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The Top 7 Challenges for New Consultants

Posted March 13th, 2011 in Challenges for New Consultants, New Consultant Basics by Lee

Once you’ve made the decision to become a new consultant, you will begin to experience the advantages of consulting: you’ll have increased control, flexibility and independence.  And as appealing as the advantages are, consulting also has challenges!  The consulting road is filled with unexpected turns, and the occasional pothole.

Many new consultants begin their role with only a vague sense as to what they can expect, and an unexpected pothole has sunk more than a few new consultants! It helps to be aware of what major challenges might lie in the road ahead and to steer clear of these whenever possible.

Here are 7 ccommon challenges for new consultants:

1.  Feast or famine

As a new consultant, we seem to have either too little or too much business. Revel in the feast, but plan ahead for the famine!

2.  Attracting and retaining skilled people and support resources

During the feast times, having others you can trust and call on for help is critical. Finding them when you need them isn’t always easy, though, so build these relationships as early as you can. Decide whether you need a regular staff or just the occasional help, and seek out these resources right from the start. Don’t take anyone for granted, though – those who work for or with you deserve your sincere appreciation and recognition.

3.  Time management

It’s great to be your own boss and have no one else looking over your shoulder telling you what to do and when to do it. Not having this structure, however, can make it easy to procrastinate or flounder. Create a system for yourself, complete with regular work hours and the means to keep track of all those things you must keep track of such as billings, taxes, inventory, meetings, etc.

4.  Work-life balance

Starting out as a new consultant often leads to a period of imbalance in your life, when time you would normally give to family, friends, or hobbies is suddenly sucked up by the demands of your work. Keep an eye on this! Though it’s expected that you’ll put in longer hours at first, don’t let this get out of hand or you’ll be no good at all to anyone.

5.  Staying abreast of new technologies

Technology changes in a blink nowadays, and it’s critical you stay on top of these changes. Your customers will expect you to be readily accessible, to be familiar with (or using!) the latest equipment and resources, and to be at the cutting edge of your consulting field. Keep up! It will be to your advantage to have the technology necessary to fully support your consulting work.

6.  Getting paid

Sure, we like to think that all our customers will pay us when it’s expected (and most will!), but the truth is this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes a check will bounce or someone unexpectedly finds themselves in a financial crunch and unable to pay us what’s due. Plan for this. Make sure you keep enough money in reserves so that when this happens it doesn’t create a financial hardship for you. Also think through what your process will be to bill people, what finance charges you’ll add in for late payments, and what steps to take to recover fees owed to you.

7.  Wondering where the next jobs or customers will come from

During times of feasting it’s hard to imagine that several months from now the famine may hit. A big part of the challenge of being a new consultant–or a more experienced consultant–is that you get so busy meeting current project demands that there’s no time or energy left to continue marketing or in other ways building your business at the same time. It often helps to designate a specific part of each week to business building, and then sticking to this schedule religiously.

There will always be challenges when we work as a consultant. But you can have a smoother ride if you plan ahead create a map that will  work for you!

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