One of the nice things about consulting is its flexibility. Consulting is more than a job. It’s a lifestyle. However, the word “consultant” describes an effort that is so broad that it is nearly meaningless to those people who are not engaged in the work. Let’s look at the different ways you can be a consultant, not by skill set, but simply by how much time you do your work. Lets look at the question: What kind of consultant are you?
To start, many of us are “full time” consultants. What does that mean? It could be that you’ve jumped into this work fully and are plying your trade for many hours as you would a full time “paycheck job.” This would apply to anybody who is a sole practitioner, or to others who work in bigger firms as one consultant among many.
Still, maybe you are full time but not fully committed? Many who label themselves as full time consultants are between jobs, so full-time is as much time as they have until they find their next job.
If you’re not full-time, then you’re part-time. This even gets fuzzier. The circumstances which surround part-time consulting are wide and varied. It could be that you have a full-time paycheck job and you do your consulting at nights, on weekends, and your days off. Maybe you’re responsible for the care of children or an elderly parent, so you have a limited number of hours to devote to your consulting activities? It could be that you are retired and consult as a way of maintaining your activity or bringing in supplemental income?
Why is this important? Because your reason for consulting can impact what you charge, your time availability, and even your reliability to get work done for your client. (If you have a full-time job and are consulting on the side, for example can you take a call at work from a consulting client with an emergency?) If the money you earn is a supplement to a greater income from retirement, a spouse, or other revenue, may not feel pressured to charge as much as those who rely on consulting as a full-time primary household income. On the other hand, if you have a consulting practice as a full-time business, your ability to serve customers may be greater because you have no other outside responsibilities to fulfill.
As a consultant to a nonprofit how you approach your consulting, whether part-time or full-time, may not make a difference. However, understanding your commitment to consulting can make a major difference to how you approach your work.