of them in the posts throughout this week but regardless of the point – if this is what you feel you want to or should be doing, don’t let that attitude I hear at conferences and events be the thing that stops you! Read these posts, talk to other consultants, give me an e-mail and we can setup a time to chat. I want you to succeed and I seriously think there is enough business out there that we can each stay plenty busy without worrying about jealousy or competition getting in the way. PS – I’m not saying this is the only career choice that is right. I think a Linchpin has a consultant’s mentality at their full time job and I think working for someone else is great for a lot of people. I’m more talking to the “oh, I wish I could do that!!” crowd – you really can.
So the rest of this week the posts will look like
- Things I’ve learned (and wish I knew) – Sick days are different, taxes are a bit different, etc.
- Relationships – We all knew they mattered, but they make a world of difference in business
- Slingshots, Parachutes and Partners – a few ways to go it alone without being so alone
- Benefits and Drawbacks (for me, for clients, for you)