Particularly when you are new to the world of consulting work you may find yourself scraping for any contract you can find. There seems to be a mentality of “get what you can.”
While you might find that you need to engage a few unsatisfying contracts early on, as you develop your career, choosing your contracts wisely will become just as important as bringing many contracts in.
Reasonable Time Frame
When you’re selecting a project, don’t stymie yourself in projects that have massive term lengths. Your time spent there may limit you from pursuing other projects and extending your experience. Find a sweet spot for your contract lengths. Many people agree that 6-9 weeks allows for sizable contracts that also don’t tie you down.
Highlighting Your Expertise
If you have multiple contracts on the table always give precedence to the contract that plays to your expertise. What are you best at? You gain references based on performance, not based on what you learned. Thus, your more likely to get better references from contracts that show off what your best skills are.
Represent Your Future Ideals
Projects you take should always represent where you want your future career to go. Don’t take projects that you wouldn’t want to do for years. If that client – the contract you took which wasn’t directly up your alley – likes your work, they’ll reference more projects to you. Those projects, time after time, will progress further and further away from your ideal. This is perhaps the most important aspect of your consulting career: taking the pains – and often the hit to your bank account – to make sure your future stays the way you want.
Hones Your Skills
Make sure that you take something from each new project. Find a way to hone your techniques, or improve on any aspect of your career. Networking skills can be improved, your pitching abilities sharpened, any way you can leave your project with more than just the money in the contract, you will be ahead of the game.
Can Be Completed Freely
Your contracts should be able to be completed in a way that suits your most efficient work methods. If you don’t work well from a client’s office, your contracts shouldn’t insist on you working against yourself. Insist – and make it clear from the get-go – that you are able to work in a manner that is best for you. Your client is paying for you to provide optimal service, show them what you can do in optimal circumstances.
Your career as a consultant – more than almost any other – is in your hand. Your ability to curate your career will pay huge dividends. Pay particular attention to the influence your decisions have and your career will remain the rewarding and independent lifestyle you want.