Remote Work

Life as an independent consultant

by Tess Barry | July 20, 2018

Life as an independent consultant

 
 
00:00 / 16:24
 
1X

Pondering the idea of becoming an independent consultant? Apiary consultants Rachel Factor, Connor Witt, Morgan Mischler, and Josh Chang join us on this episode of The Hive Is Alive to share their experiences. Many consultants balance their work with another passion. Our guests fill us in on how they started consulting, and what they balance their work-life with, such as travelling full-time as a digital nomad, going back to school, family life, and a second career. We hear how each consultant structures their day and manages clients to get the most out of their day–while still having a personal life.

Full transcript (from transcription service)

Tess Barry: 00:00:00 – 00:00:56
Welcome to The Hive Is Alive from Apiary DigitalĀ®. I’m your host Tess Barry. We are fully remote team of experts, typically, balancing work with another passion for today’s episode. I spoke with several consultants about their experiences as a consultant and how they balance their time. Consultants within Apiary, for instance, are balancing consulting with various passions, such as family life, traveling full-time, going to school or second career path. On this episode, Apiary members share with us their opinions on the benefits and the challenges of consulting, as well as the lessons they’ve learned. Today, we are joined by a four consultants, Rachel Factor, Connor Witt, Morgan Mischler, and Josh Chang.

How did you view get into becoming a consultant?

Tess Barry
00:00:57 – 00:01:32
I work, I work full time, jobs for guy should be probably eight years or so it. You know it was like the standard nine to five weeks, commute into the office every day at it like it’s really miserable, because it adds you know two hours on your workday. Basically, an art is hard like I always felt. I was always working on one website at a time to which I have really boring. It’s really not my style, I’ve always wanted, you, kinda knew cool analytics and so, like I’ve, been all this cool stuff and then I come back when implement and they say oh well, maybe you know next quarter and next quarter next quarter when we decided to.

Tess Barry
00:01:33 – 00:01:40
Make it change my life, so we don’t actually know how we’re going to make money. We just saved a bunch of money and said we’re gonna travel until.

Tess Barry
00:01:40 – 00:02:30
We ran out of money and it will come back to Seattle get new jobs are expected to maybe be gone a year with the money we had saved up and we were careful and we found about six months in you know we had clients kind of coming around asking us what’s going on with you, and and are you looking for any work and say sorry, just kind of slowly picking things up and it was made, it was just right away so great and on top of it, I was working from my Tieline or you know just some more interesting career I think at the time we were there to pick up, work and kind of start to be your own boss and just really feeling very proud of the work that I was bringing in people are seeking me out. Just me for my skills, all the time and I felt really really good too, and on top of that, all the freedom that I was getting. You know just be able to work when I wanted to work on the projects I wanted to work on different websites. All the time it was just all around awesome.

Rachel Factor
00:02:32 – 00:03:27
Yes, so I was working as a digital marketing agency and was not really loving that full time life I, think I was I’ve, always had a passion for cooking and food in the restaurant industry and have been at this point last year was really weighing heavy. On my mind, to get back into it and I didn’t know exactly how to do that so I reached out to a friend in the industry, and he just. Help me get a job, but unfortunately, as a cook, you don’t get paid that much and so I don’t think it is an extra source of income and one that would allow for me to balance the restaurant hours. I started consulting because ours are flexible. Work is flexible and and, and it just really fit in well with having a full time job with odd hours.

Rachel Factor
00:03:28 – 00:03:32
I decided to leave the agency. I was working at.

Tess Barry
00:03:33 – 00:03:55
And pursue my education so I’m in a school program for art direction now still in the advertising space. But I was interested in doing the creative side of things but I wanted to keep a roof over my head, while I was doing that and also just to keep a pulse on.

Connor Witt
00:03:56 – 00:04:06
What’s going on in I guess the performance marketing space. Honestly made the the leap to go. Take on school.

Tess Barry
00:04:06 – 00:04:36
A little more reasonable for me, just because I didn’t feel like I, had to abandon all that. I had learned in kind of gained expertise in before getting into consulting kind, enabled me to pursue the school Avenue I wanted to take as well. It was sort of a happy accident in some ways, but I was in the agency world order. Ten plus years and was getting really burnt out. I have.

Rachel Factor
00:04:36 – 00:04:52
Small children at home and I was working full time and it was commuting into San Francisco, which was an hour each way and we actually as it is, you were looking. We needed some extra resources, so we had to reach out to Karen.

