The Upside

Consulting vs Full-time: Making the Right Choice for Your Career

At some point in your career, you made a conscious choice to either stay in your full-time job or launch out on your own.

And if you launched out on your own, it’s likely that at some point in your journey, you’ve been faced with this challenging decision:

Should I go back to a full-time job or keep building my business?

Especially in this economy, I’ve seen so many consultants wondering if they’d be better off taking on a full-time job and putting their business on hold.

I’ve learned that the key to making this decision is picking the problems you’re most willing (and best equipped) to deal with.

I put together the checklist below for you to reference anytime you find yourself at this crossroads. Let this checklist serve as your guide anytime you’re faced with the question:

Should I stay out on my own as a consultant? Or should I find a full-time job?

Positives to Consulting

  • You get to decide what type of work you want to do
  • You get to decide what types of companies you want to work with
  • You don’t have to work with anyone you don’t want to
  • You have the flexibility of picking and choosing your own hours
  • You get to work from anywhere
  • You have full autonomy over your work
  • You get to set your own pay
  • You get to give yourself a raise whenever you feel you need one
  • You get to build something from the ground up
  • You have the benefit of building equity in something that has future value
  • You get to evolve and grow at a pace that suits your own ambitions
  • You’re constantly learning, usually at a faster pace than as an employee
  • You can write off most of your business expenses, such as your cell phone, co-working space, professional memberships (like The Upside!), WiFi, events and retreats, equipment like your laptop, and much more
  • You get to work as little or as much as you want or need to

Positives to a Full-Time Job

  • You’ll receive healthcare (and possibly other) benefits through your employer
  • You get to work with a team and build deep relationships with your colleagues
  • You may have the opportunity to gain a mentor and grow
  • You may have the opportunity to be a mentor and lift others
  • You may have the opportunity to gain valuable training
  • Your weeks are planned out for you, so less self-motivation needed
  • There’s a constant flow of work to be done
  • There’s lots of predictability
  • Your income is consistent week to week
  • You may have the opportunity to lead a team

Challenges to Consulting

  • You are responsible for arranging your own healthcare coverage
  • You’re responsible for covering your own leaves of absence (like parental leave, for example)
  • There may be peaks and valleys in your income and you’ll need to plan accordingly
  • Requires you to be self-motivated
  • Requires you to learn how to sell your services
  • You’ll be a business owner and will be responsible for juggling lots of balls in the air
  • You’re often working in a silo, which can be lonely at times (unless you’re a member of a community like The Upside)
  • You’re directly responsible for your own success

Challenges with a Full-Time Job

  • You have no control over layoffs, downsizing, acquisitions, mergers, etc.
  • You have no control over whom you work with
  • You have no control over whom you report to
  • You have to play by the rules and politics of the organization
  • You’ll need to fit into the company culture, whether or not you like it
  • You may be ready for a raise, but the company is not ready to give it to you
  • Crushing it at your job doesn’t always end in a financial reward
  • You’ll be attending lots of meetings, whether you want/need to or not
  • You will not be compensated for any additional time spent doing your job
  • You most likely won’t have much (if any) flexibility with your work hours
  • You’ll be given a set number of vacation and sick days
  • You’ll need to have your vacation days approved first before taking them
  • No matter how secure you think your job is, you are still very much replaceable and dispensable
  • Your success is at the mercy of the person you report to

I hope that whether you’re faced with this decision now or in the future, this checklist helps you determine your best path forward.

And remember: There is no perfect decision. What’s good for others in your circle may not be what’s best for YOU. Trust your gut and you can never go wrong.

And if you still can’t decide, ask yourself this:

Three years down the road, will I regret this decision?

Erin Halper

About the Author

Erin Halper is the founder and CEO of The Upside and the leading authority on independent consulting. Since launching The Upside in 2017, Erin has helped thousands of professionals transition from corporate life into consulting to achieve flexibility, autonomy, and a renewed sense of purpose in their careers.

Erin has been a frequent speaker at Columbia, NYU, Harvard, and Brown and has been featured as a leading future of work expert on dozens of podcasts as well as in Forbes, Business Insider, Nasdaq, Crunchbase and many more.

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