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Consulting - Quit the day job?

By e ·
I have a great job currently, network designer and admin, but I have a family member that needs care now due to illness, and am finding my usual 50 hrs per week hard to do and provide the care that I need to.

I've been pondering the possibility of doing consulting. My hope was to pick up a handful of small to mid size businesses and do computer support for them.

My question is, is it realistic to hope I could cut down my hours to part time (25-30 hrs per week), still make a little bit of a living and keep my career alive, doing pc, server and network support for a couple of clients?

Some folks tell me when you break out on your own you have to double your hours though it's a lot more lucrative. My problem is a difficult family situation and the need to cut my hours back and have some flexibility for dr. visits, etc. If I have to work even more hours I can't do it.

I'd be grateful for any input.

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Consulting

by verd In reply to Consulting - Quit the day ...

Consulting always looks good on paper and sounds like you can make your own hours, but in reality you could be working more hours than you would at a regular job. Some days I work 15 hours or more. You could work more hours working for yourself than at a regular job. I would talk to your employer.

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RE: Consulting - Quit the day job?

by info In reply to Consulting - Quit the day ...

e@... You can cut your hours but be sure to have maintenance contracts for steady income and of course you'll need a few steady clients. You'll need about 5-10 clients with around 25 users per network to make a decent living. You can charge them upwards to a grand per month each for total support (9am-5pm) plus anything ($) outside your maintenance contract. Good luck!
-AJS

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This is not the right reason

by mrkahatr In reply to Consulting - Quit the day ...

Independent consulting is a fine approach to making a living, but, like everything else, requires a high level of commitment to succeed. You're looking at consulting (really contracting) as a means to enable another priority in your life. Running the whole show yourself, without a support structure or safety net requires more attention than you are probably willing to pay.

Trying to set up a part time (even dropping the 10 extra overwork hours would be a 20% improvement) with your current employer is a lot less risky than backing into self-employment.

Good luck!

- Bruce

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Think about the cost of Insurance, etc.

by melimaze In reply to Consulting - Quit the day ...

I just left consulting for a full-time permanent position due to a need for health insurance and other benefits. It was costing my family of 5 close to $20,000 in premiums and deductibles for coverage with no preventive care.

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Are you aware?

by Dr_Zinj In reply to Consulting - Quit the day ...

That having a consulting business means that you own your own business?

Successful, self-supporting, small business owners almost never get to work a 40 hour or less work week.

You MAY EVENTUALLY earn enough to be independently wealthy and can retire from the business; but your kids will be grown up, through college, and on their own by then.

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Possibly

by HollandM In reply to Consulting - Quit the day ...

I found myself in your position some years ago. Luckily, I had enough money to allow me to quit my job, and the great good fortune to have two friends who immediately hired me for part-time consulting positions. This works only if you already have the clients -- and they know your situation in terms of being a caregiver. I was eventually able to get back on the career track I'd left, but it wasn't easy after several years as an independent consultant.

Positioning yourself as an ordinary consultant means being on call -- and that makes it hard to be a care-giver. Also, there are a lot of independent consultants out there, so unless you already have a client roster lined up, you may not find them quickly. If you need the money to live on, remember that consultants are paid like any other business vendor -- payment in 30 days is great, and it's not uncommon to wait 60-90 days for a payment.

Ask your current employer if you can telecommute, or reduce your hours. If they say no, start looking for a part-time job.

Have you considered teaching at a Jr. college, or working for a government agency or school district where you can negotiate hours (and benefits) up front? Jr. colleges don't pay great (less than you'd make as a consultant), but the hours and paychecks are steady, and if you really need to limit your hours, a steady part-time job may be better than a consulting gig unless you have a friend who will hire you at a good rate and limited hours. It also removes the headache of paying your own taxes and getting the insurance you'd need to protect your home and family in the event of litigation -- a big problem for any small business owner. Errors & Omissions insurance for a small independent computer consultant can cost $8-10K per year, and that's just not affordable for many people. On the other hand, you don't want somebody taking your house or your retirement savings because you were tired from taking care of a sick relative, and made a mistake that cost them money.

