mushroom coffee

Hate your job? Love that the economy is improving? You want to be your own boss and open a consulting firm?

The way to run a boutique consultancy based around a lifestyle is pretty simple.

  1. Get great clients.
  2. Charge what you’re worth.
  3. Keep your overhead low.

Unfortunately, when you’re starting out, it’s tough to get great clients. Great clients already work with great people. And if you are afraid to say no to any potential revenue stream, you end up having a lot of smaller clients who hassle the hell out of you.

(Everybody goes through this, and even after all these years, I still go through this.)

It’s also tough to charge what you’re worth and stick to your pricing strategy. If you feel like your time is worth X and your potential clients only have Y, isn’t Y more than nothing?

(It depends on your cash flow, your overhead, and the maturity of your business.)

And speaking of the maturity of your business—starting a business can be expensive. You can use your own laptop and printer, sure, but don’t be fooled by people telling you that you can “write stuff off” like the government wants to give you cash.

(Nobody wants to give you cash. The government—and your potential clients—have money because they hold on to their cash. That’s how the rich stay rich.)

Establishing a business takes time. Making a profit is a crap-shoot. And then there’s the issue of scaling: growing your business hinges on getting better clients who take up less of your time and pay you more money. At some point, if you do it right, you’ll be faced with questions about hiring people or partnering with others who do similar work.

(You should be so lucky.)

Being your own boss is awesome, however. Getting better clients—and charging higher prices—feels good when there’s no overhead or emergency costs for your business. But let’s be honest with one another: the grind is always a grind if you’re not in a good mental place to appreciate the blessings in your life.

If you find yourself always blaming someone else for your own problems in life, being your own boss will be a radical and eye-opening experience for you. As my own boss, I have to take full accountability for successes and failures. There is no boogeyman. There is no institutional sexism in my company. The only man who is keeping me down is my cat, Scrubby.

So on top of getting better clients and charging higher premiums for my work, the best advice I have for anyone who’s thinking of starting a business is to start with themselves. Do you enjoy working alone? Can you endure the manic highs and depressive lows that come with being a solo-entrepreneur? Can you survive being your own toughest critic?

If you think you have what it takes, go for it. But most people who go down this path will confess that, all things being equal, they miss the stability of a paycheck and the collaboration that comes with being part of a corporate family—dysfunctional or not. They regret not demonstrating gratitude to their former employers and colleagues, too.

It’s tough stuff. Want to talk about being a consultant? Have questions for me? Send me an email, and I may feature it in a future blog.

But don’t just quit your job and hang a shingle. That’s the dumbest strategy ever.

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