An Accidental Public Health Consultant

In the office2 2013.jpg

Happy New Year! And Happy Anniversary to me! January 2019 marks my six year anniversary of public health consulting. People ask me all the time what motivated me to consult and how I got started. I would love to say it was a lifelong dream to be a business owner and I started with a detailed and strategic business plan…

But I did not. I started consulting completely by accident.

In fall of 2012, I was considering a change. I had an incredible job as a project manager. I had a wonderful team and mentor. We were doing important research. We were writing successful grants. I had opportunities to publish. But…

I. Was. Exhausted. Between the commute and the work and the travel, my life did not feel balanced. And when I thought ahead to having children, I worried that the schedule was not sustainable. So I gave my notice at my incredible job, and began the difficult process of finding a part-time job that would not be a step down and would still compensate me well for my experience and talent (spoiler alert: I never found one!)

About a month before my last day at my full-time job (just as panic was starting to set in), I was approached by a local university to see if I was interested in helping them with a five month qualitative project. Perfect! I’ll work on this project and find a part-time job in the meantime. It would buy me lots of time. But as it turns out, I did not need the time. As former employers and colleagues found out that I was consulting, I got more calls and emails. I got my 2nd client and my 3rd client. **An important lesson here: never burn any bridges! Those bridges will bring you consulting work when you quit your full-time job ;)

While the public health side of things was great and I had plenty of enjoyable paid gigs, I struggled on the business side.  Because I jumped in with no business plan, I had to quickly work backwards. How did I want to set up my bookkeeping? What kind of insurance did I need? What professionals did I need to hire to help me with aspects of the business? Did I want to use hourly or project pricing (and am I charging the right amount)? And a million more questions.

While I don’t regret it and have landed in a great place with my business, I’d love to help others navigate this process and provide a shortcut to learn from my wins…and from the times I fell on my face.

So thanks for joining me here! I look forward to learning from you as well! Please comment below and tell me:

(1) If you currently consult: Were you an accidental consultant like me or did you cross every T and dot every i in your business plan first?

(2) If you are just thinking about consulting: What do you want to know about consulting? What do you want to see on the blog this year?

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