Most consultants and professionals working in any kind of industry in these recession years tend to prefer the steady paycheck and relative ease of working at an established firm to the uncertainty of starting their own contractor business, having to build a new list of clients from scratch, and taking on short-term assignments. Consulting firms seem to be the easier solution for anyone with a career plan: they have established bases of clients, often a strong brand name and reputation, and they offer the kind of security one gets in any kind of full time employment at a big firm. So why even consider striking out on your own?
Working at a consulting firm certainly has its advantages, but there is a significant downside to it as well. Other than not really allowing consultants to dictate the terms of their career and professional advancement to the degree that they could if they were in charge of their own business, consulting firms do not really provide the same kind of opportunities that independent consulting assignments do.
There are a number of advantages to contract consulting and taking on interim manager jobs that most consultants do not really begin to consider until they are either faced with redundancy, or between jobs, or in need of some fast cash. Anyone interested in expanding his or her career options and business opportunities should absolutely at least toy with the possibility at some point, independently of present status and employment.
The main career advantage to taking on contractor roles is that that interim assignments give an industry professional an opportunity to explore more industry niches in a shorter period of time, to gain more experience across different fields of expertise, and make more new business contacts than he or she ordinarily would while working at the same office every day. Business contacts and professional acquaintances always matter if you are looking to advance your career. Beyond that, if you have any misgivings about your choice of career, the kind of work you do from day to day, and where you feel your career is going, by taking on more temporary jobs, you are giving yourself a wider range of opportunities to really figure out what works best for you.
It may not be easy to take the leap and take on the risk that goes with being self-employed, but it is definitely an option you may some day regret not having explored.