A few years ago I suddenly found myself without a job. This came as a bit of a shock since I had just completed my MBA degree, resigned from the government, and moved to a new city to take a senior management position with an international training agency. It had looked like my future was all set. I seemed to be on the threshold of an international career path for the remaining 15 to 20 years of my working life.
Unfortunately — or perhaps fortunately, as it turned out — when I took that new job it quickly became apparent that I had jumped aboard a sinking ship. In a matter of 17 short and hectic months, my brief career with that agency ended. Not long after, that organization lost its funding and disappeared into the sunset.
Starting Over Isn’t Always Easy
Finding myself unemployed for the first time in my 25-year working life, my initial impulse was to launch into reaction-mode and immediately start searching for another regular position, or a “job-job”, as I now call those conventional types of jobs. After all, that’s all I had really known up to that point in my life.
A few times over the years I had gotten close to escaping the bureaucracy, but fear and life circumstances always conspired against me. I invariably chose the “easier, softer way”. After all, there’s nothing much more secure than a predictable paycheck coming in every two weeks, automatically, like clockwork, for a lifetime. (Yawn… wake me up when it’s over!). As it turned out, I didn’t even have to make the decision for myself; a board of directors made it for me when it decided to eliminate my job.
Fortunately for me, before I panicked and jumped into serious job-hunting mode, I came to the realization that more than 25 years of living from paycheck-to-paycheck and achieving very little, in a lasting sense, was more than enough. It occurred to me that it was my opportunity to do something different. I reasoned that working for a large company wouldn’t be much different from the government scenario I had already endured. It’s just a function of size more than anything else. I could see that with a large company I would just be another one of thousands of “cubby-hole dwellers” waiting for retirement to eventually arrive. I cringe now, just thinking about such a fate!
Not long after that I hung out my shingle as a private business consultant and business writer. Sounds easy enough, but it wasn’t. Like everything else in life, I had to pay my dues and learn a lot of things the hard way. Because I have always been an “experiential” learner it took me almost two full years to become completely disillusioned with business consulting and copy writing. Actually, I was genuinely surprised to find out the many negative aspects of what I had always seen from the outside as “freedom”.
The Downsides of Consulting
* I soon realized that there were only so many hours in a day that I could be working as a consultant, thus limiting me to a fixed income, just like when I worked for the government — except there were no fringe benefits. Not to mention, no income between contracts or while preparing proposals.
* My previous corporate “bosses” had simply been replaced by demanding and often ungrateful “clients”. At least those bosses had a direct interest in keeping me happy as an employee by providing decent pay and working conditions. Clients had no stake whatsoever in the success or well-being of me or my business.
* I was frequently short-changed by clients. Many of them “used” their option to switch to a competitor as leverage to squeeze me down to the lowest possible per diem rate, forcing me to work for fees much lower than what I was worth.
* The only time I ever received feedback from clients was when they wanted more, or when there was a problem. No matter how hard I might have worked to produce a high quality product that I was proud of, it was rare to receive any kind of positive feedback from a client. Their attitude always seemed to be, “after all we paid for it.”
* Each time I got a new client I had to prove myself all over again from scratch. Since the new client does not know you, and you haven’t worked with them before, one often has to spend a lot of time and effort just showing them that you are indeed qualified for the job.
So, as I learned during that period, life as an independent consultant wasn’t necessarily all it was cracked up to be. Nevertheless, I am thankful for that false start in consulting, since it was that real-life experience which led me directly to my current career path of the past decade, in which I have been making my living entirely online.
In fact, it was during my time as a consultant that I had noticed that a certain group of individuals, some of them in situations similar to mine, were actually making their living online. It appeared that a few of these online entrepreneurs were doing very well.
Now that I’ve been successfully earning my living online for the past decade as an independent webmaster, I realize that my period as a consultant was a necessary transition phase on my way to becoming an online entrepreneur. I don’t regret my time as a consultant but I have to admit that the numerous downsides of that lifestyle had never occurred to me before I tried it myself. I would much rather be making my living as an independent online entrepreneur.