Once I quit my 9-to-5 marketing position and headed off “to do my own thing,” as so many of us are these days, I was faced with my first big decision: Should I consult on my own or open an agency? I had always dreamed of owning my own agency and was tempted to open one straight away, but one of the smartest things I’ve ever done was slow down a bit and consult while creating my own roadmap on how to build offerings and packages that would land me my dream clients.
Two years later, I'm managing my own agency and loving every minute of it. If you're wondering whether spending some time upfront as a consultant could be the right move for you, here are some things to consider:
More Stable Pay
When you first start off on your own, you will have to focus on how you’re going to pay yourself. Will you pay yourself once a month? How will you deal with taxes? What things can you expense and which things definitely will not be tax deductible? My CPA actually laughed when I asked if I could deduct meeting clothes. What you will start training yourself to do as a consultant is to manage your cash flow in an environment where you don’t have employees and a business entity thrown into the mix. By the time you have all of your financials figured out, it will be easier to add employees and benefits to your agency.
Whether or not you want your agency to have a brick-and-mortar office, an agency has a much higher overhead than consulting. For example, I didn’t really need a graphic designer until I opened the agency. Now, I need something redesigned or tweaked every single day. Consulting allowed me to be a much leaner company so that I could focus on things like product offerings and services.
Ability To Experiment With Different Types of Clients
As a consultant, I worked with an enormous range of clients while I figured out my sweet spot. When you were still at your last job, you probably didn’t have 100 percent control over which projects you worked on. As a consultant, you’ll begin to have much more insight into which industries, client sizes and budget types work best for you, in addition to learning which work you are most attracted to. Paying close attention to this as a consultant will help you determine which leads are best for your sales team.
Another thing that consulting can help train you for as an agency owner is your product offerings and business model. Because you will be a smaller and slightly more under the radar business as a consultant, you can change up your plans more quickly. Maybe the last consulting project you worked on would have been more easily accomplished if you would have added other features or removed certain pieces. As a consultant, you can hyper-focus on fine-tuning this before you have to train your agency to complete them.
The best way to sidestep from a traditional 9-to-5 into entrepreneurship is to offer yourself portions of stability along the way. For me, freelancing and consulting offered me a self-taught education towards the agency I have today.
Originally published Feb 15, 2012 1:00:40 AM, updated July 28 2017