What Is an Independent Consultant? 8 Signs You Should Become One

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 22, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Becoming an independent consultant is a unique option for those looking for a role with a bit more flexibility than a traditional nine-to-five job. Independent consultants provide services to a variety of clients, rather than working for one establishment. When considering whether to pursue independent consulting, it's important to observe some common signs that this is the right fit for you. In this article, we define what an independent consultant is and provide a list of eight signs you should become an independent consultant.

What is an independent consultant?

An independent consultant is a non-employee who provides services to the general public, as opposed to a single employer. Typically, they work on a contract basis, meaning they work for a client for a set duration of time, as an employee of their own company or under self-employment. Independent consultants work for a variety of industries and have specialized knowledge in their field of work. They help organizations solve problems by providing expert advice in their niche.

Related: Freelancer vs. Independent Contractor: What's the Difference?

What does an independent consultant do?

Independent consultants improve organization operations and develop strategies to resolve issues. Since independent consultants work in many different industries, their responsibilities vary depending on their specific position. Some common job duties of independent consultants include:

  • Traveling to meet with clients and discuss their requirements for a project

  • Reviewing the existing operations of an organization

  • Preparing reports and presentations for stakeholders

  • Collaborating with company managers to create improvement strategies

8 signs you should become an independent consultant

Here's a list of some signs you should become an independent consultant:

1. You want to make a bigger impact

If you feel your current employment doesn't allow you to reach your full potential, you may want to consider becoming an independent consultant. Working as an independent consultant can help expand the work that you do and allow you to reach your capabilities. It also allows you to serve more clients than you could when working with one employer.

2. You're interested in learning new skills

Because continuous learning is important for advancing in your career, you may want to seek other options when your current role doesn't challenge you or help you learn new skills. Independent consulting allows you to continue growing and avoid becoming bored. Since it involves components, such as marketing and sales, you can learn about new industries and practices.

3. You have a passion to start a business

You may feel prompted to build your own business. Consider starting a consulting business while working a traditional job to help you earn money to invest in your business. In the evenings and on the weekends, you can work on side projects to supplement your income. As your consulting business grows, you can eventually leave your job and work as an independent consultant full time.

4. You sense of lack of control in your current work

An independent consultant position is great for those looking to have a little more control than they do in their current role. As an independent consultant, you get to be your own boss. Instead of following commands from your employer, you can choose what types of projects you work on and the types of clients you serve.

Related: Q&A: Should I Be an Employee or Independent Contractor?

5. You're looking for somewhere to provide your expertise

At your current job, you may notice there's a lack of use of your expertise. For example, you may be a content writer but find you spend more time discussing the company's team dynamics than you do focusing on writing. If this is the case, you may want to look into becoming an independent consultant, where you can focus on providing your professional knowledge to companies looking for help. Unlike a freelancer, companies may hire you to advise them on writing strategies, rather than write articles for them.

6. You desire a higher salary

Unlike normal positions, independent contractors are able to choose the salary they make. This means you can choose whether to be paid hourly or by the project. For instance, you may decide to charge $5,000 per project and work on 10 projects a year, leading to an annual salary of $50,000. Depending on your skills and reputation, you can start making much more than a traditional job.

Related: Becoming an Independent Contractor: Pros and Cons

7. You need a better work-life balance

Traditional jobs often restrict you to a nine-to-five schedule, but being an independent consultant allows you to manage your own schedule. This helps you to make time for family needs and other activities outside of work. Often, independent consultants work from home which can provide you with more flexibility. Since they choose the type of projects they commit to, they can organize their work around their life. For instance, if an independent consultant has a big family trip coming up, they can work on big projects leading up to the trip so that they have time to enjoy their vacation.

8. You're currently unemployed

If you recently experienced a layoff, retired or are unemployed, consider using this time to become an independent consultant. Instead of applying to new jobs, you can begin updating your consulting website and marketing materials to apply for projects with clients. Being an independent consultant can help you avoid worrying about being laid off again since it provides an opportunity to position yourself as a value to your clients, rather than someone that employers can eliminate during budget cuts.

Related: How To Start Your Own Consulting Business in 10 Steps

Tips for becoming an independent consultant

Here's some advice for becoming an independent consultant:

  • Find a niche. In order to provide expertise in your area, find a specific niche to offer services for, such as home office design.

  • Use social media. When promoting your services, use social media as a marketing tool to make connections with potential clients.

  • Start a blog. Write blog posts frequently to share your opinions and give the public an idea of the extent of your knowledge.

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