All in all, if you don't have the luxury of planning for a consulting business, and need money to live on now, a part-time job is much safer than a consulting business. (Lots less rewarding, both financially and emotionally, but safer.)

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May not be the answer you're looking for

by mtoombs In reply to Consulting - Quit the day ...

e@,

As a long time consultant, I wanted to offer my insight to your posting.

If you're looking to a consulting job to give you the flexibility to care for a loved one, here are some things to focus on before making this jump:
- Set out a plan for your consulting practice
(e.g. will you be traveling or only accept local work, what salary do you need, can the service you offer be done from your home, etc.)
- Set a salary target for the year. Once you reach your target, decide if you want the remainder of the year as time with your family, more training / education, etc.
- Get yourself organized. Are you going to setup a corporation to handle things like taxes, etc?
- Keep in mind that clients have deadlines, and as such, they will expect consultants to be available for key milestone dates. A lot of times these occur on weekends and holidays. Decide if you can live with that and if not, make this clear to your client up front.

Two final thoughts:
1) As a consultant providing a service to your clients, always establish expectations at the outset. If you (or they) have limitations as to how many hours or which days of the week you can work, spell those out up front. This avoids problems later.
2) If you head down this road of consulting, sometimes it's difficult to get back into a corporate job. They think you're going to be used to a big salary and they won't be able to afford you, so they may not even be willing to talk with you about a full time corporate job. This is the voice of experience speaking.

Finally, I hope the situation with your family member isn't too serious, and that they will be well, soon.

God Bless during this holiday season.

Mike

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Impact of taxes and medical insurance

by jo.case In reply to Consulting - Quit the day ...

Cousult you tax guy.
If you work asan independent contractor, you will have to pay Social Security tax, state and federal taxes. You probably will need to file quarterly estimated tax payments.

If your present job provides health insurance, you will have that as a cost if you go independent.
If your present employer hires you as a consultant, and keeps you on the payroll, you probably won't have these problems.

Just a caution to check these things out before you make a move.

I wish you well.

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In The End there is only 1 Factor = QOL

by scottwittig In reply to Consulting - Quit the day ...

Consulting = QOL decrease
Family Requires = QOL Increase

Please do your family a favor now.
Look for other answers.
Consulting will consume you and your soul.

IN a year or 2 your family will hate you because your not home ever, and all you can do about it is continue working or you lose everything.

Quality Of Life = Family togetherness at all costs.

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Plese consider carry over & start up costs

by rfdswa In reply to Consulting - Quit the day ...

Hi there,

Just wanted to add something else you should (if you haven't already) consider. I've just recently hung up my 'independent consultant' position and have gone back to full-time employment for several of the reasons that other consultants have addressed in this thread.

- Start up costs: Remember that you will need to set up and register a business name, get basic stationary (business cards at the least) and other sundries.

- I think it would be safe to say that very few of us have made the leap and had the luxury of securing a good steady income from day one. Best advice I got years ago was that you should have 6 months worth of your net pay saved up that you can use should you struggle in the early months. If you do not have a 'pot' to draw from you can lose everything.

- Insurance and taxes: It's really easy to overlook insurance and tax commitments or to put them on the back burner. Recently a friend of mine was in a tragic car accident and lost several thousands worth of hardware that he was transporting for his customer. Not only did he lose his car, but his income (no income protection insurance), and the vehicle insurance did not cover the equipment inside so he has to pay his customer.

Sure I can take time off when and if I needed it, but then the pressure is on to get the income generated that I've lost from the time off and there's nothing worst then trying to get money.

Maintenance contracts are the most lucrative which have already been highlighted where you have steady income coming in on a monthly basis, but it takes time and you need several clients to make it worthwhile. I concentrated on the SMB space which was 5 - 25 seats in my mind. Problem is their budgets are small as well and you only get work when they can 'afford it'.

Bottom line of this rambling - consider it wisely, make sure you can support yourself for at least 3 months whilst you build a customer base.

I do wish you the best in your endeavours and for you and your family.

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