The gig economy can be harder to navigate than one might think. Especially as a consultant, the first year can be the toughest. It’s been predicted that in the next five years, the workforce will make a major shift towards majority being independently employed. To be successful and to survive your first year as an independent consultant Elaine Biech, author of The New Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond say “your first year isn't as much about the work you do as it is about the way you run your business and the way you take care of yourself."
To help those hoping to start a consulting career, Biech offered the following four tips to help professionals succeed in their first years in the field.
1. Your Health Matters
To be successful professionally, you have to fuel yourself personally. This begins with eating right, getting adequate sleep, and moving your body.
Sometimes consultants struggle with these things because of the grueling travel involved in a consultants lifestyle. However, if you value your career then you must first place value and prioritize the health of your body and mind. Having outlets and techniques for coping with stress can also set you up for success when taking the first year of consulting head-on. Some coping skills could include meditating, having a journal practice, or building a community you can count on.
2. Time is of the essence
It should come as no surprise that time management is the most in-demand soft skills for 2019. Effective time-management can make or break you as a consultant. According to Biech, a strategy for time-management include prioritizing big projects and completing the hardest tasks first.
Listening to yourself and observing when you work best can be productive tool. Having a routine and blocking out times for when to get certain tasks done can be especially helpful when things get busy.
3. Establish good business habits
Biech identified some good consultant business habits as charging what you are worth, tracking your spending, delighting your clients, adding copyright to all original documents, and most of all, marketing yourself constantly.
"Remember that marketing is a 24/7 thing," Biech added. "Every experience with every client, every conversation with a colleague, every visit to a professional meeting, every comment to a friend is a marketing event. As a consultant, you are always selling yourself."
4. Take advantage of being your own boss
It requires discipline to be your own boss, and working as a consultant gives you the freedom to dictate yourself. Work-life balance is essential to success, coming up with rules for yourself or a schedule to abide by can help with the grey areas of not working a 9-5.
That means the workaholics out there must be sure to not let work consume their entire lives, Biech noted. She suggested taking up a new hobby or skill that draws you away from work at the appropriate times.
"Your first year of consulting will be a time of tremendous change and growth," Biech said. "Help yourself along by forming habits early on that will help you succeed. The more initial effort you put into setting up a thriving business now, the more you can enjoy your work life in the years to come."