Whilst it’s heralded as one of the most diverse, interesting and challenging professional paths, we know that being a consultant isn’t always easy. Long hours, lots of travel and getting home late is common. It’s unsurprising then that many struggle to find time to do the things they enjoy. We caught up with Lisca McClanachan, a former Bain & Company consultant, who now consults independently whilst running her own business, to find out how working for herself has helped her to find the elusive work / life balance. I spent 4 years at Bain and loved it in many respects. Throughout that time I worked on a variety of projects including high-level strategy and operational improvement. I was also able work in Amsterdam for six months and Tokyo for a few weeks. But what eventually got the better of me was the lifestyle. I love to exercise, and while I was managing pretty well to fit it in, it was always at the expense of proper sleep. I’d go to bed at 11pm or 1am and then get up at 5am to train. And my social life was suffering too. I found I was often too busy or too distracted to even speak to my mum - that never felt good. I realised that my life had become too one-dimensional and I didn’t have time to spend indulging my wide variety of interests. It was time for me to figure out a way to get them back into my life.
Starting out on your own
While my four years of consulting experience had given me the confidence to go out on my own, I was still uncertain about finding work. Early on, I didn’t do much choosing and I took whatever came my way. Luckily for me, I've never had to solicit work, I've always had people call me. I worked with my first client for couple of months and it really just snowballed through word-of-mouth.
Initially I missed working within a consulting team, but quickly realised that I was forming a much closer relationship with my client. Working independently enables me to select more intimate projects and I enjoy getting to know the client and working closely with them.
Finding a better work / life balance
I now have a much better “work and everything else” balance. While I still work hard, it’s a different type of hard and a different type of work. I do fewer hours consulting than I ever did, and get paid much more generously which provides me with the flexibility to only freelance 3 days a week. The other days I am free to work on or do whatever I choose - which at the moment is my own businesses. What’s more, if I want to chat to mum in the middle of the day or have a massage, I can.
I enjoy being my own boss - having control and getting stuff done. I hate hierarchy and the politics inside organisations, and I find that being your own boss in a small business avoids all that. The best thing about working for yourself is the flexibility. With flexibility comes control, which enables me to choose how I spend my time, not someone else. I have managed my businesses from New York, various other holiday locations or while visiting family and friends in other cities.
The flip side of running your own business is that you never really shut off. The buck stops with you, so if all hell breaks loose and you are on holiday, you have to deal with it. But, I also believe in hiring well, looking after your staff and empowering them which does reduce the burden.
Lets be clear, working independently isn’t all roses and sunshine and there are times when I think a 9 to 5 job would be nice. But then I remember how awesome a life I have been able to create for myself and I snap out of it - I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you'd like to learn more about our Expert360 consultants or join us to find great independent consulting work, visit our consultants page now.
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