Becoming a consultant....general and website question for you....

I have been working, as an employee, in the L & D field for seven years and am looking to branch out on my own. I have been researching (and thinking/assessing) the pros and cons....as well as, the steps to take in order to make this happen.

Question One: For those of you that have made this leap: what other items should I consider before starting up this business besides: software, hardware, business liscence, tax id, incorporation, website and bank account?

Question Two: I have been using a site to host a portfolio but should I invest in a website as well? I have heard both positives and negatives of this task. 

Thoughts, ideas, recommendations, comments?

Btw...On a personal note, I am not looking to make this move in order to make more money but rather a better work/life balance.  I mention this because the first comment that I recieve when I either solicit advice or mention to others that I am contemplating this I get a slew of negative comments about the economy as well as, the failure rate for starting a business.

Thank you in advance.

23 Replies
Anna Oftedal

I don't have advice as I have only just started investigating being an eLearning and instructional design contractor.

But I recently opened my resume up on LinkedIn and on Monster.com, and within a day, I received calls from multiple contract agency recruiters who have remote and on-site opportunities available at large companies that are interested in immediate start dates. Both per-project work and 3-month vendor contracts (which frequently get extended).

I could be wrong, but so far it seems like their is a pretty good demand for instructional design and /eLearning development contractors on per-project and term contracts.

Best wishes,

Anna

Holly MacDonald

Jessica/Anna - make sure you check out the Freelance Heroes thread: http://community.articulate.com/forums/t/16452.aspx we regularly chew on these sorts of topics. There's a ton of stuff that might help you as you wrestle with your decision. You've touched on some of the things you'll need to think about, but there's lots more (you'll never be bored, but you might not gain the elusive work/life balance you're seeking). Insurance, business structure, contracting, time management, business software...all things that you'll see advice from other freelancers there (sounds a bit like an infomercial - sorry about that!)

It can be extremely rewarding and engaging, but it is work.

I hope that you find some useful things in the thread.

Holly

Bruce Graham

Echo Holly completely.

The only things that you need to have a successful business is a product that people want, (which you do not have in your list Jessica!), an understanding of how to create and sell profitably, a route to market, and an understanding of the financial rules for your location. A bit of luck helps too...

The rest is all detail - and can be done in a number of ways.

The people that talk about the economy (US and here in UK), are usually the ones that are scared of their diminished position within it. We offer an alternative, (for example), to some more expensive training methods, so our skills are ideal for now, and people stay when the economy picks up.

Anyway - again...it is simple. If they tell you that 90% businesses fail, be in the 10% that do not. Simple. Believe it - make it happen.

Bruce

PS - note to self - remember the "life" part of the "work-life balance"...  

Bruce Graham

One of the things about "work-life balance" that I (think) I see is that it is mostly talked about by people in "corporate world", who imagine they will have it better when they leave and become a freelancer.

Whilst true in some cases, when you become a freelancer, (IMHO), your priorities change. You certainly have freedom, but balance?

As you become more and more responsible for your own success/failure, and the security of those around you, you inevitably become skewed towards maintaining that, and I think it is inevitable to seek success and invoices more than "balance".

Freedoms, (to pick up the children, to walk the dog, look after a sick partner) do not necessarily equate to "balance". They equate to "flexibility".

Obviously - there comes a point where you DO need to consider how much work you do, (we all eventually have a burn-out point...), but the items on your life's "balance sheet" do alter, depending on your position and perspective.

Perhaps I am just speaking for me - I do not know - I have never really experienced this mysterious "balance" people talk about, even when in corporate-land. I was at my best buddy's new (beautiful and newly-extended) house yesterday. He mentioned some of his friends/family has asked him, almost jealously, how he had all this wonderful environment and "stuff" for him, his wife and his 4 children...His answer was simple - "Remember all those nights when you asked me to join you down at the pub from 1700hrs onwards and I couldn't because I was busy - sometimes until 0100/0200hrs?...".

Perhaps that's taking "balance" too far, but for him and his family, insane hours and weeks of consistent Global-travel works fine. We all have expectations and limits for work and life. I no longer really have the concept of a weekend - I have my schedule for today (Saturday) and tomorrow. I get my satisfaction from knowing that if I want to, I can have time of when I want, (I had 4 days out last week...).

