3 min read

Executive Job vs. Consulting

Executive Job vs. Consulting
Photo by Jens Lelie / Unsplash

There have been multiple points along this journey where I've asked myself the question "why would I ever do this? It's like having a job but 10x harder".

Particularly as an independent one-person shop, the business really can't scale much without a few big hires or major productization. On top of that, the level of context switching and administrative overhead is often overwhelming. More work and hustle for maybe similar or slightly more income than a good executive job would have brought in the first place.

So, why the hell would someone do this?

It's taken me over a year on my own to come up with the answer to that question, so here it is, in five parts:

  1. You feel like you own your "time" to some degree. AKA being paid for Outcomes not Time in Seat. That's a biggie. At a full-time job there is a feeling that most of what you're being paid for is keeping your dot green on Slack during business hours. Being ready to "hop on a call" (dear God) at a moment's notice or rapidly answer texts or slacks from co-workers or your boss. You feel guilty doing anything other than sitting in front of a computer during business hours. I did, at least.

In consulting you are using most of your time to do meaningful work and provide tangible value. You're busy as hell but on your terms. You need to be responsive, but not available at all times. So you don't have more time, but time is yours. The minute a client thinks they own your time is the minute it's time to move on.

  1. You don't have all of your eggs in one basket. Nothing has been more empowering during this journey than the feeling of knowing that if a client pulls back or drops away, I'm still going to be OK. Likewise if a client is not a cultural fit I am able to walk away from that client. As a full-time W2 employee the prospect of being RIF'd or let go was terrifying.

This phenomenon has also given me the confidence to be more honest and open with my clients, and overall. I'm not terrified of ruffling feathers, being blunt about a situation, navigating cultural landmines, or tipping over sacred cows in an organization. Incredible personal growth has come from this over the past year. This reduction of fear has increased my effectiveness significantly.

  1. Accelerated Learning Every Day. I've learned and experienced more things professionally over the past year than I have in during the previous 10 years, easily. By working with multiple clients every day I'm able to see perspectives, solutions, and technologies across an incredible spectrum of implementations. It's incredible.
  2. Accelerated & Honest Feedback Loop. No "wondering" how things are going or if you're doing a good job. If you're billing enough, the people paying that bill are going to tell you if you're doing a good job or not!

I hated wondering whether or not I was meeting expectations and depending on the manager I had, I might never know at a regular job. Additionally, impostor syndrome and insecurity would make me fill in the blanks with negative thoughts or project my insecurities onto the manager or co-workers.

  1. Entrepreneur Mindset/Freedom. Even though I'm currently doing consulting, I feel like my mind has been "freed" to think about and work on other future business ideas. I can observe, test, and field ideas without feeling like I'm "sneaking around" on an employer. I'm also seeing common problems across multiple clients that could be solved with productized offerings.

Others see this, too, and they approach you and see you differently. Software vendors look at you like a partner, not a client or prospect. Others in the industry approach you as a resource and ally, not someone who works for some other company. There is definitely a palpable increase in "luck surface area" and the freedom to freely explore opportunities as they arise.

So, there you go. Those are the top 5 aspects of consulting that I like so far. There are MANY downsides to it, as well, but overall these are the things that would keep me on this path vs. going back to a regular job.