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24th July, 2018

Tips to help you turn your consulting gig into a full-time career

Turning casual freelance consulting side hustle into a full-time career can be done – it just takes a bit of planning.

Who doesn’t dream of saying goodbye to their boss and working on their own projects?

But after being an employee for a while, you’re probably quite used to having a salary, and the perks that go along with it.

These are all things which you’ll likely lose once working for yourself, full-time. And, let’s be honest, working for yourself rarely turns out to be a cakewalk.

It’s important to know, then, that you’re really ready to turn your side-gig into your main source of income.

So, how do you know when you’re ready? This article covers the first three steps to focus on:

  • Research
  • Planning
  • Getting started

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Research


Research is a key component of consulting success. To make sure you’ll be able to create a full-time income for yourself, research the market before you do anything else.

You need to know who you will be offering your services to, and what it is specifically they’re looking for.

You’re probably going to have to register as a business in some capacity — do you know whether that should be as a sole trader, company or otherwise? How will that impact your setup costs?

READ: Key differences between a sole trader and a company in Australia

Is the market large enough to sustain you? Do these potential customers have enough money to pay you for your services, at the price you plan to charge?

Research your likely competitors, as well.

Ask yourself what you’ll do differently to stand out.

You must know in advance that there’s a gap for you to take up.

You’ll need a unique selling proposition that will enable you to stand out from the crowd and get interest from customers quickly.


Plan


Next, take your time to plan how you will set up and run your business as a full-time venture.

This will ensure you have thought about all the essential elements in detail, and let you see gaps in your knowledge or ideas which need to be addressed before you quit your job.

For example, you might need to get some help with marketing, or learn more about a particular niche topic or software package in order to truly service clients effectively.

Having a good plan also gives you direction as the months go by and give you a strategic lens to make sure you achieve the results you need.

Create a detailed business plan that covers your specific goals for the short term and long term, plus the strategies you will use, step by step, to get there.

This plan should note specifically what kinds of services you will provide, to whom, and at what price points.

A good business plan covers the main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your business, as well as your various marketing and sales ideas.

Make sure you have worked out likely financial projections for the first six, 12, 18 and 24 months of the business, too.


Go slowly


This is what catches out more than a few freelancers.

While you’re probably beside yourself with excitement at the thought of finally handing your resignation in at work, it’s important not to do this before you’re really ready.

Building a solid freelance business takes time, not to mention plenty of money and energy.

Take things slowly, at a smart pace. This will help you avoid burning out due to stress.

Build up your side consulting work over time until it reaches a point where you’re confident it will become a full-time career quickly and easily.

Of course, going slowly refers to your use of cash reserves, too.

Don’t go burning through your resources in the first couple of months.

If you do, you could find yourself in a position where you can’t pay your bills and have to go back to working for someone else.

This is all about not burning our runway too quickly.

For example, avoid paying for office space straight away (as a consultant it’s easy enough to work from home). Don’t go out and buy a new computer and new toys to make you feel like a true entrepreneur, either.

It helps, too, if you can do a bit of testing on your services before you quit your job. For example, try different offerings and price points, as well as potentially targeting different client types, to see which seems to lead to more business and higher profits.

Sometimes it’s the things we don’t expect which work out really well and, conversely, sometimes the ideas we think are bulletproof which are actually stinkers!

By doing these tests when you still have your full-time job income to rely on, you’ll take the pressure off yourself.

Then, you can eventually start your business in the best way possible.