While becoming a consultant in today’s gig economy is more difficult than on might think, surviving your first year in the market can be even harder, according to Elaine Biech, author of The New Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond.

SEE: The gig economy: An insider’s guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“Getting started is the hardest part,” Biech said in a press email. “Surviving your first year isn’t as much about the work you do as it is about the way you run your business and the way you take care of yourself.”

In the next five years, the majority of the workforce will in some way be members of the gig economy, whether as contractors, temporary employees, freelancers, or consultants, according to a recent Randstand study.

To help those hoping to start a consulting career, Biech offered the following four tips to help professionals succeed in their first years in the field.

1. Manage your health: Physical and mental

Working professionals must fuel themselves correctly to be successful; this starts with eating well, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep, Biech said. While consulting work can make these things difficult to achieve, employees must prioritize their health to see positive results professionally.

The stress of a new job can also affect one’s health, and employees should take note. Biech said to create a game plan for handling stress, whether it’s going for a walk, meditating, practicing yoga, or the like.

2. Manage your time

As one of the most in-demand soft skills for 2019, time management is crucial to professional success. A couple best practices for effective time management, according to Biech, include prioritizing big projects and completing the hardest tasks first.

Another tool Biech suggested is laying out a routine for yourself, deciding when the best time for different tasks are, and writing down a list to complete those tasks in that order.

3. Establish good business habits

Biech identified some good consultant business habits as charging what you are worth, tracking your spending, delighting your clients, adding copyright to all original documents, and most of all, marketing yourself constantly.

“Remember that marketing is a 24/7 thing,” Biech added. “Every experience with every client, every conversation with a colleague, every visit to a professional meeting, every comment to a friend is a marketing event. As a consultant, you are always selling yourself.”

4. Take advantage of being your own boss

Working as a consultant allows you to be your own boss; however, that requires you being stern with yourself. To successfully manage yourself, consultants must create a balance in their lives, between work and life, as well as make up their own rules to get work done, Biech said.

That means the workaholics out there must be sure to not let work consume their entire lives, Biech noted. She suggested taking up a new hobby or skill that draws you away from work at the appropriate times.

“Your first year of consulting will be a time of tremendous change and growth,” Biech said. “Help yourself along by forming habits early on that will help you succeed. The more initial effort you put into setting up a thriving business now, the more you can enjoy your work life in the years to come.”

For more, check out How to become a consultant: 15 tips for success on TechRepublic.

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