How to Start Consulting During Your Job Search

Dear Liz,

I like your advice a lot but I take exception to your suggestion that job seekers should start “consulting” to earn money while they’re job hunting.

It sounds like a nice idea but every single job seeker is not cut out to be a consultant. Consulting is for very experienced, very credible professionals who have significant expertise to share with their clients.

I hope you can see that by encouraging basically anyone at all to start “consulting” you are contributing to the degradation of the consulting profession.

Thanks for your work,



Dear Gerald,

Consulting simply means working directly for clients — one or several at a time — rather than working for one employer as an employee on the payroll.

Who are you, who am I and who is anyone to say that some people are “cut out” for consulting and others are not? I say that anyone who is game to try independent consulting should dive in. Nothing bad can happen, after all!

It doesn’t cost anything to get a business card and start networking as a consultant rather than as a job seeker. It costs about fifty bucks to incorporate a business, if you want to take that step.

Only good things can happen to you if you step into consulting. You don’t have to give up your job search. In fact, your part-time consulting business may be the best route to your new job!

There is no secret club that one must be admitted to in order to earn money, gain contacts and boost your confidence as an independent consultant.

Twenty-year-old people and seventy-five-year-old people do it. People in every function do it. People with advanced degrees and people with no college education do it. That’s the great thing about consulting — it is open to all!

Clients need help at every point on the spectrum from junior-level to expert-level proficiency.

I started consulting as a very green HR person when I was 24. I took on a consulting gig alongside my full-time job. I learned a ton in that assignment. It is absolutely not the case that consultants must be highly experienced, highly-paid experts.

Some clients need expert help and others need lower-priced, less-experienced consulting help.

I recommend that every job seeker get a business card and start networking as a consultant, rather than as a needy job hunter.

You get to decide what kind of consulting to do. You can create sales proposals for clients, organize their filing systems or help them plan events.  You can write their employee handbooks, set up their new-employee orientation process or teach their supervisors how to manage their teams.

The great thing about consulting is that talking about consulting projects is more comfortable for hiring managers than talking about hiring you as a full-time employee. A manager can hire a consultant on a very limited, “try before you buy” basis.

That makes them comfortable, understandably. As a consultant you also get to check out a manager and his or her organization. You also retain control over your schedule. You get to set your rates.

You can begin consulting at a modest billing rate and increase your fees as you gain proficiency and confidence.

You can leave your consulting branding open on your new business cards — the ones you will order from Vistaprint online or at your local office supply store.

Many people are afraid to start consulting, in part because they’ve heard that consulting is only for lofty experts — but it’s not. Part of my mission is to invite as many people as possible to step into the pool and try consulting.

Gerald, these new consultants do not threaten you or your stature. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if more people start consulting, it will hurt your business. That is a fear-based approach. Trust that the right clients will find you and hire you no matter how many consultants there are. The world is big. There is plenty of work for everyone!

When I took on my first few consulting projects I knew nothing about consulting — and I dare say that is true for most new consultants. There is really nothing to it. You ask your client, “How can I help you?” and they tell you what they need.

Then you help them. There is no rocket science involved, unless you consult in the area of rocket science!

Let’s stop perpetuating the myth that only certain people can become consultants while everyone else must stick with full-time employment forever, with no hope of ever gaining control over their career, setting their own rates or making their own schedule.

The truth is that we are all consultants now, whether we work for ourselves or for someone else. We are all entrepreneurs in this new-millennium workplace, no matter what our business cards say. We all have to run our careers like businesses — because your career is a business.

Consulting during your job search (or any other time) is the best way to grow your entrepreneurial