If you’re reading this, you’ve probably come across some anecdotes about the extremely busy, notoriously never-ending schedules of consultants. Many of the professional corporate consultants out there might try to tell you that if you want the fancy paycheck and lifestyle of a business consultant, you need to forget about your sleep routine and private life.
But before you turn your back on this career path for good, we’re here to tell you that that’s not the only way. Not all consulting careers come with a lavish lifestyle, and they can still be immensely rewarding. Just like not all consultants are overworked and they can still be extremely successful.
If you work for a consulting company, you’ll likely have less wiggle room in managing your schedule and choosing your clients. You’ll have to follow their “code.” However, if you’re thinking of starting out as an independent consultant, you have the choice to build up a career and lifestyle the way you prefer (so long as you can effectively serve your clients). The life of a consultant is certainly not for everyone, but hopefully after reading this article, you can decide whether it’s for you.
A Day in The Life of a Consultant
As we mentioned, working independently means managing your own schedule. This means that no one will tell you whether you should write that project analysis at 6am or 6pm, so long as it’s done. One of the best things about working as a consultant is the variety you experience in your days, so while there really isn’t such a thing as a “typical” day in the life of a consultant, here’s an overview of what it roughly looks like.
6 AM — Your Morning Routine
If you want to keep up a high level of productivity in your days without compromising on your private life, it’s key to make your mornings count. Jump on the treadmill or your yoga mat, have a champion’s breakfast with some brain-boosting supplements, or meditate yourself into peak performance. Do whatever you need to do to get yourself ready for business, because your morning schedule will be extremely important.
8 AM — Your Biggest Priority
If you’re not jumping on a plane or in a cab to head to a client meeting straight away, you’ll likely utilize this time to tackle the most difficult or urgent task of the day. This might be running research on key aspects of a case, writing a report, updating your professional website, preparing a client proposal, or publishing your next thought leadership piece on LinkedIn.
10:30 AM — Emails and News
If you’re managing your own schedule, this might be a time when you organize your calendar, make a few calls, read up on the current news in the industry, and try to answer as many emails as you can. If you have an assistant or VA, they might take some of these responsibilities off your shoulders, so you can check in with them over coffee about the updates they have for you.
12:00 PM — Time for Lunch
At this time, you might be heading to a less formal lunch meeting with a client, sharing a meal with a mentor to pick their brain on a case, or simply utilizing some quiet time to recharge and get ready for your afternoon meeting marathon.
1:00 PM — Check-In With Your Team
If you work solo and you don’t have a team, this might be a time when you check in with some clients briefly. If you work in a team (or lead one) a brief daily meeting helps you get aligned on the status of projects, any challenges and wins present in the team, or important updates and roadblocks to solve together.
Even if you work on your own as a consultant, being part of an accountability group or think tank with fellow professionals can give you the wind behind your back on even the most difficult days.
2:00 PM — Meetings, Meetings, Meetings
Hopefully by now, you’re ready to smash your presentation and get some seriously mind-boggling problem-solving done for your clients. You’ll pull a few consultant frameworks to dig deeper into business challenges and impress your clients with groundbreaking ideas. You’ll map out the business plan you’ve been working on for weeks and land a new client with a winning pitch.
That, or you’ll be bombarded with unexpected questions you don’t have the answers to (yet!) and be running from one location to another, realizing that you’ve accidentally booked your meeting an hour earlier. You’ll be catching up on emails and the agenda of the meeting during your commute, trying to keep your brain functioning with an afternoon beverage.
No two days are the same in the life of a consultant, but this is your window of opportunity to create an impact on your clients’ businesses.
6:00 PM — Reviewing Your Day
After you’re done with your meetings, it’s time to review what you could or couldn’t finish that day, shift around some priorities in your schedule, and plan the following day. A few more finishing touches on the emails and reports left off earlier during the day, and you can (hopefully) sign off for the day and wind down in the evening without any emergency calls.
[ Read: How to Start a Consulting Business: The 7 Key Steps (+ 5 Must-read Books!) ]
A Day in the Life of a Management Consultant
Management consulting is a bit of an umbrella term that can cover multiple areas, such as strategy or operations consulting. In either specialization, you’ll be working closely with the C-suite or management team of companies and helping them formulate strategies and make key decisions about the future of the business.
[ Read: 34 Different Types of Consulting Services (And How to Pick Your Specialty) ]
These decisions will be costly and often carry high risks, which might give you the adrenalin to perform at your best or place immense pressure on you. When you talk to the CEOs of top firms on a daily basis, a sharp, professional appearance and tons of preparation will be essential. You’ll be on your feet presenting a lot, and the responsibility will be on you to guide organizational leaders through an unexpected crisis or roadblock in their business plan.
It’s not an easy career to lead. As a management consultant, you’ll need a high tolerance for stressful situations, the tenacity to push through when the going gets rough, and the humility to face your own shortcomings (because no one knows the answer to everything). That said, if you find long hours of solving business problems all day stimulating and fun, this might just be the right career for you.
A Day in the Life of a Cyber Security Consultant
You might be wondering what a cyber security consultant does all day when their clients aren’t facing any data breaches. Well, a lot.
As a cyber security consultant, you’ll spend most of your time monitoring the information and technology systems of your clients to uncover security issues. You’ll be restructuring these systems to protect them from cyber attacks and in general, improve data management procedures in organizations.
Working in cyber security demands a unique skill set that’s still considered a global skill shortage. This means that if you have expertise in this area, you might get busy with projects soon after starting your career. However, it doesn’t mean that a day in the life of a cyber security consultant is all rainbows and unicorns.
You’ll be responsible for complex issues that probably an entire department couldn’t solve on its own, and if a data breach does happen, you’ll probably need to drop your lunch and head straight to the office to put out fires before they create more damage.
All in all, it’s a highly rewarding career (financially as well) for someone who has great system thinking and a solid background in technology combined with great communication skills.
Life as a Traveling Consultant
Not all consultants are required (or willing) to travel to the locations of their clients, especially since the global impact of the pandemic on business communication. Still, a lot of companies prefer to fly their consultants down to their premises and cover all costs of their journey for the sake of brand building.
If you’re a traveling consultant, you’ll often spend more time on planes than in meetings. You’ll need to master the art of working offline and squeezing the most out of those in-flight hours to prepare for your cases. Traveling across time zones can be hard on your mental capacity and energy, so you’ll need to take good care of yourself and learn how to perform even with a chaotic sleep schedule.
Priority boarding, flying business class, expensive dinners, and staying in fancy hotels do sound like an appealing fantasy, but that’s normally not how your career kicks off. Before you prove your worth as a consultant and land that dream client, you’ll likely need to cover your own expenses or stay in cramped hotel rooms. You’ll be working from busy airports, waiting for delayed flights, while trying to shake off your jetlag. As they say: no pain, no gain.
The Reality of Being a Consultant
Like all professions, being a consultant has its own pros and cons. You’ll have lots of variety in your days, and the cases you work on will make sure you’ll never get bored. If you’re great at what you’re doing, you might get invitations to social events in business others only dream of and enjoy plenty of lavish benefits sponsored by your clients. You’ll have the chance to develop expertise in certain areas of business, which means you can help entrepreneurs realize their ambitious dreams and grow their businesses.
On the downside, the lifestyle of a consultant can be ad hoc, and you may need to prioritize emergency calls and meetings more often than you’d like. (We would certainly recommend running your consulting business on Paperbell to minimize admin headaches!)
So now that you’ve weighed your options, the only question left to answer is: Would you live the life of a consultant?