Packaging Your Talent: Consultant vs. Contractor vs. Employee

How Will You Package YOUR Talent?

The Gig Economy is simultaneously destroying and creating work opportunities for workers at all levels and in all occupations. Consequently, workers of all kinds must be aware of the “packaging options” for taking their talent to market as an employee, contractor or consultant. They must consider not just the skill and experience requirement but also the expectations that will accompany each way they might package their talent and go to market. Filling the requirements of a job as an employee is a go-to-market strategy we all understand. Let’s look at two other approaches – contractor and consultant.

Contractor
The next most convenient way to package your talent is in the role of contractor or temp. Here the buyer or employer decides on what needs to be done, and hires talent that can accomplish that work and then be gone. You can self-market as a contractor, but the nice thing about this role is the number of recruiters and staffing agencies that will match you to temporary work that they’ve helped an employer define, package and price. It’s plug-and-play and then unplug and look for your next gig.
The mistaken expectation some people bring to the role of contractor is the belief that there will be promotions or development based on outstanding work or innovation that they offer. For most contractors there will be few resources spent on their orientation, training or career development. It’s more reasonable to hope for a staffing agency that may keep track of your achievements and performance quality and place you accordingly. Some staffing firms actually offer access to training for those temps that work with them over the long term.

Consultant
The role of consultant is deceptively complex. Many mid-career professionals consider taking on this role when they are laid-off from a traditional job with an employer. But the role of consultant is to assess and define problems and their solutions, not accomplish the work that would be done by an employee. That’s what a job seeker or a contractor is for. People seriously considering consulting should join a professional association like Institute of Management Consultants (imcusa.org) and study their competency model and professional resource guide to see what they really need to learn to consult professionally.
A real consultant is also a one-person business that must take on the responsibilities of sales, marketing, finance, operations, human resources, IT and the timing and coordinating of all those functions. This often becomes obvious only after a professional leaves an employer and is hired back to “consult” for a brief period to finish some work. When that convenient engagement with their former employer is done, they suddenly realize all the business roles and processes they have ignored. Their lack of attention to marketing and filling their sales pipeline is the most perilous realization.
Caution
For those that are unsure how to package themselves, there is a certain risk in portraying yourself as “consulting” while you simultaneously search for a job. You will be confusing your network and creating ambiguity about your intentions and personal business model. Consider this scenario: A manager is considering hiring you as an employee. She does an on-line search and discovers that you’re describing yourself as a consultant on LinkedIn and you have a website that also touts your consultant identity. Now she has to wonder and worry if she’ll have your full attention and focus if you are consulting on the side while working for her company.
If you are considering taking a stab at the gig economy as either a consultant or a contractor, get some coaching to clarify your true occupational identity and the best way to go to market before you confuse your audience. Expectations are attached to both the work you say you can perform as well as the role (employee, contractor or consultant) you take on as you perform work.

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One Comment on “Packaging Your Talent: Consultant vs. Contractor vs. Employee”

  1. Ralph Nyadzi Says:

    Wish I could be a contractor of some sort. Not a common phenomenon on my side of the globe. Great post. Thanks.

    Reply

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