Most communications professionals have heard this question at least once.
Maybe it came from a coworker who was secretly considering doing just that.
Maybe it was a well-meaning parent or spouse who wanted to encourage the entrepreneurial side they know you possess.
Or maybe it’s a question you’ve asked yourself over and over, but left unanswered out of fear of failure or just not knowing where to begin.
In today’s world, the freelancer stereotype of a starving artist waiting tables and posting ads for their creative passions on Craigslist has mostly vanished.
Instead, you imagine being an independent consultant working on the beach, taking long walks with your dog, and seeing an extra zero or two tacked on to your annual income.
Reality check: most consultants live somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. So let’s dig in.
To Go (or Not Go) Solo?
Let’s start out by defining our terms. According to Consulting.com,
A consultant is someone who has some level of expertise that a particular group of people find valuable, and people within that group are willing to pay the consultant to access their expertise.
That’s it. No certifications, letters after your name, or specific experience required.
If you have the expertise people need and are willing to pay for, you can be a consultant.
As career columnist, Liz Ryan wrote in her article, The Truth About Independent Consulting,
You just talk to people about their problems at work. You just do the obvious thing: see what’s broken, and fix it.
So now you get it.
Consulting is not just for Deloitte employees or fresh college grads who seem to make way more money than their parents.
Consulting is something taking place in every industry. And that can empower anyone with an in-demand skill set to “go solo.”
You can set up shop as a member of the self-employed.
But How Do I Know if Being a Solopreneur is for Me?
Not everyone is cut out to be a solopreneur—that’s for sure.
But, you may be surprised that the very same skills that make you so effective at your 9-5 job can also make you a rockstar consultant.
You’ll want to consider the following before taking the leap:
- Cash Flow. This is the number one thing to consider before becoming a solopreneur. If you have no clients but know where to find them—you still need a monetary safety net (at least three to four months equivalent to your full-time salary). If you have no clients and no idea where to start, it could take longer to get your business off the ground. You might consider freelance work on the side before quitting your full-time gig. Cash flow for independents can be erratic and stressful. Have a solid plan in place and a backup plan in case you’re just not cutting it.
- Personality. Are you someone who thrives in unstable situations? Or do you have a breakdown when your routine changes just a bit? No matter where you fall on this continuum, you can still set up a successful consulting business, but you need to be honest with yourself. If your industry provides you with a constant stream of clients, then the uncertainty element may be less. If your work lends itself to an unpredictable flow of projects, consider whether you can withstand the ups and downs. Running your own business requires mental stamina and unrelenting persistence.
- Marketability. The good news for most readers of this blog: communications consulting is in high demand. Whether you’re a PR, social media, content writing, or otherwise professional, many businesses are looking to hire your skillset. Even if you aren’t in the communications industry at all, more businesses are now outsourcing work rather than maintaining an in-house staff for a variety of reasons. Take stock of your assets here. What skills do you have? Who are your target clients? Where do they look for people to hire? Do you already have contacts in your network who can help? If you are certain you are marketable, then you can learn how to find the right clients (or help them find you).
So now that you’ve established you can afford the risk, have the right personality, and are marketable—the decision still hangs: is the time now?
This is a decision that only you can make after careful consideration.
Remember, its okay if your answer to this question is “heck no!”
Having a stable job is no small feat. And if you are satisfied and fulfilled, there is no reason to rock the boat by trying to branch out on your own.
Making the Solopreneur Decision is the Hardest Part
But take into consideration…
You’re unhappy with your current job, or at the very least pining for more autonomy and creativity.
You want to make more money and drive more direct results for your clients.
You understand you’ll have to learn a LOT about running a business and are up for the challenge.
If your response to all these is yes, then the time is ripe to start your solopreneur business.