I know no-one ever lay on their deathbed and said "I wish I had spent more time at the office", but be realistic about the work-life balance of a freelancer if you intend to be successful, (especially for the first 3-5 years anyhow...). It is better to be realistic than disillusioned.

Just my slightly insane 2p worth.....

Bruce

john faulkes

When I first started working for myself many years ago an accountant gave me an interesting piece of advice: first make some money. That bit is generally much harder than managing it. A rider to this is to learn a little bit about the tax system some months before your accounting is due rather than the day before!

There are two aspects to the change in circumstances you are about to experiences, that you may reflect on....many people in employment have departmental vision statements that say the customer is king, but in fact you really work for the boss., with all the office politics that go with that. Now is your opportunity to truly deliver good customer service, and it will always pay back.

The second aspect is that what many of us have done is not to change the work/life balance so much as the work/life scheduling! You may end up burning the midnight oil after the customer has had a last-minute idea that you have to incoporate to a deadline. On the other hand, when 9 to 5 employees are having to grind through another day's work, on occasion you can visit an empty museum or take the kids to the coast.

john faulkes

I guess this won't mean much to those not in south England! Brighton is my personal favourite coastal location but I'm 'south east' of london by birth so if with kids I always gravitate to Hastings (easier to park than Brighton) for amusments, and although it's a long way, Camber for the sandy beach. (Although I can't imagine it ever being warm enough in the UK again to go on a sandy beach)

Holly MacDonald

It's 7 am on a Saturday and guess who else is checking in at her desk? Yep...I'm in the feast cycle, juggling projects while the rest of my family is sleeping. But, I don't resent it in the slightest. I chose the projects I'm working on, they are interesting and challenging, the clients a great fit for me and my business and as Bruce pointed out, I have flexibility, and things to me are more important than balance. 

Seek to be fulfilled or happy.

I can no longer offer you my $.02, since we Canadians are phasing out the penny, so I'm rounding it up to $.05.

Holly

Sheila Bulthuis

Just came across this thread and you all put it so well.  I do talk a lot about having work-life balance, but I think Bruce and John are right, it's not really about balance so much as freedom and flexibility.  I can't say that every day is balanced equally between work and the rest of my life (that'll be the day!) but I can say that overall, I feel like both my work and my personal life are getting what they need from me, and I from them, because I have the freedom and flexibility to make the decisions that drive that.

Yay for being a freelancer! 

Bruce Graham

It's almost 1600hrs here.

I have a conference call I need to go to in 10 minutes, but from 1400hrs I have been asleep, under a duvet, window open listening to the rain with puppy cuddled up.

Why?

Because I wanted to - and I can.

Sometimes that is all the reason I need, and my justification is that I will be working most of Saturday and Sunday - when others are having naps and snoozles.

Bruce

Phil Mayor

Bruce Graham said:

It's almost 1600hrs here.

I have a conference call I need to go to in 10 minutes, but from 1400hrs I have been asleep, under a duvet, window open listening to the rain with puppy cuddled up.

Why?

Because I wanted to - and I can.

Sometimes that is all the reason I need, and my justification is that I will be working most of Saturday and Sunday - when others are having naps and snoozles.

Bruce


So that is why you are quiet.  I understand now that I am off to the accountant means I am going to go to sleep

Sheila Bulthuis

Bruce, we are totally on the same page.  In my corporate jobs I always figured, if my work gets done, who cares when I do it?  (As long as I was available for meetings, etc. of course!)  Now I can take time in the middle of the day for my daughter's activities, errands, personal time, whatever - and that's a great tradeoff for working in the evenings and weekends when needed.  I may follow your example and add "nap" to my list of occasional mid-day activities...

Michelle Reeder

A great resource I found for finding contract work and remote work is www.flexjobs.com. I wanted to share it with you all. I have worked virtually for 10 years and can't imagine ever working in an office again. I have been spoiled rotten. Now that my company has laid everyone off, I am in the job market again and know it will be an uphill battle to find remote work. But it is the way to go - long hours or not - it really is great!