Contractors and consultants are innovative and driven by nature. Most contractors have bigger plans that made them leave their permanent roles in the first place; whether it was the draw of more flexibility for a work-life balance or to fund something much bigger, having a life-plan can really help you focus when you start out as a contractor or consultant.
When you start out on your own, contracting can be a stepping stone to owning your own growing business or funding another fledgling start-up, or contracting or consulting is the end goal. Whatever attracts you to the contracting lifestyle, having something to work towards and aim for ensures you focus your efforts and you keep your work and short-term goals fresh.
Articulating your dream
There’s no better time than now to really think about what you want out of life. Knowing what you want and where you want to end up gives you purpose; becoming a contractor can help you get there faster and enjoy life more.
For many, it’s about funding fledgling ideas that ultimately turn into stand-alone businesses. Neil, a digital security specialist, uses the flexibility of his consultancy work to find time and fund the investment he needs to develop software and build a portfolio of rental properties. For Javier, his work as an IT specialist in the City funds the start-up of his bike shop in his hometown of Barcelona. Both use contracting to secure funds for other passions and both find the flexibility of contracting ideal to be able to focus on several life projects at the same time.
For others it’s about working less and doing more. Julia wanted to spend time with her young family.
“My kids are 6 now, I started my consultancy business instead of going back to a full time role as I wanted to work flexible hours and really concentrate on the elements of my job I really enjoyed. Now I work around my kids and get to do things I love, it’s pretty perfect!”
Take the time to sit down and really think about what you’d like life to be like. Note down the things that make you happy, fulfilled and interest you. These are all the elements you need to plan into your dream lifestyle.
Plan for the future and plan for now
Once you’re clear on what you want to achieve, you can plan how you’ll get there. By having clear goals you can break activities down into manageable chunks. Set goals that are achievable and have a time limit; that way you are more likely to reach them and strive for more.
Look to give yourself a plan that is detailed for the next 12 months, then has longer-term goals which you can then begin to review and bring into the more detailed plans as you reach the end of the year. It is best to review the plan every 3 to 6 months to ensure you don’t get embroiled in the here and now. It can be easy to lose sight of your ambitions when looking after the day-to-day running of your company and looking for the next contract. Having a life plan will help you focus on what you find important.
Find inspiration and like-minded people
You’re not the first and certainly won’t be the last to step off the treadmill of permanent employment and enjoy the rewards of contracting. Each and every person has their own reasons for making the move and you can gain knowledge from others that have been there and done it. There are several motivational blogs and entrepreneurs that can provide inspiration, advice and stories of their experience that can be useful in helping you find your reasons for changing the way you work for the better.
- What is your grand plan? – one of our successful clients Javier shares how contracting helped him fund his dream and realise his grand plan.
- Cody McKibben – Entrepreneur and advocate of nomadic working – follow him on @codymckibb and Thrilling Heroics.
- Tim Ferriss – Author of The 4-hour Workweek; Forbes Magazine named him as one of the “names you need to know”, he is one of the top-ranking people to follow amongst entrepreneurs and contractors. Find Tim on Twitter @tferriss and Four Hour Week.
- TED – a non-profit organisation using technology to spread ideas and inspirational messages. The site provides short talks (less than 20 minutes) from a host of internationally acclaimed speakers, thought leaders and mentors.
- Enterprise Nations’s self assessment tool – a supportive community with a network of information, courses and events designed for self-starters. Try the self assessment toolkit to diagnose and receive feedback on your current business skills. It will give you relevant links to a selection of practical and useful resources to fill your potential skill gaps.
- Sample decision matrix – a simple self-analysis tool to prioritise what’s important for you when taking a decision. Use it to evaluate your key drivers in everything from working with particular clients and suppliers to selecting your next project.
By finding inspiration from others that have made the successful transition, you can build a picture of what your life could be like and gain tips of how to get there along the way. Learning from others and addressing all the points we’ve outlined in this book will help you understand the mindset and drive needed to become a successful contractor as well as your motivation for wanting to start out on your own.
Having a clear vision of where you want to be will help you find that extra energy and drive to make the decisions and power through the changes you’ll need to make in the short term to get up and running. Reviewing your life plan will ensure that your focus never wanes and you build the lifestyle you want now and in the future.