Grantwriters employed full-time often dream of opening their own shop and being their own boss someday. I know I did, until one day I gathered up the courage and told my boss I was going to quit. Ahhh the relief that brought, just the feeling that after serving my two week's notice I would be free, able to set my own hours and pick and choose my own causes to serve. No more drudgery, no more doing things I didn't want to do... such as special events, telephone campaigns and the like!
Then it struck me, how will I support myself once the security of this paycheck is gone?
The reality is that consulting can be a nightmare instead of a dream... unless you have a very detailed plan of action about how you are going to find clients, work without a boss and teammates, and how you will deal with the less-than-glamorous daily chores of accounting, marketing, etc. Here are just some issues you should consider before giving your boss that notice:
1. Are you ready and able to work alone? Are you disciplined enough to get things done without a boss breathing down your neck, and without other team members to give you advice, support and encouragement? Can you work on multiple projects at the same time? Many consultants use spreadsheets and project management software to keep track of projects, while others find that juggling so many proposals and meetings together is beyond their capabilities.
2. Where and how will you work? Will you work at home or lease office space? What are the costs associated with the latter? If you work at home, will you have distractions such as crying babies or visiting relatives? Will there be enough space to work and entertain clients? In my case, I was unable to work effectively at home because of my two children who decided to throw a tantrum whenever I was on the phone.
3. How will you find clients? Do you have marketing skills? Fortunately for me, I was able to convince my former employer to sign a contract with me at half the rate they were paying me as a salary. But I still had to do an immense amount of networking, unpaid speaking engagements and the like to find new clients on a continual basis. It's not an easy task and certainly not for the introverts out there who prefer to research and write proposals all day (such as myself!).
4. What are going to be your business expenses? Have you considered the costs of, say, setting up a website and buying memberships in professional organizations such as AAGP? What are your expected revenues to offset the expenses? Remember that in the beginning you may not get more than one client at a time, so you should be doing some other things to bring in money (and clients) in the meantime. Some ideas include teaching a course at a community college or leisure learning center, writing a blog or selling how-to ebooks online.
Of all the above points, probably the most important to consider is WHY you want to become self-employed. Definitely there are a lot of perks for those who establish themselves and do well, but for many it becomes a struggle to survive. Are you wishing to enter consulting because you want to work fewer hours or make your own hours - perhaps because you are near retirement or have young kids? Remember that small kids can be the downfall of a budging consultancy especially if you are working from home. Do you want to leave a job where the pay is too low and you think you can make more by working for yourself? Keep in mind that for several years you may be earning less than your true potential plus having to pay for health insurance. Are you looking for passion and excitement instead of the daily rat race? Every project you get may not be exciting... in fact most will probably be mundane, even boring.
Honest answers to the issues above may determine whether you achieve success or failure. Good luck!