Take a look around the consulting game. Those who are really successful have mastered not only the consulting skills (which are vital), but also the rules of the game.
The reality is the skills of consulting are the basic skills that allow you to play the game, not win it. There are many fantastic high flying consultants who are still pounding the highways, airports and train lines when they should have been well out of the game. Even though they had periods when they were earning sums they could not have dreamed of when they started.
So, what are the rules then?
The rules are those things that, if you get them right, will prevent you from being yet another 60 year old forced road warrior, they will enable you to charge the rates you want to charge, and they will allow you to lead the life you want to lead.
I have worked out about 7 of them, I am sure there is a heck of a lot more, but these are the ones that my tiny mind has been able to work out.
Tip #12: Make sure you get to keep as much of what you earn as possible
Get a CPA, in fact get a couple. Get good legal advice for setting up the structure you are going to work out of if you are a freelancer, and get a good understanding of how to legally minimize your taxation obligations regardless of where you are in the world.
The Big-5 (I really don’t know how many “Bigs” there are these days, used to be seven, then 5, then 4, now.. who knows) consulting lifestyle is definitely a young person’s game, if you want to freedom to choose what you do and where you go then a large part of that means keeping most (all?) of what you earn and using it wisely.
Tip # 13: Build unique value into your own personal brand or your personal company’s brand.
IP is king. Sure goodwill, networking, track record and reputation all have their place. But at the end of the day (I really do hate that saying… but it works) your consulting firm will either be able to be sold on for the price your hard work deserves, or you will simply stop working.
A powerful and well executed IP strategy, tying together the strands of deterrence, projected value and unique offerings, will build value into your consultancy even if you are a one man show, and value can be sold!
Tip # 14: Separate earning from personal effort.
Passive earnings have to be the goal of every human being on this planet. You need to focus, intently, on how to find ways to generate passive income from the cash stream you are spending your life building up. (Either consulting or investment based)
Tip # 15: You only have your name.
Regardless of what you do, what you are known for, or what you have written. You (we) only have your name in this game. If your reputation becomes sullied by bad blood, unethical dealings, dishonesty, or repeated failed projects…then there isn’t too much that is going to fix that. (And it’s an increasingly small world)
Tip #16: Stay Fresh
Look again at the thought leaders in this game. Many of them are still talking about what they were talking about many years ago, but the subject is still somehow alive. Why is that? Because they are pragmatists; they work out what works, they make sure it still works in the market they find themselves in today, and they continually update the messages making it contemporary.
I recall some pretty sad sights watching MRP consultants (Materials resource planning, later MRP II) trying to prove that Just-in-Time inventory planning wasn’t the end of the road for them.
These are just a few of the overall rules of the game that I have noticed in my career. Maybe I have them wrong, maybe (probably) they are not complete, but it has been my experience that they make a gigantic difference in your career whether you are an employee, a freelancer, or if you are building your own consulting juggernaut.If you are a career minded consultant, please consider joining our networking community on LinkedIn.