Am I Smart Enough to be a Consultant?

July 15, 2016

Am I Smart Enough to be a Consultant?

Want a simple, straight answer? Yes, absolutely you are. Don’t ever think otherwise.

If you’ve ever had a job, someone has paid you for the skills you have, the effort you put in, your ability to work in a team and interact with clients, or whatever the particular aspects of that job were.

Suppose that the company you work for decides it doesn’t want a permanent member of its staff in your position anymore. So they “let you go,” which is a very irritating way of saying they kick you out. Then, after a few months, they realize (surprise, surprise) that they actually needed someone to do that work. This sort of thing happens all the time, unfortunately.

So if they don’t want another member of staff on their payroll, they’ll probably contract the work out. And some consulting company will provide someone to fill that role. That person will do what you did, with a couple of differences:

  • They probably won’t be as good as you, not having the background in the organization or the experience that you have.
  • They won’t be as invested in the job as you were, because it’s just another consulting assignment and probably short term.
  • They will command a consulting fee that’s probably at least double what you were earning. And your ex-company will happily pay that, because they’re hiring a consultant.

Who would be the best person to do that job? You, of course! Could you do it as a consultant instead of as an employee? Do I really need to ask?

Reflect on your current job, a past job, or even someone else’s job. When you break a job down, you realize that most of us spend a lot of our time communicating, interacting with people, and doing routine, easy stuff that lots of people could make a good go of. Companies hire consultants for a range of purposes, but the main reasons are that they don’t have the time, manpower, or will to do it themselves. Sure, they often need a particular skill set, but they also just need an extra pair of hands. You can be that pair of hands.

I once worked for a gas utility. One of my colleagues was a friendly, gentle guy named Jim. He had worked at the utility for over twenty years and knew everything there was to know about the generation and distribution of gas. When you needed to know something, you asked Jim. He always had time for you, always explained things well, and never ever made you feel that you should have known that already, no matter how true it was.

One day, when the utility was in a downsizing phase, Jim was called in to see the vice president. She told him that his skill set “no longer matches the company’s requirements.” Just like that, he was let go. I met him for a coffee the following week, and understandably he was very unhappy.

“Have you ever thought of becoming a consultant?” I asked. “You’d be good at it and would probably earn twice what the utility paid you.”

He looked at me quizzically. “Me? A consultant? I don’t think so.” He paused before adding, “I haven’t got any consulting skills, and honestly I don’t think I’m smart enough.”

I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. That was really what he believed, this guy who had been consulting within the company for so long. I tried to persuade him, but on that day he would have none of it.

However, my words must have made some sort of an impact, because a few months later I bumped into him in the cafeteria at the utility. Shyly he explained that he’d approached one of his old bosses about some work that he knew needed doing and had been taken on for twenty hours per week on an hourly rate for six months. And, he said, he was enjoying it.

Jim has retired now, but suffice to say that he had his own successful consulting business for seven years and that more than half his work came from the utility that let him go. Not bad for a guy whose skill set was no longer required. And all he needed to do was change his mind-set, which he did successfully.

So never doubt yourself, because like Jim and thousands of others, you’re smart enough. 

As a highly experienced consultant and author of “Consulting Made Easy”, Adrian assists consultants, or would be consultants, to achieve success on their terms in their own consulting businesses.  Adrian helps consultants increase their fee rates, find more clients, have more free time and have more fun.
Contact Adrian at to learn more.

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