Is nonprofit consulting a job or a business?
Years ago I remember seeing some sort of video talking about buying a business. While it went into many of the nuances of the process, what struck me was a concept that I’d never considered. As the buyer, are you simply buying a job, or are you buying a business?
While you may not be interested in, or in a position to, by a business, this is a very meaningful question to those of us who are consultants, vendors or freelancers to the nonprofit sector. When you entered this work, were you simply replacing a paycheck job for another kind of “job” that fit your lifestyle or fill the gap in your time or income? Or, did you see what you are building as something that could grow beyond you so that somebody might take it over someday?
Either answer is fine. You might like simply doing what you do, and have no interest in getting bigger, as long as it pays your bills. What you do may not lend itself to growth as easily as other activities. For example, if you’re a writer of grant proposals, you could hire other writers and develop a “stable” of writers to which you can farm out projects. But that may not be why you got into the work of being a grant proposal writer. Maybe you can’t stand managing others, and simply love to get into the nitty-gritty of what your nonprofit client needs and how you can craft language to get it funded. As long as that pays your bills for your needs, that’s a great way to go. If not, you might need to consider another model.
Many respects, this is an “academic” issue. By the nature of being an independent contractor, you’re a “business” whether you like it or not, regardless of how you’re organized as a sole proprietor or some kind of corporation. What I’m really talking about is your attitude and approach to your work. There’s no shame in having your independent contractor status as the attitudinal equivalent to the job you once had. However, by simply being independent, you have options where when you were employed full time, you didn’t. One of those options is building your enterprise into something bigger than yourself… A business. It’s great to have options.
Want more? Subscribe to ThinkNP Now, the weekly resource for anyone who speaks nonprofit, and consulting.