I’m a consultant, writer, and an entrepreneur. The headline of this story is a difficult admission for me to make. If you’re reading this, you’re probably in a similar boat (i.e., replace “consultant” with “employee”). But coming to this awareness has made my work quality, focus, and satisfaction increase.
These roles — consultant, writer, entrepreneur — have common skills woven through them — I write, edit, and position language strategically in all of them. But as vocations, they are starkly different and should never be confused.
If you call yourself one of these, when you’re really not, you’re deceiving your clients, readers, and employees — but most of all, yourself.
This is dangerous and here’s why:
These positions differ stridently in their aims. Their goals are not the same, and work that is performed with competing goals causes everything and everyone to suffer.
How wearing one hat when you should be wearing another hat hurts your clients, yourself, and your business
If I’m working as a consultant but calling myself an entrepreneur, it reveals that my true goal is my company’s freedom and financial gain, not the success of my client. Entrepreneurs are hyper-focused on their businesses. Consultants are hyper-focused on their clients’ businesses. If you hire an entrepreneur as a consultant, they won’t really care about your business, because an entrepreneur cares most for his own company. A consultant doesn’t have his own business to worry about; his client is his company.
If I’m an entrepreneur but call myself a consultant, it reveals that I don’t really believe in what I’m doing. I’m playing it safe and I don’t truly care about the problem that’s bigger than myself. I value stability over risk. A consultant is a freelancer, and as Seth Godin points out, freelancers and entrepreneurs are polar opposites. A freelancer is tethered to his time, an entrepreneur builds a business beyond himself. If you confuse these identities, and care more about your time (hourly rate) than your business (long term growth), you will fail as an entrepreneur.
If I’m a writer but I consider myself an entrepreneur, I ruin my writing. Unquestionably. An entrepreneur who writes is a content marketer. The writer who identifies as an entrepreneur is writing for money. Whereas the writer who identifies as a writer, writes for truth. Ever wonder what the difference between a “content creator” and a writer is? Motivation. Content creators drive business metrics. Writers respect the written word and seek the truth, to hell with the results.
Ev Williams’ №1 Rule for Success
If you wear all three of these hats, be very careful.
If you want to be your absolute best, pick one — consultant, writer, or entrepreneur — and devote all of your creativity, time, and money towards it.
However, sometimes this is unviable. Humans are multi-desirous. We love doing many things. We get burned out. It can be unfulfilling to dedicate your life to just one thing. This is why Williams’ #1 rule is difficult for many people to ascertain.
How to Be All Three
Right now, I have four clients with whom I consult at an hourly rate.
I’m also running Party Qs, Inc., a conversation-starter app on a mission to solve the problem of social anxiety and awkward silences (we’re growing at +1k MAUs and just turned on monetization). I’m the CQO, Chief Question Officer.
I’m also the editor-in-chief and writer for Entrepreneur’s Handbook and a self-published novelist.
I’m telling you this because I’m a consultant, writer, and entrepreneur. And it’s strenuous.
I have to be constantly aware of which hat I’m wearing. For the sake of my writing, my business, and my clients, I better have the right hat on at the appropriate time.
It’s similar to the employee who runs a side business at home. If that’s you, you’re probably aware of how important it is to keep your side business in its proper place and commit eight hours of your workday to your employer. Your employer is paying you a salary for your creativity, energy, and hard work — it would be unfair (and risky) for you to work on your own business during company time.
I don’t have a bulleted list of best practices or a process for how to balance multitudinous work identities, but I will say this: Use mental agility to keep it clean and clear. If you’re working as a consultant, employee, writer, and entrepreneur, make sure your mind and passion are aligned with what you’re working on.
Above, Ev Williams described the ideal way to work: one focus, one passion, one mind.
But for a multi-project person, you must cultivate a mental agility, the ability to take that same single-minded focus and passion and apply it nimbly and adaptably to one thing at a time, often several times a day, even within the same hour.
If you’re a consultant but also an entrepreneur, block out time for your client, and ditch your company to work purely for your client. Seriously. Forget your company. For those hours, give 100% to your client. Don’t rob them of your best work. If you can’t empathetically value your client’s company over your own company for a certain block of time, you shouldn’t be a consultant.
If you’re a writer but you run a business, forget your business when you write. Drop it. Write for your readers, write for yourself. Lose yourself to your thoughts. Don’t try to sell in your writing. Just tell the truth that’s inside you. Instantly — is how fast I pass on submissions to the Handbook when I detect a hint of company promotion (CTAs are exceptions). Don’t be an entrepreneur who writes for sales. Yuck.
If you’re an entrepreneur but you consult or write to make ends meet, be honest with yourself: Are you afraid to take risks and fail? If you really care about solving a pain in the world, it will likely drive you to take risks. Entrepreneurship always entails risk. Personally, this has been hard for me, to not to have a safe, hourly gig as a plan B. But it cripples your ambition to help the world (unless you’re satisfied with a side project). When it’s time to work on your own company, cultivate the mindset that it’s the only thing you’ve got. One of my favorite quotes about entrepreneurship:
“Teachers teach, coaches coach, and entrepreneurs fail. It’s part of the job.”
“Be where your feet are” is a four-second phrase thrown around by leadership coaches and athletes. But multi-talented people with multiple interests and passions can learn from it as well.
Whether you consult, write, or hit the pavement on a mission, make sure you’re aware of your motivation. Be alert to align it accordingly and train your brain to be agile with its focus.
For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have a single focus, we must learn to wield our focus with deftness. Control this mental agility well, and as a result, your work — and your rest — across the board, will be more effective and satisfying.