From Leader to Expert: Transitioning to Freelance Consulting
~by Jessica Walter~
Is it time to take a step back from the day-to-day running of your business? Stepping out of business leadership does not mean stepping out of business altogether. Instead, it offers leaders such as yourself the chance to branch out into new fields, to turn your expertise and decades of experience into a lucrative, but flexible money earner. The advantage for the business owner is multifaceted and includes securing the longevity of the business you created and grew, creating flexible, challenging and rewarding gigs, and more time at home with the family or to devote to hobbies, interests and traveling. It is possible to have it all.
Before retiring or taking a step back, you want to ensure a smooth transition for the business. Succession planning is one of the trickiest elements for a business leader to undertake. There are also multiple financial and legal elements as well as business strategy elements to put in place first. And this brings you to the most important leadership question in the history of your business – are you going to pass it on to your children or are you going to sell the business?
According to Kennesaw State University in Georgia, only 33% of family run businesses remain stable after being passed down to the next generation. In addition to this, only 5% of businesses make it as far as the third generation. This represents the creative-destructive nature of capitalism, as well as the ebbing and flowing of money between generations. It also proves Plato’s belief in Republic that the tyrant (let’s say business leader) will be a success, but his children will not. The reason for this is that the 2nd generation grew up with the business already made. They did not have to make it themselves, so they are more used to the trappings than the striving.
Ensuring Your Financial Security
When taking a step back from a business, you need to be financially secure. This means either still receiving income from the business or selling it at value to fund your retirement. Putting your financial ducks in a row means it is vital to consider mortgages, pensions, tax burdens, and income levels for 3-4 decades post retirement. It also means being fully prepared for the costs of passing away, meaning that the costs of estate taxes, burial costs, charitable donations, gift giving, and outstanding debts are all covered. In having the business taken care of and all financial liabilities planned for and covered, you can then embark on your new life as a subject matter expert.
Branching Out into Freelance Consulting
Now you have time and energy to do more interesting things. If you enjoy speaking, writing or mentoring people, then there are a wealth of opportunities for you to take advantage of. It is possible to leverage your vast experience and get paid for it too. There are two main types of consulting work: paid and unpaid.
Paid: Working for a publicly traded or privately held business for gain. You may also be able to get paid for consulting work with state and federal agencies, but this is rarer.
Unpaid: Informal advisory work for startups, friendly companies, NGOs, or positions on community and charitable boards.
Both paid and unpaid consulting work can be achieved through networking, while others require volunteering, applications and elections. This can range from consulting on a specific element of the business related to your expertise, be it recruitment, strategic planning, P&L, product development, client relationship management, logistics, or a host of other areas. Alternatively, it can cover a single project within the business which you can help bring to fruition, a start-up needing a guiding hand to maturity, or a formal position on a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board.
Building Your Thought Leadership
Like any business, to develop a consulting career you need a business plan and a strategy to build yourself up and get yourself out there. It may require unpaid work to begin with, but one thing will lead to another.
Alternatively, you can develop a reputation for being a thought leader within your chosen field(s). Thought leadership is best demonstrated through speaking, writing articles, and even books – self-publishing makes this all the easier nowadays. There are countless industry, business and training seminars and conferences in which to get a speaking role. The same goes for blogs, magazines, newspapers, and so on. In addition to this, it is possible to work with local educational institutions to give guest lectures, run modules, do training sessions, and provide mentoring. All of these can go on a resume and really build your thought leadership.
Meet the Author: Jessica Walter
Jess Walter is a freelance writer and mother. She loves the freedom that comes with freelance life and the additional time it means she gets to spend with her family and pets.