Making the move into independent management consultancy


After years of working for someone else, Jon Howell made the decision to go it alone as an independent management consultant in procurement and supply chain. Here he describes his experience.

Bold moves often bring the greatest rewards, and it doesn’t get much bolder than making the choice to go out on your own.

Even the most confident decision-maker can feel a twinge of self-doubt before making that leap into the unknown.

It’s a call that my colleague, Sourcing Solved Associate Director Jon Howell, made two years ago. Having built up 15 years’ experience of working in line roles for some of the big consultancy firms, he’d spent four years working for smaller companies when he made up his mind to move on. 

“I felt I wasn't in control of my destiny,” says Jon. “That’s what sparked my decision to become an independent rather than working for someone else.

“I was answering to other people, filling in spreadsheets and playing a numbers game. I felt controlled by it; as though I was constantly being scrutinised and micro-managed - even if I wasn’t actually being managed in that way!

“The more I thought about what to do next, the more I realised the answer didn't lie in going to another company where it would probably be the same. The answer was to do something for myself.

“It took me a year or so to pluck up the courage to go ahead, but after some events at a previous employer, the time came and it was the best move I could have made. It's given me everything I could have wanted. I'm answerable only to myself and I decide my own working pattern.”

That sense of freedom is a huge draw for Jon, who believes the chance to pick and choose jobs is a core benefit to working independently.

Make sure you have a strong network. It’s essential for anyone thinking of going into this. I’ve got an excellent network of contacts and customers and I spend a lot of time building on that.

“When you’re working for someone else, you can't ever turn money down,” he says. “Those jobs can take you anywhere in the world and you find yourself away from home for long periods. The projects may not always be interesting or may be working with organisations that you find difficult. 

“As an independent, I have carte blanche to make my own decisions. I can choose to say ‘I don't fancy that’ - whether it's the duration of the job, the location, the content or whatever.

“So although it's not an easy life, it's a more flexible life.”

Going independent means you’re no longer just doing a ‘day job’; you’re also responsible for running your own business, along with all the admin that comes with it.

“There’s a whole bunch of things to consider,” says Jon. “You'll need to set up a company. Do you want a website or a social media presence? How often are you going to have it updated? How much will you spend?

“You’ll be invoicing clients and chasing - this is your own money coming in, so you need to make sure it's coming in on time. You have to think about creating tools, presentation templates... none of it is difficult, but it takes up your time.

“When you're working for a company, you just pitch up for work and a lot of the administration and background stuff is taken care of for you. If you keep busy, there can be a lot more money in being independent, but you do have more things to consider.”

But despite the additional demands, Jon is in no doubt that he’s made the right move. His advice for anyone wishing to follow his path is clear.

“Make sure you have a strong network. It’s essential for anyone thinking of going into this. I've got an excellent network of contacts and customers and I spend a lot of time building on that. 

“I use tools like LinkedIn, I go to conferences; it all keeps me in touch. Most of my jobs have come from being introduced to someone by somebody who knows me. I haven't had to do a great deal of hard selling.”

So while there’s nothing easy about making the bold call to go solo, the benefits can be great. And, as Jon emphasises, they go far beyond just the financial.

"I don't stress as much as I used to,” says Jon. “I sleep a lot easier and I worry a lot less.