• Deb Zahn

Why I Waited So Long to Become a Consultant

I wanted to be a consultant before I could ever voice it.

For years, I never actually said, “Oh, I think I want to be a consultant.” I don't think I really knew what a consultant was or had seen too many bad versions of consulting that I couldn't picture myself doing that as my career.

Yet, when I would ask myself, “What matters most to me in my work life?” the same things kept popping up year after year. I wanted freedom and flexibility so I could be in charge of my time and the work I did. I wanted autonomy so I could make my own choices and do my part to make good things happen.

Does any of that sound familiar?

I wrote about this over and over and over again, and yet I kept picking jobs that didn't give me those things. Maybe I would get a little bit of one and little or none of the others. But, I never got the whole package that I truly wanted.

Plus, I had this constant itch to be entrepreneurial and creative. I'd look at the market my employer operated in and say, “Hey, I think we should think about doing this because if you look at what's happening in the larger industry, we could really position ourselves...” I kept thinking of new and better ways that we could help and serve the folks that we were working with. But, most of the time that wasn't welcome, not because I worked for bad organizations (I didn't) but because that's not what they did. So, I stuck in this constant cycle of creativity and frustration and back again.

I can't pinpoint when exactly, but, at some point, a light bulb (finally) went off in my head and I thought, “Deb, it sounds like you want to be a consultant.”

But I still didn't do it

Sadly, even after I embraced that desire, I still didn't do it. The thing that always held me back was my fear of financial insecurity. Getting a regular paycheque gave me a feeling of security, and I clung to that. I worried about taking the leap into consulting and failing. And, if I did fail, how would I pay my mortgage? How would I pay my bills? These were the things that stopped me from pursuing the livelihood that I truly wanted.

Fast forward to my 40s...

Fate finally created an opportunity for me to make my dream of being a consultant a reality. I was offered a choice in my career. Someone I had known for a long time said that she worked at a growing consulting firm and wanted to talk to me about becoming a consultant there.

But, fate has a wicked sense of humor. At the same time, someone else I had known for years asked me to lead a big fancy new initiative. I would be employed and have all the perks of employment.

I had a choice to make.

And I blew it.

I didn't become a consultant. I took the “road most traveled” to employment because I really thought the financial security would be greater in that job. I was too afraid, and I made the wrong choice.

Really, Deb?! Yep. That's what I did. Even though, get this, I would have had a paycheque at the consulting firm! But, I was still too afraid of failing. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to bring in business and would be fired. Even though I had never been fired from any job! That's how irrational the fear was.

I regretted that choice for over two years.

But, fate wasn't done thankfully. When I was in the job, someone else I knew asked me to do a small consulting engagement. She'd seen me facilitate dicey meetings and thought I could help her with a tricky merger. With no risk involved, I said yes.

And I discovered that I loved it.

Here I was, dipping my toe into the consulting waters. On both sides of the merger, people were stressed out. Everyone had all these different desires, fears, and options to sort through. I was able to help them untangle all of that and come to joint decisions. I absolutely loved watching their stress start to decrease and the uncertainty start to fade. I especially loved to see the excitement that they had about a new future they hadn't imagined before. And I love the role I was able to play in helping them get there.

It touched something in me and I said, “This is me.” This is why I am on the planet, to do things like this. And I'm going to be better able to do it if I'm a consultant.

With that new clarity, I reached back out to the person who had tried to get me to come to the consulting firm and, at long last, became a consultant.

So, that's great, right? I did it!

I finally became what I wanted to become. I became a consultant.

But, I'm not going to lie to you. I had a really rough start.

The reason that I had a rough start is because I didn't understand the business side of consulting. I didn't know what I needed to do to succeed as a consultant. So I floundered. For months.

Eventually, I figured it out. Through a lot of trial and error and asking seasoned consultants how they did it, I found the path to becoming a successful consultant.

That's why I'm doing a free training help you.

I know that taking the leap into consulting can be frightening. It was frightening for me. But there are things that you can do to make it easier for yourself. And I want to you do that.

In tomorrow's training, I'll be sharing​ the things I wish somebody had told me. By the end of the training, you'll know the best way to get started as a consultant and what you can do to get past whatever's holding you back. You'll know how to build a rock-solid foundation and identify the essential things you need to have in place and do to succeed.

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