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So You Want to Be a Consultant?

If you have worked for nonprofits for a while, there’s a chance that at some point you have wondered what it would be like to be a consultant. I started my business nearly 5 years ago, and I get asked all the time about “being my own boss.” If you have ever wondered if consulting is right for you, ask yourself these questions:

Do you have the expertise necessary to be a consultant? No shortcuts here. The only path to being a great consultant is having experience in your specialty area.

Do you have a robust network? The organizations where you have worked and volunteered are a great start. Bonus if you’re involved with the Association of Fundraising Professionals or other groups that work with nonprofits.

What level of risk or uncertainty is comfortable for you? There isn’t a right or wrong answer here, but knowing your comfort level will inform decisions you make about your business, like whether you start with a client on the side or just quit your job and jump in all at once. No matter how much planning you do, there are plenty of unknowns when it comes to consulting, so know how you feel about this.

Are you self-motivated? Working from home (at least to start) requires being able to focus on work and ignore all the things you usually do at home. And while you will have some deadlines, it will be all up to you to complete projects on time.

Do you prefer a challenge or are you more comfortable with routine? As a consultant, you are often being asked to come in and help solve a problem. If rolling up your sleeves and figuring out what isn’t working is something you enjoy more than a predictable routine of tasks, consulting might be a good fit.

Do you want to run a business? Consulting is only one part of what you will do as a consultant, believe it or not. You also have to run the business – find new clients, update your web site, pay your bills, do your budget, manage your marketing, and more. You won’t have a team or co-workers to help you with these things, unless you’re willing to pay for that help.

Do you like to toot your own horn? If talking about yourself and what you’re good at feels uncomfortable to you, then it will be a challenge for you to find clients. On the other hand, you need to be able to listen, because if you’re busy tooting your horn too often, you may miss what the potential client really needs.

I truly enjoy working with different clients and causes and being in charge of my own schedule. I enjoy doing interesting and challenging work with fun clients while my kids are at school. Consulting isn’t a fit for everyone, so it’s best to know your own personality and what to expect before heading down this path. Still interested? Check out this free resource.
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Special thanks to Kathie Kramer Ryan of Arroyo Fundraising for helping me develop this list!

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