Rachel Factor
00:04:53 – 00:06:03
It worked together before an agency world, so it was nice to connect with her and I thought. Wow, that’s pretty cool that she can just like our resources, but then I don’t know. Maybe four months later, I got laid off so I had an eight month old baby and a three year olds and was looking at do I want to start working full time again. Do I have to continue this crime, so I reached out to Karen. It was perfect timing. I was really nervous to make that switch to consulting but being laid off and getting severance kind of allowed this little safety net financially. For me to see okay, can this really work on it? What would this be like and and I? Just never looked back, I am balancing three kids night, two two: when I started it now has three it. It works out. I have a you know: full project load in my mind and and then a full full life at home as well. What what are some skills that you’ve learned as a consultant, especially things that you think you maybe wouldn’t have learned the sooner this quickly working full time.

Rachel Factor
00:06:04 – 00:07:01
I think time management has been really interesting, I mean it is I’ve. I am essentially working like two jobs, so like on my time off, being able to parse out like this is time that I am using to do consulting work verses. This is my time to actually relax and enjoy my time off and finding that balance in finding that the line has been interesting, I, don’t necessarily think that I have it down, or you know everyone’s always trying to learn that you know when I worked full time on salary, I think that you, it kind of never stops it’s counter intuitive, because you think I work my eight hour day and when I’m in the office I’m working on I’m, not I’m, not and when you’re consulting is just like. All time is time. Where does it all go? What do I do? It really does kind of make you go through that practice focus on what time is spent doing, what exactly yeah and I think in general yeah just also helps you prioritize, like generals right yeah. It’s it’s been great.

Connor Witt
00:07:01 – 00:07:30
I just make sure generally to do the stuff. I have to do for my consulting work early in the morning, so that. The. So I’m not having to bounce back and forth between kind of different sides of my mind, I think just being realistic with yourself about how many hours you can realistically handle on the consulting side of things and then that makes it doable.

Tess Barry
00:07:30 – 00:09:19
Yeah so I’ve been traveling for four years straight I started out in Asia and Europe and then my partner and I bought a motor home in the US. We travel the motor home for a couple years and then we came back out to the world again. I actually really love the European time zone because it gives me all day free and then I get to work in the evening. So I usually get up around like eight o’clock in the morning and go out for a hike or go out exploring or if I’m in the city, city, walking, and then come back and work. You know maybe around noon or one PM around three PM on phone calls and tell the evening around ten. So it just gives me a lot of an island energy. Doing these things and thanks I am mainly work in the morning and then I pick up after kids are in bed and in the later evening, and that works for me and allows me to obviously be present. My kids, and and not have to rely on child care for for picking up from school and missing afternoon activities, but but yeah I have to keep the structure pretty tight, or else it doesn’t really work with kids. So some you know occasionally address and like no I can’t do that afternoon. Call but I can offer you know morning time. Yeah, you know, I I just have to I have to be pretty strict about it, because it’s obviously not professionally your children, either in front of an afternoon. Call so I like to keep my mornings. I’m super productive and then I get on, and you know for a few hours in the evening as well. What are some restrictions or limitations that you find working as a consultant, as opposed to when you worked full time, I I miss having that face to face interaction with your team or your client or whatever. It is like in here in person, interaction I think. It’s helpful. You can pick up on on their queues of like things that you can’t read just an email or even cement, talking over the phone.

Tess Barry
00:09:20 – 00:10:53
Just like challenges, I think, can be the fact that, like we’re made out of a team of a lot of different time zones and a lot of different schedules, but it is hard to like you know when you’re like counterpart on social is on east coast or, like traveling the globe for reporting when an email comes through even waiting for her, it’s like no matter what the times sometimes I find myself just responding, because you want to connect with somebody that maybe isn’t X. times on our working hours. So I can be a challenge I think at times, but we talked about the benefits, obviously greatly outweighing any any of those challenges. Yeah I mean, like the hardest part, is vacation which, like it sounds crazy, like tell you I’m, recording this for Montenegro that I wanna make cation. Sometimes it and and I think that was the hardest to explain to clients like I’ve, got fifteen different clients and they all have to know when I’m gonna be on vacation right You know, of course, people also say things like managing taxes, quarterly taxes, all that stuff engine, your business structure, your healthcare All that is all the same things you realize that your employer was doing for you all along and now that you have to do. Yeah I think when you’re at an agency, particularly when you’re managing large media spends all the vendors, have an active interest in making sure you’re up to date with all the latest and greatest in their technologies and when you’re consulting I think you have to work a little bit harder to stay on top of all of that right.

