Dear AEA365 readers, I’m Sara Vaca, independent consultant and frequent Saturday contributor. Last week a friend-colleague told me that she was thinking about becoming independent and she asked me about my experience and how I deal with it. I’ve written before about it, but this week, while being on holiday-ish mode with my family by the beach, I thought of this post.
Hot Tip: I told her that since I became an independent, I’ve had to develop a great deal of tolerance to incertitude: I deal with potential assignments all the time and I hardly ever know what my work life will be like in 3 months’ time. This can vary greatly depending on the type of clients and contracts you work with. In my case, I have relatively short contracts (I would say 3-4 months average), and they respond to the often urgent needs of United Nations agencies or NGOs, who do not necessary start the selection and contracting process ahead of time, but rather right before they want to conduct the assignment. Conclusion: I don’t have an idea what I am doing ahead of time (-if anything).
Funny fact: When you are at the summit of your incertitude (i.e., it’s been a while since you have received any news), it’s often like being at the end of the tunnel, and to your relief, the light appears in the form of an opportunity. However, I’ve lost track of how many times two or even more new things come up the same day! (happened to me this Tuesday. LOL). And then you smile and feel weird about feeling slightly stressed about how you will make those contracts work if they finally materialize, and kind of missing the emptiness of the day before (LOL #2).
Not-So-Cool-Tip: Another thing I am kind of used to by now (but it always feels weird) is that I am hardly ever utterly on holidays. Apart from regular (or occasionally longer) weekends, I make use of my freedom so me and my laptop move quite a lot. But rarely am I ever free of things to deal about past, present or future assignments – so I end up saying “This week I am 80% on holidays”, meaning that I work an hour every morning and I have a couple of meetings, and the rest (80% of my week) I am free. This includes Christmas, of course.
Another Not-So-Cool Tip: Now, since Covid-19 arrived, things have changed. Online consultations and workshops have clearly replaced missions, and I am starting to get shorter, online assignments, so I have five different folders of active work, which makes things even more interesting than before, when it used to be one or two…
Hot Tip: However, all these downsides do not make me even think of looking back to my former life as an employee, as I deeply enjoy the whole consultant-freedom-exciting-uncertain experience. So if you hear the call within you to become an independent consultant, and it looks like a reasonable one, I wouldn’t hesitate to jump. 🙂
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