I have been working for myself for 10 years. I have made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons. I have had feast and famine…lots of famine. All in all, I have had to work my tail off to survive as a consultant. Recruiters and headhunters periodically call me to see if I would be interested in full time employment. Ha! I work more than full time right now! Sure I could cut back to work for a corporation that provided such novelties as health care and vacation time. The recruiters have made it clear that I am the last ColdFusion application developer in Knoxville that does not already work for Scripps, Bush Beans, Clayton Homes, Jewelry Television, or SAIC. Naturally I accept the interview but I have to be careful. A consultant’s clients are fickle. If the client thinks you will not be around to support them, they will choose a different consultant. And since I make the details of my life very public through this website, you can bet my clients know what I am doing with my time!
I am very happy with the work I do and the clients who work with me. As a professional, I do entertain interviews with companies which offer health care and benefits but I could quite happily continue life as a consultant until I die. Recent interviews have proven that may very well be my destiny.
The grass is always greener over the septic tank. Corporate 8 to 5ers working their 40 to 50 hour exempt salaried positions long for the wealth and flexibility of the expensive hourly consultant who apparently can take weeks and months off at a time. The starving consultant tired of dealing with penny pinching deadbeat clients longs for the security and simplicity of cubeville. Consultancy is easy to begin. You have a skillset and may even have a potential client base (unethically borrowed from your current corporate surroundings). The water is deep and there are no ladders out of the pool. In the beginning, when you jump in, people may notice and offer you a hand or even give you the chance to quickly get out, returning you to the sanity of your Herman Miller furniture after having tasted the brutal waters. Over time as you try to dog paddle, and build your ship which will undoubtedly sail you into early retirement, the corporate world shuns you. After a decade you become unhireable.
Consultants quickly become feral. If a consultant rejoins a corporation, that consultant might pee in the plants, or bite a client! Approaching a cube with an ex-consultant is risky because they might be naked, in their pajamas, or not there at all having come into work at midnight and taken the day off. How is an OCD micromanager to deal with such unpredictability!
Over the past two plus years I have entertained a handful of interviews and not received a single offer. Instead I have had such gems as:
You interviewed great! We were really looking forward to working with you but you failed the personality test.
That came from a 1300 person office. I am really hoping that they meant "we make sure all of our employees are clones" and not "we really think society would benefit if you had yourself locked away."
We think you would be bored in this position.
You know, if the job was easy enough that I would find myself bored, perhaps I would have time to do some professional development for myself or process improvement for the company. Maybe I could actually work normal hours instead of every waking moment! Or maybe I could write one of those business plans or websites for myself that I have wanted to start over the past decade. I think I could handle bored.
Every consultant we have ever hired has left within 6 months to go back into consulting.
There might be something to that one. Of course, it could be that company’s environment just is not conducive to a consultant type. Or perhaps consultants truly cannot make the transition back into 8 to 5 work. I have always said that an entrepreneur can be an 8 to 5er but not all 8 to 5ers can be entrepreneurs. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe entrepreneurs have to be entrepreneurial.
We are concerned that you would be uncomfortable in our structured environment.
Consultants are feral and icky. I have worked sitting on the floor of a closet. I have worked on desks that were made of doors laid across filing cabinets. I have had my own office and I have worked in cubes. Currently I work in a basement with a spider infestation. Throw it at me! I can take it. I think what they might really be saying is "you are a rebel and we don’t understand you. We are afraid you might be disruptive to our structured environment."
What did interviewing do for me? I think it has secured my position as a consultant, assured my current clients that I will be around for a long time to come, and inspired me to work harder to provide for my family those things, such as health care, vacation, and retirement, that a corporate job normally provides. Sure, I will continue to accept interviews for maybe one day a perfect fit will come along, but the grass is no longer that much greener on the corporate hills.