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The Consultant's Life: Isn't It Grand?
Well . . . Not Always

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Lots of people dream of being their own boss, so when circumstances present themselves and they decide to take the leap to full�time consulting instead of working for someone else, they think life�and their career�will be a dream come true. But . . . they don't always anticipate the reality of living the consultant's life�and sometimes it can turn into a nightmare. Here are the top three things that can�and will�go wrong if you don�t set a course of action to ensure that they don't, right from your first day as a consultant.

Chaos and Disorganization
Most consultants fail to start out and stay organized. Paperwork gets out of control. Phone numbers and email addresses get misplaced. They don't have a secretary to keep things orderly, so things start to pile up until the piles begin to slide. And it's all downhill from there.

To avoid the inevitable catastrophes that will ensue when your home office begins to look like a disaster area, start out by setting up a system and sticking to it. Make a place for everything and put everything in its place - religiously. At first, it may not seem necessary, but in the long-run, it will be the key to keeping your consulting business operating smoothly as you generate more and more clients.

Uneven Income
When you work for someone else, you usually get paid hourly or on salary. In either event, most of your paychecks came at scheduled intervals and you knew about how much to expect. Now that you're a consultant, the checks won't be coming in regularly. Even if it seems like they are some months, you always have to prepare for the month that they won't so that you don't get into a financial rut.

Set aside a certain portion of every single check that comes in from your consulting business so that you have a nest egg you can fall back on during slow periods. Every industry has its down times, so don't get so caught up in your success that you fail to realize this rule applies to you, too.

Failure to Plan
When the work starts coming in, it's great. It's easy to get caught up in everything and rush around meeting all your client's needs and keeping them happy. Nothing wrong with that. But often, this also means that you are so busy working on the here and now that you fail to plan for the future. Just because business is booming today doesn't mean it will be next month. How will you bring in new clients when business slows down? Do you have a list of prospective clients you can begin to approach now? What are your short- and long-term goals? What is your definition of success for your consulting business? How fast do you want to grow your business?

No matter how good—or bad—things look today, take the time to write down some business goals and create a solid business plan that you can take to the bank. Because chances are, at some point, you'll need to. If you need to borrow money for any reason or want to expand your business, a loan officer will want to see your business data including your forecast for the future of your consulting business and you want to be prepared.
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