Think ahead if you’re considering consulting

Featuring independent recruiter Beth A. Berk, CPA, CGMA

Video transcript:

I think before one even embarks upon deciding what they’re going to do as a consultant, they need to understand themselves to know whether they’re self-motivated enough to be able to take on the tasks needed to become a consultant, such as if you know that you don’t like to network with people much or go out and have to wait for the next assignment to come. If you like the stable paycheck and/or you don’t feel that you can make things happen on your own, you might want to consider a part-time job.

However, if you feel you are up for the challenge, I think you also need to look at what type of work have you been doing over the years. Has your role involved being in the local community or in a larger business climate – such as in the D.C. market, you have Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland – or have you had a job that requires you to travel around the country? Where are your contacts mostly based? Do you know your community, do you know what type of businesses are there, and do you know people to network with? Do you have a second home that you might want to relocate to down the road? If that’s the case, you might want to consider starting to spend more time in that community and start networking.

If you’re considering consulting, you also should take an assessment of your skills. For instance, if you work for a larger company and you’re using an accounting software package such as PeopleSoft or one of the larger ones, one of the Microsoft products, and you might consider going to small business consulting that might be using QuickBooks, Xero, Intacct, you may need to learn that particular software skill. So you need to find out how long is it going to take you to learn that skill, who’s offering the class, when can you take that class – maybe there’s a community college that offers that course. So I would suggest in terms of just going into consulting in general you probably should start thinking about this at least six months to one year out of the time you plan to retire.

Obviously there are times when people don’t intend to retire, and maybe they have been downsized or the company gets sold or reorganized and they are forced to do this at a time when they weren’t prepared. In which case if you are not sure or you are feeling unstable in your current role, I would suggest you start putting feelers out and following some of these steps initially just so you’re prepared even if you do nothing with it. I mean, if anything, you have made new contacts along the way. Maybe you went to some Chamber of Commerce events, some business networking, international chapter meetings, and you’ve met other businesspeople. You’re expanding your horizons either way, whether for social or business reasons.

So there are many things to be involved here, to think about long in advance, if you can, if you have the luxury to do that. You also need to understand what kind of benefits you may need. Are you prepared to purchase those on your own? How easily, how far in advance do you need to do that? Are there certain times of the year when there is open enrollment to get health insurance? Do you have enough money saved? Do you need to work for a certain hourly rate? And, if that’s the case, you might want to start asking around what type of rates people are paying for certain types of skills. Are you willing to travel for those roles? How many hours a week might you consider working in those roles? So it’s not really a black-and-white process, and there’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle here, and if you’re not sure exactly what to do, I can’t say of any books off the top of my head that might be able to advise you this, but I think the best thing is to talk to other people who are working as independent consultants, self-employed. Reach out to other people who might do outsource controller work or accounting work, CFO work. They sometimes need an extra set of hands on their assignments. And also similar to what I spoke about in another video is if you are going to be doing gigs or consulting work and you are able to do so now before you retire from the job or leave a job that’s full time, just make sure it’s not a conflict of interest with your current employer, because you may want to start doing this six months to a year or two years ahead of time, getting some small assignments, and start your networking long before you really embark upon doing it full time.

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