Everyone has those days when they are ready to bust out of whatever job they are in, certain that they can do better on their own. Alas, this is not always a wise thing to do, and most people, after considering matters more soberly, decide to remain in a traditional job. Consulting is not for everyone. But for those who do make the move, it’s good to have a guide who has been down the road to self-employment in consulting and succeeded.
Joel Gendelman certainly qualifies as a good guide, and he has distilled his 25 years of experience into Consulting Basics. Joel is the founder and president of Future Technologies Inc. He has consulted for Fortune 100 companies and for very small companies as well. With a Masters and a Doctorate in Educational Technology, he also knows the learning profession well.
What’s in the book
Consulting Basics covers almost everything you need to know about getting your practice started, from setting up your home office and developing your sales and marketing materials, to developing proposals and agreements and getting the first client. This is practical advice, delivered with humor and understanding of what it is like to venture out on your own. Gendelman shares his experience, from the painful to the transcendent. He includes many checklists and worksheets that will help the reader get organized and stay on track. He even provides sample agreements that avoid some of those mistakes that he made in getting started. These resources will be helpful even to consultants who have been in business for a while.
Most important, in many ways, are the words of wisdom Gendelman offers about the challenges of working alone, working from home, common problems that seem trivial until they cost you an account, and so on. These bits of advice are written in sweat and possibly in tears (my words, not Joel’s!), if not in blood, and they alone justify buying and reading this book.
What’s not in the book? There are legal and accounting details that you really should consider from the first day of your new practice. These can be complex, and compliance with local laws and regulations is important. Gendelman does outline the steps you need to take, including getting necessary business licenses and setting up an accounting system, but for the details (which would fill a couple more books) you need to find yourself an attorney, an accountant, and a bookkeeper. Just because this part of the book only occupies a dozen pages does not mean that it isn’t important!
Who should read this book?
This book is particularly for trainers and other learning professionals, human resource professionals, and in general for anyone with an interest in learning what it takes to become a consultant.
I wholeheartedly recommend Consulting Basics, even to those who have not yet made the decision to go out on their own, as well as to those who have already begun their practice. Simply reading the book will give you lots to think about and consider, and you may decide that consulting is not for you. On the other hand, if you do decide to make the move, Consulting Basics will become one of your best friends and your constant companion in the beginning days.
Gendelman, Joel. (2010) Consulting Basics. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press. 164 pages. ISBN 978-1-56286-696-9.
Publisher’s Price: $29.95