I am a principal consultant specializing in HCM, HRMS and HRIS. Several years ago, I was approached by a consultant firm specializing in accounting and IT. While I had been a staff employee at that point in my career, I was no stranger to the concept of consulting. In fact, I had been a consultant earlier in my career and have worked alongside many consultants, so I had an overwhelmingly positive view of such work. While I knew being a consultant could be challenging, I knew it was right for me.
That first consulting job was everything I wanted — the staffing firm offered a wonderful consulting package. I would be given good compensation, benefits, vacation time, holiday time and more. I could not pass it up. After talking it over with my family, I took a leap of faith and accepted the job.
While I was already looking for an opportunity to venture into consulting, there are some aspects of consulting I could have benefitted from knowing about before I began. Here are some things staffing firms representing consultants could prepare them for.
Gig basics. Not everyone will know right off the bat what they should be asking potential clients. Is the role a W-2 or a 1099? What is the hourly pay range? Are there benefits, and what type are they? I’ve had contracts that provided healthcare, 401(k), vacation and holiday pay. Staffing firms should be prepared to provide this information early in the recruiting process in order to save the candidate’s time and their own.
Balance. As long as the job is done and done right, there can be a life balance. In fact, one of the biggest positives of working as a consultant is the flexibility. In most cases, I set my own hours and work remotely.
Compensation. Compensation can vary, of course — much depends on the size of the company and the scope of the project. When working directly with the client, the consultant is responsible for their own contract negotiations. When they work through a staffing firm, the staffing firm can be a great asset. Educate your consultants on what pay range they should expect but also what the fair market rate is for their work in their industry and location.
Security. One issue that may be considered a negative for contractual work relates to job security. While no job is completely secure — I experienced layoffs as a staff employee earlier in my career — in consulting, you are on the job only as long as the contract. And in some circumstances, a contract can end unexpectedly, providing a gap from one contract to the next. For example, the contract I was on during the pandemic ended early. The client laid off thousands of workers, and to bring back some of the furloughed workers, they had to let go of some consultants. I learned the hard way the consequences of being unprepared for contracts that end unexpectedly. Industry changes during the pandemic were a huge lesson for many in the workforce. Staffing firms can help by advising their contractors to have a backup plan.
Networking. This is where the right staffing firm can be a consultant’s best friend. To keep the workflow coming, networking is a must. But networking takes time — time we otherwise would be spending on billable work. Staffing firms can help by keeping on top of their consultants’ contract dates and working to ensure more work is lined up for them or that their contract is extended, minimizing or eliminating gaps in workflow.
With my previous agency and my current staffing firm, LaSalle Network, I have been provided with advance notice of contract extensions and end dates, which is a valuable service to me.
I have worked for several different companies and in multiple industries on all levels. I have had the opportunity to work with the best of the best and learn the latest technology, which I thoroughly enjoy. The continuous training in all areas related to my field is more than I could have hoped for. I am more than grateful for my experiences working as a consultant. z