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6 Extraordinary, Hidden Benefits of Independent Consulting

Last week we looked at what it takes to become successful as an independent consultant. But beyond the obvious, why strive to build your practice? After all, it’s a challenging, sometimes treacherous undertaking.

Outsiders—and even some insiders picture consulting as an act of treasure hunting. We’re seen as villainous pirates who lust after booty (the gold kind), sail carelessly from one business to the next leaving destruction in our wake then squander our (clients’) wealth on luxury cars, lavish homes and eye patches.

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We’re more apt to cast ourselves as unpretentious business healers, traveling from client to client with the physician’s ethic of primum non nocere.

The fact is independent consulting can generate substantial wealth, and the profession confers a trove of enviable benefits that we heartily enjoy.

Plus, if you dig deep inside our treasure chests you find the consulting life has rewarded us with more than surface gains. Below are a few of the obvious riches and subtle rewards of independent consulting.

(Hover over each surface benefit to read the hidden dividend!)

Flexible Work Schedule

There’s a LOT to be said for vacationing when you want, as often as you want, not to mention making all the kids’ concerts, plays, games and meeting them off the school bus.

Yesterday, when my son was experiencing the devastating culmination of a teenage romance, I pushed work (and this blog) aside to offer him solace at the moment he needed it.

Better Time Use

You learn to make the most of your time. Since there’s no “boss” structuring your day or demanding production, it would be easy for hours, days and weeks to easily slip by with little to show.

Instead, you tap into the power of rituals and routines to create consistently high productivity.

That same approach serves you well outside the office too—keeping you physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.

High Pay

Done well, independent consulting regularly delivers a six-to-seven figure income. Far more than all but a few executives earn in the corporate world.

Pecuniary prosperity is nothing to sneeze at. Life is definitely easier and more comfortable when you can spring for a new car, kitchen, or eyepatch.

High Financial IQ

Consulting is a lumpy business. Cash flow is less like a steady stream and more like a hot, dry street interrupted by exploding fire hydrants.

As a result you become quite adept at saving and financial management. More importantly, you learn to solve “money problems” without money. Can you launch a successful book campaign without a publisher’s burgeoning purse? You bet you can!

If you can operate without a hitch during lean times, life is that much better when the money rolls in.

Control Over Work Environment

In addition to working where we want (e.g, home office, shared workspace, or schooner), we get to choose our colleagues, our partners and our clients.

Last week I declined to submit a proposal for a large project with a biotech firm because they gave all the signs of being an unenjoyable client.

We have the freedom to create a physical and social environment that fits our personal styles and promotes our happiness.

Finely Tuned Discernment

Most folks have an average “B.S. meter” and are decent judges of character. As a consultant, your gauges are precisely calibrated.

Years of teaming up with mediocre partners, entertaining inquiries from well-meaning colleagues who think “maybe we can help each other,” and (occasionally) servicing insufferable clients will pay off.

You’ll quickly identify and avoid people who suck time and/or energy. That, in and of itself, is a huge boon.

Diversity & Constant Learning

An independent consultant’s job is rarely dull or dreary. (Setting aside outbound calls, which can be both.) We encounter a broad range of clients, cultures and problems. Frankly, it’s a learning-junkie’s dream.

Plus, we’re not locked into a job that wastes our aptitudes and capabilities. We can always pursue projects that leverage our interests and skill sets.

Broad Proficiency & Agile Mind

I’ve often quipped that the three most important words in consulting are, “Yes I can.” An eager willingness to tackle diverse problems combined with little-or-no staff often force you to explore uncharted talent territories.

Rather than achieve passable facility at an average pace, you learn to achieve mastery in record time.

As a result you’ll be adroit at a surprising range of tasks, at work and at home. Better yet, you’ll enter your “golden years” with a nimble, healthy brain.

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Freedom from Politics

One of the delightful benefits of being outside the corporate walls is the total lack of water-cooler scheming and interdepartmental gossip.

Ironically, sidestepping internal politics grants us far better access to companies’ senior leadership. At the peak of the organization we garner more respect, work on juicier problems and learn from talented individuals who have risen to the top.

Empowerment, Empathy and Observation

When you earn your weekly wage from “the man” you can blame any lack of career progress, thwarted ambitions or general malaise on others. Perhaps with a kernel of justification.

As an independent consultant you know there are no invisible hands or superior (corporate forces) deciding your destiny. You are fully responsible for your success or failure. This can be a sobering realization, but it’s also incredibly empowering.

In addition, since you are “out of the loop” at your clients, you develop other means to ascertain what is really happening at their sites. Namely, exceptional listening skills, including empathy, and disciplined observation.

Constantly Adding Value

Minions, middle managers and even senior executives are frequently bogged down by inconsequential tasks. (Quick, let’s prep for another meeting with the boss/the board.)

In contrast, since savvy companies only spend money on consultants when there’s a significant challenge they can’t resolve internally, we’re virtually always engaged in high-impact, highly interesting endeavors.

I’ll take that trade every day.

Constantly Spot Value

Since you become accustomed to pursuing high-value activities rather than fighting common fires, you also learn to recognize the difference between the 10-cent problems and million-dollar opportunities.

Whether you’re running your consulting practice or managing your day-to-day life, it’s easy to succumb to trivial matters that “demand” attention. You’ll become quite adept at spotting—and shunting aside—time draining tasks that add little to the business or personal bottom line.

What other benefits – obvious or hidden – do you receive from consulting? Post your thoughts in the comments section.


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6 Comments
  1. Tom Borg
    July 1, 2015 at 9:17 am Reply

    Another thing independent consulting does for me is that it allows me to get the satisfaction of assisting my clients to go to the next level of their personal and professional development. It can make a consultant feel good to know that in some small way (or big way), they have helped improve the company and its’ employees to be more self actualized.

    • David A. Fields
      July 3, 2015 at 8:33 am Reply

      I totally agree, Tom. We gain a huge psychic boost from helping others (which is one reason its always good to do some volunteer work when you’re feeling down). As consultants, our entire job sets us up to enjoy those internal rewards. Thanks for contributing that benefit.

  2. David Natalizia
    July 1, 2015 at 10:56 am Reply

    Excellent post, and nice use of the “flipover’ points – Part of this shows how good consultants can provide such powerful benefits to the businesses they work with.

    • David A. Fields
      July 3, 2015 at 8:34 am Reply

      David, you’re right on the mark. Your comment and Tom’s combine nicely: we can provide powerful benefits to our clients and that, in turn, reflects back warmly onto us.

  3. Lauren Woodley
    January 5, 2016 at 6:32 pm Reply

    I really liked the insight you gave about independent consulting! Specifically, you talk about how going with an outside source will free you for politics, which I think can be really important for the functioning of your business. As you say, when you get rid of the gossip and internal tensions that arise, you’ll be able to respectfully and effectively resolve issues and manage the different issues with the company. Overall, it keeps things simple and it keeps things moving. Thanks for sharing!

    • David A. Fields
      January 6, 2016 at 3:55 pm Reply

      You’re welcome, Lauren. Life without politics is a huge relief. For consultants and for our clients. If we can depoliticize the atmosphere everyone feels better and the results improve. Thanks for being part of the conversation.

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