Rachel Factor
00:10:54 – 00:11:11
So you just have to take it upon yourself to be a little more proactive when yet agency that that’s kind of brought to your attention. You were catered lunches, that’s for sure. Yes, yes, which brings me to my next point of view- are catered.

Tess Barry
00:11:12 – 00:11:57
What are some lessons you learned about being an independent consultant versus being a full time employee, and how do you set expectations with clients as a consultant. Yeah yeah right I, don’t know that I could go back. I’m, like you know, there’s your moments where it’s like. Maybe that needs to happen financially or whatever, when you know, because consulting can ebb and flow, anything riding that wave and especially that first year was a little nerve wracking, not knowing like with what it things pick up again or you know like I remember there was a time where, like it literally, was a perfect storm and I lost three clients. In a month like it was just one of those mines and right after the end of the year, like.

Tess Barry
00:11:59 – 00:12:13
But the thought of like being in an office and all of the things that we have to change my whole life to. It’s overwhelming and to the point where I I just don’t think that I could ever do it.

Tess Barry
00:12:14 – 00:12:49
yeah yeah I mean I, think I’ve been trying. Yeah I’ve been trying really hard the last couple years, especially to to present myself as a business like I am a vendor in myself, right, I’m, a vendor to apiary I’m, a vendor to other clients. Like I’m a vendor to the clients that we have so it’s not I’m, not just an individual I. Don’t work for this company! I’m not forced to do any of this and I try to make that clear without saying it explicitly like I’m here, because I want to be because I’m interested in your project and I respect you and I hope to find the same respect for the people. I work with them.

Tess Barry
00:12:50 – 00:13:37
Of course, I am very lucky to be at a point in my career, where, if someone is treating me badly, I have the luxury to say, like okay I’m not going to work with you anymore, and that has definitely that’s helped. Me find a whole new sense of self worth and and respect just for myself. That I think is reflected in my work and that clients feel and so you’ll find that, like you work with people all the time, are you encounter people all the time? Like? Don’t have that and you see people walk all over them and I just don’t allow that for myself the more I think in the very beginning stages of my career I was like very worried about where my next paycheck was gonna have supplement. People sense that sort of desperation and when you, when you get to the point where you’re not you’re, not desperate anymore, you can just you can behave in a whole different way and and people respond to you that way.

Rachel Factor
00:13:39 – 00:14:47
Yeah I think being diligent with the tax situation. I was. I had I guess technically been a business owner. You know just in the sense of setting up an LLC for myself previously but Who knows. Yeah I I guess that was just. A tester a test run for consulting yeah because I definitely never ever made any money from it beforehand. But I was kind of like it may be more familiar with the process is and that there is just so that helped me a little bit, but it became truly real. Once I started doing the consulting. So if I can offer some advice here, absolutely I purchased the. Turbo tax small business package, which included quickbooks for the year and that’s a pretty good way to manage expenses, divide up. What’s business versus personal. And transparent tax purposes.

Tess Barry
00:14:48 – 00:15:40
You really are doing your own thing. It’s is very independent, that’s a great thing as well, but it is a little bit limiting in that. Sometimes you do want the support of maybe your manager or you know so, like just your team in general, like looking time off or something like it, it’s it’s both a blessing, yeah, you’re you’re. So right it’s a blessing and a curse, and but so is having a boss. So not exactly that’s right. Nothing is perfect. I think this it it’s honestly great and going back like what I mentioned earlier about time management and just like prioritizing, and you know recognizing when you’re on your own and then when you’re off you can like really detach it’s like it’s, not easy and I I. Think it goes into like it makes me just think about like the whole mentality of like you know. What work is it like to work and work to live, I, don’t know yeah, absolutely I am you know, just I read a lot of reddit threads on what other people think.

Tess Barry
00:15:45 – 00:15:45
The reddit.

Rachel Factor
00:15:49 – 00:16:25
Thank you again for a berry consultants, Josh chain Connor with racial factor and Morgan Mishler for joining us on the hive is alive and thank you to our listeners for joining. If you’d like to share your thoughts and experiences as a consultant, please reach out to us follow up with thoughts or questions by emailing us at podcast, at Avery digital dot com, following two days at eight three digital and subscribe to our show. The hive is alive is produced by a very digital media, collective editing, help from Holly Helton produced by Miguel, Bravo, test, berry and Karen M. Anson, and we will see you around the water cooler.