I've been employed by the same multinational corporation for the past 27 years. About 15 years ago, I decided that I didn't like feeling like an employee, and decided to adopt the mindset of an independent consultant. Strictly speaking, I was and am still an employee. What changed was my mindset.
I decided to think and behave like an independent consultant while continuing to be an employee of the same corporation.
It's a nice arrangement. I treat my employer as if they were a client, my main client. With a couple of notable exceptions, they've given me steady work.
Since I see myself as an independent project management consultant (even though I am really an employee), I have to think about marketing. If I don't keep the pipeline full, business could dry up. I make sure people know who I am, what my capabilities are and that I stand ready to help them.
I do a lot of business development. I help people "on my own time" so they'll know what I can do for them should they have a need.
I get to know who the decision makers are, who holds the budgets and who has influence.
I keep myself sharp. Sometimes, my client/employer pays for my training and pays me when I take training. Sometimes they cover any travel expenses to take the training. Or, I may take training on my own time and expense to increase skills and my value proposition as an independent consultant.
I interact with others in my profession apart from my client/employer. I belong to a professional organization (PMI) and volunteer with them as a speaker and writer.
When I begin a new project, I approach it as a consultant, looking not only at how I can satisfy the immediate need, but also looking at the potential for follow-on work.
When people I deal with are unpleasant or difficult to work with, I remind myself that they are my client, and will be paying me for my work. It helps keep things in perspective.
I do the occasional "side job" for other clients, but only to the extent that it doesn't result in a conflict of interest.
I don't think I would have the courage to make the career switch to truly be "independent." At least not yet.
I have the utmost respect for those who really are independent. I understand that I don't face the same risks they do, which is why I have such respect for them. I've learned a lot from them and hope to learn more.
But this works for me and seems to combine the best of both worlds. I have the satisfaction of doing work for people who seek me out as a professional, and doing so at a level of risk that I find tolerable.
What do you think? Do you think working as an employee and behaving like a consultant would work for you? Why or why not?
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