Currently Reading:

Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

Getting Started In Consulting / The Consultant’s Quick Start Guide

Alan Weiss
Getting Started in Consulting

Elaine Biech
The Consultant’s Quick-Start Guide

Getting Started in Consulting
The Consultant's Quick-Start Guide
For the last few months, I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a consulting practice. Not necessarily with the intent of making more, but with the intent of working less (or at least working more flexibly). So I’ve started doing some homework. I’ve done consulting under a corporate umbrella for a number of years, but have never taken a stab at running my own business. What I needed was some good information on how to turn my expertise into a viable and self-sustaining independent practice.
Toward that end, I picked up two books — The Consultant’s Quick-Start Guide, and Getting Started in Consulting. Both books purport to do the same thing — to provide the new independent consultant with the necessary tools to put a consulting business into the market and keep it there. One book was terrible, the other quite good.
At a glance, the main difference is obvious. Flipping through the Quick-Start Guide, one is met with page after page of whitespace. For instance, a page might say “List your top twelve goals in starting your practice”, and then the rest of the page is whitespace for making that list. The usefulness of the list notwithstanding, the book is perilously low on actual content. I read the entire thing on a single flight from New Orleans, and didn’t feel much better off when I finished than when I started. The list-making exercises are useful, but the actual content of the book could have been reduced to about fifty pages if the whitespace were cut out.
In contrast, Getting Started is extremely content-rich, well-organized, and well worth the price of admission. It reads like a how-to volume written by a consultant near the end of his career, full of practical know-how and real-life scenarios. Rather than coming across as an academic exercise in how to start consulting in theory, it reads as an earthy volume on how it works in practice, often contrary to theoretical expectation. The book spends as much time on common mistakes and what not to do as it does on how to plan and what paperwork to file. Some of the advice is a bit too earthy (e.g., how much to pay for a fax machine: if you can’t figure that out on your own rather than relying on dated printed material, you’re probably in trouble already). But there is plenty of excellent advice on creating proposals, pricing jobs, following up on deadbeat clients (or not), etc.
After finishing Getting Started, I have little doubt that I could start a successful consulting practice. The question now is whether I should: i.e., would the consulting offer me a better or worse quality of life than the already high level that I currently enjoy. The other question is one of timing and cash reserves. I wouldn’t expect to make any money the first month, and probably shouldn’t expect to make any money the first year. Which means that I’ll need to figure out how much of my personal cash reserve I’m willing to tie up in a business. I’m still young enough and dependent-free enough that financial ruin wouldn’t be personal ruin. At worst, it would be a non-volitional career change. And that ain’t necessarily all bad.