Becoming a Consultant: Where Do I Start?

Laurie Ruettimann Career Advice, Career Paths, HR (& Life!) Advice, Influence, Networking, Personal Brand, The HR Profession

Not a day goes by without someone asking me how they can quit their job and become a consultant, coach, speaker, or entrepreneur.

“I’m thinking about going out on my own, Laurie. How do I get started?”

– HR and Recruiting Peeps

Do you dream about quitting your job and going out on your own? It’s not unusual. Some people are natural communicators and educators who feel a strong desire to help others learn and grow. Others want to take a risk and bet on themselves instead of a large corporation. And there’s a small group of people who want to be HR famous.

I have this conversation so much that I have a new theory: I think most people are burned out. HR and recruiting professionals are some of the most passionate and committed people I’ve ever met, but it’s a fine line. You can’t sustain that level of energy forever. When work is challenging and leadership disappoints you–which always happens in this industry–engagement turns to frustration and burnout.

But I get it. Whatever the reason, you are ready to light the world on fire as a strategic advisor who radically changes the world of HR and recruiting from the outside-in, and you want advice on how to do it. Here’s how you get started.

  1. Save up 2-3 years of your salary because you’ll need cash flow to launch your business and sustain your family when times are tough. It’s no joke. Even if you have a partner who can operate as your “backstop,” your lifestyle will change until your business thrives. Don’t go into debt to chase your dream of being a consultant, speaker, and entrepreneur. You’re not Donald Trump, and the tax laws won’t benefit you.
  2. The business plan for a single-person coaching or consulting company looks like this: build a brand, work your ass off, get lucky. It helps to have big ideas and some marketing chops. I like this book by Brittany Hennessey on what it takes to build a brand.
  3. Before you quit your job, take the role of “consultant” or “coach” out for a test drive. Volunteer as a mentor, sit on a board, write for sites like Fistful of Talent, speak at your local SHRM events, and prove to everybody how much you want this new role in life by giving away your good stuff for free. Show up when you can–in person or virtually–and pilot your new role before you fully commit to this new lifestyle.

Maybe you’re destined to quit your job and try something new, but I have one final idea for you to consider. If I could wave a magic wand and turn you into a consultant or coach today, how would you do things differently with your current employer?

Might be worth adopting a consultative mindset in your current role. Try to fix work by taking a new approach to policies, programs, and practices in your current work environment. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by preparing for your future today.

Who knows what you’ll learn through this exercise, but it’s worth a shot. Being a small business owner in any capacity can be fantastic; however, it’s great to learn and grow while you still have a paycheck.

Good luck!