How do I become an independent consultant?
I want to work less and earn more. How do I become an independent consultant?
Ellen E., London
You sound like you are ready to join the club. You’ve definitely already figured out why telling the corporate world to bugger off is the best career move you can ever make. Now you just need to get things moving. So go say “Cheerio!” to your boss who has been underpaying you for years. Bid farewell to your office friends, who will have forgotten your name by next week. And you will see that the rest is easy as chicken biryani.
To start off, you need to market yourself as a luxury brand. That means being obnoxiously expensive: this gives your customers confidence. When I started out, I charged 200 dollars an hour, but this was way back in the olden days. I’m sure you can do much better. As a woman, you have a uniqueness that will make you stand out from the male-dominated competition. I would say: add a sex premium of 25 percent, just for novelty’s sake.
Now figure out what it is you are going to sell. There are two ways to go. If you are accomplishing a measurable task – like computer programming – you unfortunately need to be good at what you do. But if your services include something vague like “management consulting” or “business strategy”, you can be absolute bollocks. Clients won’t judge you by result, but by the tan on your face and the amusing stories you tell when they take you out to lunch. And if you can get them tickets to Wimbledon, they will come begging for more.
Best of all is the recognition you will get when you have hung up your own shingle. Customers will be eternally grateful to you for doing that dirty work which they hate doing themselves. Friends will be impressed by the fact you’ve become a consultant, even if they haven’t got a clue what you are up to. And even your former boss will give you some respect now. He might even want to hire you (if he can afford it).