October 18, 2013

So you wanna be a Consultant, eh? (Part 3)


The Most Important Rule To Follow


Part 1: Why Contract Consulting?
Part 2: Making The Mental Leap
Part 3: The Most Important Rule To Follow


In the previous post, I'd referred to a cardinal rule that is absolutely important for all of us to follow regardless of whether we are a full-time employee (FTE) or an independent contractor.

THE RULE:
Never, EVER structure your life in such a way that you can't tell your boss to fuck off.

Yes, I just said that. Go back and read it again if you don't believe your eyes.

When I wrote that rule, I chose the words very carefully. I didn't write it using a four-letter word because I'm angry at former employers or bosses…  I wrote it that way because it's fucking important!

I can only think of 2 bosses I've had to date that I didn't like, and I only was truly angry enough at one of them to want to tell him to fuck off. Most of the bosses I've had have been awesome. In fact, I hate using the word "boss" and prefer "manager" or "mentor", because that's how my relationships with the majority of them were.

But back to the rule...



In just about any relationship, work or otherwise, we have the ultimate power of walking away… You don't have to put up with bullshit from your employer. Remember that you always have the ultimate card to play - you can walk away from your employer if you've tried to make it work with them and they seem impossible.  Sound harsh? Perhaps. But take comfort in the fact that most likely, your employer would kick you to the curb in an instant if it suited them. You should look after yourself and your own interests and health in the same way.

Unfortunately, we often structure our lives in a way that removes our power to walk away from our employer. There are many reasons this can happen… But the biggest one? It's another four-letter word, actually...

DEBT.

We get ourselves into piles of mortgage, consumer, and car debt… And then, our bosses and employers own us. We can't leave. We NEED our jobs to pay off all our debt. And because we're unhappy, we end up racking up more debt to buy things to try and soothe ourselves and so the cycle continues. And we stay in an unfulfilling and sometimes demeaning employment situation because our debt has become a chain keeping us tied to our employer. Taken to an extreme, a traditional full-time job with a bad employer can seem like modern indentured servitude, but with a dental plan.

In order to confidently move into the world of Contract Consulting, you'll want to get your financial life in order so that you are more autonomous and in-control of your life. Here are some critical things to consider:

  1. Have a financial cushion. As a minimum, you'll want to have enough cash on hand to cover 3-6 months of basic living expenses. This will give you the confidence to demand what you want and deserve from the market, rather than being a simpering wuss and accepting whatever bone gets tossed your way because you're desperate for cash. It will also give you the confidence to walk away from an unsatisfying job situation knowing that you can take some time to find something better for yourself.
  2. Get out of debt. I know that sounds trite considering how challenging large amounts of debt can seem. But honestly - stop living beyond your means. When you rack up tons of debt, you begin living from a place of fear. How you will make all your payments begins to be the dominating force in your life, and that's never good. Look into drastic options if necessary, like bankruptcy or consumer proposals. Yes, your credit will be shot - but maybe not having access to easy credit will force you to live within your means which, believe it or not, is incredibly liberating and fulfilling. Imagine a simpler life where instead of racking up more debt and worrying, you're making payments to yourself into your own savings account. Bankruptcy and debt management programs/services can give you a fresh start in life. Think about it.
  3. Live your own life on your own terms. Start making decisions based on what YOU want and value rather than what other people seem to be doing. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. You don't need that new car, or those fancy new clothes. You don't need a gigantic house. And no, your kids don't need a university education that'll saddle both you and them with huge sacks of debt for a few decades. If you can afford these things without going into tons of debt, fine. But if not, accept that you can't have them without significant stress or debt and move on. You won't die, your kids won't die, the world won't end, I promise. It is far better to be wearing simple clothes, live in a smaller low-cost home with cash in the bank than to have a BMW, Ivy League educated kids, a gigantic house, and a shitload of debt and the worry that goes with it - and no financial cushion.
  4. Visualize a worst-case scenario. What would happen if you couldn't afford your mortgage any more and had to move? What if you fell behind in your debt payments and had your cars and house repossessed? It's scary to think about these things… But ultimately you'll hopefully see that even in a horrible situation - you'd be OK and you'd pull through. You're a lot more resourceful and hardy than you give yourself credit for. This can be a great comfort when you're considering making a leap of faith to jump into the more uncertain world of contracting. If you know that you'd be able to cope with a worst-case scenario… Well, that'll sure help you be more confident about taking a leap into the relatively unknown world of contracting.

So - get rid of your debt, get yourself a financial cushion, remind yourself you'll be OK even if life becomes shitty, and you'll be just about on your way to taking the leap into Contract Consulting! Do this so that YOU own your life rather than your employer and bank owning your life.

In my next post, I'll talk about some of the things you'll need to get started in Contract Consulting. I'll share possible approaches for making the leap, and will discuss things like whether to incorporate or not, the different types of contract arrangements out there, etc.

Just remember the rule!

"Never, EVER structure your life in such a way that you can't tell your boss to fuck off."

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I do understand that different people have different life circumstances. People have children and families. I have friends with children who have health issues/disabilities and these conditions are costly to look after. My own parents were new immigrants to Canada, and they didn't have much choice in their life - they had to work the jobs they worked in order to survive and provide for my brother and I. Sometimes life happens, and it costs a shitload of money to get through situations beyond your control.

There are lots of circumstances that make it difficult for people to have more autonomy in their lives. If you are in a challenging or difficult situation in your life, make sure to give yourself credit for doing the best you can. There may be other ways to simplify your life and give yourself more freedom - it is worth it to think about this and see if you can open you life up more. Above all, be kind to yourself and do the best you can!