Once you solidify yourself as a solvent contractor or consultant, you’ve reached something of an independent lifestyle. For all of the benefits, there are also negatives to consider. There are old mentalities to escape, and new opportunities to engage.
Some of the benefits are rather obvious: frequently you may be able to work from home. You set your own schedule, accept and deny projects on a whim, you declare holidays and can take long golf lunches.
It also allows you to become a more fully rounded person. With the stress of a work schedule removed, you can take time to take courses or read more frequently. Perhaps now you have the mental space to re-engage your old hobbies, learn a few new tricks. Take advantage of your new space to learn as much as possible. Many contractors I know are some of the most dynamic and multifaceted individuals I know, mainly because they take advantage of their life styles.
Travel, too. Some contractors and consultants can work from anywhere so they take advantage of this by travelling relentlessly. We’ll touch on this again later.
Things to Keep in Mind
Yet, this new life requires certain things to stick in your mind. First and foremost: personal responsibility. More than anything, being independently employed means you have to be diligent in self regulation. Taxes will be handled differently, failed projects are on your shoulders, new work is yours to gain. There is no room to be anything else but independent in it’s fullest definition. You must be able to fill many roles – or be willing to pay well to have someone else fill those roles.
Your personal brand also increases in importance exponentially. Your image, professionally and personally, now informs the greater image of your business. Whereas before you were a representation of your company, now you represent yourself – which can be a much scarier proposition.
Job security is in your hands, too. You have to be sure you have money to survive lean times. Adhering to a strict budget of savings will ensure you can enjoy your life even between contracts.
Drop old mental habits that weigh you down. Time no longer = money, results = money. Understand? Working 60 hours a week as a consultant does not guarantee results, all it guarantees is less personal time. Find what combination of habits is most effective for you, and hack in to them.
You no longer need to work 9-5, you don’t need to wear a suit. You can start earlier, later. you can work in short bursts or in a casual stream. Work from a coffee shop or from a secluded corner of a library. Whatever it is, work in a way that is best for you. Work smart, not hard.
A Wide World
I’m a big proponent of travel. The world has grown so much smaller in recent years yet our work schedules often prohibit us from seeing it. Get out in to the world and experience it for all it is worth. As an independent person, you can take your work with you, or double up your load before and after your trip. I travel while working all the time and have experienced some beautiful things for it. This also helps you become a more well rounded and interesting person. Don’t neglect the wondrous opportunities your new lifestyle can afford you.