The Employee as an Independent Consultant

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Categories: Career Help

This post was updated from its original version, published on 8 July 2011.

I've been employed by the same multinational corporation for the past 27 years. About 15 years ago, I decided that I didn't like feeling like an employee, and decided to adopt the mindset of an independent consultant. Strictly speaking, I was and am still an employee. What changed was my mindset.

I decided to think and behave like an independent consultant while continuing to be an employee of the same corporation.

It's a nice arrangement. I treat my employer as if they were a client, my main client. With a couple of notable exceptions, they've given me steady work.

Since I see myself as an independent project management consultant (even though I am really an employee), I have to think about marketing. If I don't keep the pipeline full, business could dry up. I make sure people know who I am, what my capabilities are and that I stand ready to help them.

I do a lot of business development. I help people "on my own time" so they'll know what I can do for them should they have a need.

I get to know who the decision makers are, who holds the budgets and who has influence.

I keep myself sharp. Sometimes, my client/employer pays for my training and pays me when I take training. Sometimes they cover any travel expenses to take the training. Or, I may take training on my own time and expense to increase skills and my value proposition as an independent consultant.

I interact with others in my profession apart from my client/employer. I belong to a professional organization (PMI) and volunteer with them as a speaker and writer.

When I begin a new project, I approach it as a consultant, looking not only at how I can satisfy the immediate need, but also looking at the potential for follow-on work.

When people I deal with are unpleasant or difficult to work with, I remind myself that they are my client, and will be paying me for my work. It helps keep things in perspective.

I do the occasional "side job" for other clients, but only to the extent that it doesn't result in a conflict of interest.

I don't think I would have the courage to make the career switch to truly be "independent." At least not yet.

I have the utmost respect for those who really are independent. I understand that I don't face the same risks they do, which is why I have such respect for them. I've learned a lot from them and hope to learn more.

But this works for me and seems to combine the best of both worlds. I have the satisfaction of doing work for people who seek me out as a professional, and doing so at a level of risk that I find tolerable.

What do you think? Do you think working as an employee and behaving like a consultant would work for you? Why or why not?

See more posts from Jim.

Get more career help.
Posted by Jim De Piante on: July 08, 2011 02:46 PM | Permalink

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