What do you do when you know you want to work for yourself, but you do not have the capital or risk appetite to start your own business? In this case you might want to look at a consultancy career or, more probably in the early days, a portfolio career. When we talk about consultancy and portfolio careers we include anything at all which involves you working on your own and in which clients take advantage of your particular expertise.
A consultancy career involves you providing services directly to clients, who are usually, but not always, organisations. Many people begin a consultancy career by working on a freelance basis for their last employer. This is a good arrangement for both sides; the employer already has confidence in you and your abilities, and can pay for work actually done rather than paying a full time salary. You get your new career started relatively easily without having to sell your services cold to people who know nothing about you.
A portfolio career typically contains two or more principal activities that you will divide your working week between. It can be an end in itself, if you want a career that is variable and flexible. Or it can be a short-term opportunity, a particularly good way of maintaining an income while building up a reputation in the area of consultancy in which you want to specialise.
Portfolio activities may include doing some consultancy work in an area where you have a particular expertise, acting as a mentor to a company whose staff do things you know about, managing a particular project, helping out a friend or ex-colleague with their business.
There are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes a consultancy/portfolio career, nor about how many different activities you are likely to undertake. What is probable however is that some, if not all of your activities will be short term contracts and that you will need to build time into your working week to enable you to look for new contracts as your existing ones begin to expire. In fact you will be faced with the same problem as anyone who sets up a consultancy; you may well find that you spend more time selling the service than carrying it out. Rather than being a consultant you become a sales person.