And the common denominator for most people is self-doubt.
Whether they’re thinking about making the move, or have recently taken the plunge, these are some of the common questions that go through their heads:
- Have I got what it takes?
- Will anyone ever hire me?
- What if I don’t make enough money?
- How do I set up a business?
- How will I figure out ‘how to’ consult?
- Will I cope with the uncertainty?
- What if I fail?
If any of this applies to you, you’re in good company. Here are my top tips for managing your self-doubt.
1. Be prepared
An oldy but still a goody – being prepared in any situation will give you confidence.
There are a number of practical things you need to do to set up your new business. And although it’s really common for people to be daunted by this, it’s actually very straightforward. So rather than getting overwhelmed at this first hurdle, make a list and work your way through it. Here are a few key items to get you started:
- Decide on a business name
- Register the business
- Organise insurance
- Prepare a Capability Statement
- Set your fees.
For more advice about the first 10 things you need to do when you start consulting download my free cheat sheet.
2. Take marketing action
Many people who have stellar careers behind them leave employment and set up as consultants. But instead of seizing the bull by the horns, they let their fear and uncertainty lead the way. The imposter syndrome moves in, and instead of going out and marketing themselves, they stay under the radar hoping clients will find them.
But you absolutely need to get out there and proactively market yourself.
I know how uncomfortable it can be when you’ve never done it before. When I first started out, I found it excruciating and avoided it at all costs. But it [literally] doesn’t pay to hide under a bushel. Here’s what to do instead:
- Develop a really good capability statement that describes your service offering and lets clients know why they should hire you.
- Let everyone in your network [and extended network] know that you’re now in the consulting game. Phone, email, meet people for coffee – whatever it takes, get the word out there. And of course, share your Capability Statement with them.
- Update your Linkedin profile. If you’ve been guilty of having a mediocre, incomplete LinkedIn profile you need to remedy that now – remember your LinkedIn profile is now part of your marketing strategy. And when you’re reworking it, THINK like a consultant – put yourself in the shoes of potential clients.
3. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
When they make the transition to consulting, consultants are often eager to get comfortable in their new role. Totally understandable – we all remember starting a new job and feeling outside our comfort zone until we settled in. Invariably self-doubt played a part, but the more familiar we became with the role, the less that impacted.
So I hate to break this to you, but being a consultant is like starting a new job every few months – but without the orientation period! You really do need to get used to being outside your comfort zone because it’s pretty much a permanent feature of the job.
I don’t say this to scare you off, but rather to encourage you to think of it as the new norm and not to get sidelined by it. You have to put away your self-doubt and manage your self-talk. You have an enormous armoury of skills and experience; you have credibility; you know your sector intimately; you’re equipped and ready.
Really, you’ve got this.
This week I’m starting a new project in an area of public health I’ve never worked in before. I know only the very basics about the context and the client organisation. Am I outside my comfort zone? Absolutely. Do I have a minor level of anxiety going on? Of course. But I’ve been around the block enough times to recognise these feelings as normal – I trust that the muscle memory will kick in and so I don’t let the panic get hold. I completely trust that I can do the job at hand. So when you experience being outside your comfort zone in your first few projects, don’t let it phase you. Stay focused, remember what you bring with you, and accept it as par for the course for your new life as a consultant.
Self-doubt is common when you make such a bold move as starting your own consulting business. But don’t let it take hold and prevent you from making what could be the best career decision you’ve ever made.
If you’re looking for free resources for public sector consultants [like my consultancy proposal cheat sheet], click here.
Three times a year I also run a free five-week Public Sector Consulting Fundamentals program Register your interest here and I’ll let you know when the next one is starting– I’d love to have you join.