Consulting in the United States is a $50 billion dollar industry. Independent consultants; who form a big chunk of this market, are estimated to have grown 83% in the ten year period between 2008 to 2018.
Being an independent consultant comes with a lot of perks - you set the hours, pick your clients, and most importantly decide how you want to shape your career. However, a freelance consulting career also comes with its own set of legal and logistical challenges with respect to operating out of your home office.
Here is a quick guide on what these challenges are and how you can go about negotiating them.
1. Building trust
This is by far one of the most common challenges faced by independent consultants. A consultant for firms like McKinsey or Bain enjoy the credibility and trust that clients place on the firm. Independent consultants need to earn this credibility from scratch.
To begin with, invest in creating the right outlook for your business. While a home office can be convenient to work from, it does not portray your credibility effectively. You may consider investing in a virtual office space that acts as a business address that you can give out to your clients. This can serve as your address for official purposes while you continue working from home. Any mail or invoices sent to your business address get forwarded to your real address automatically.
Trust is also built through establishing yourself as an authority in your industry. A marketing consultant, for instance, must be active on the various popular marketing communities on Facebook, Slack and LinkedIn like Online Geniuses, Marketers & Founders and the Content Marketing Lounge. In addition to this, contribute heavily on journals and blogs in your industry that builds visibility that is crucial to building trust.
2. Invest in the right tools and applications
Working from home deprives you of the social environment of an office space. Also, if your clients come from across the world, most of your communication would typically happen over email or over virtual conferencing tools like Skype. This creates a disjointed workspace that can bring your productivity down.
Set up a digital workplace that allows you to neatly organize your various projects. In addition to aiding a smooth workflow, such collaboration tools also improve your turnaround time and consequently your revenues.
3. Stay focused
As a work-from-home consultant, distraction can be a huge challenge. You may always feel tempted to run errands in between work. It is also not uncommon for consultants to consider taking a nap or turn on the TV in the middle of the day. Also, since you do not have anyone to watch over you, you might often end up spending hours surfing the internet.
Invest in apps like Hyperfocus or Distraction Dimmer that enable you to block out distractions and spend your time productively. You may also set up a checklist of things to do at the beginning of each day and make sure that you complete them all before you log out in the evening.
4. Secure proper insurance policies
Working from home can be advantageous on a number of fronts. However, there are a few questions you must ask yourself -
- How do you handle work files in case of a fire or other accidents?
- If you plan on meeting clients at home, have you considered the possibility that they might be injured on your premises? Does that make you liable for damages?
- If your job entails visiting your client’s properties, have you considered the possibility of you damaging their property accidentally?
Businesses get sued for the flimsiest of reasons all the time. Although you are a work-from-home consultant, it is important to cover yourself legally. Consider securing a General Liability or a Business Owners Policy insurance that covers all these various possibilities.
Setting up a home office can save you countless hours commuting each year,not including the money and resources you spend in getting yourself an office. However, there are risks and disadvantages that come with the move. The steps outlined above should help you establish a successful career right from inside your home.
Author Bio: Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources. The Hubbion Project Management app has been previously ranked among the top apps in its category by Capterra.