Barring a large inheritance or winning a major lottery, most people will work for 40+ years of their lives. You will likely make a dozen or more job changes during that timeframe. Some may be due to significant responsibility shifts within a single organization. In today’s environment, however, it is more likely you will be changing companies and perhaps, even the type of responsibilities of your various roles.

In addition to working for private or public sector employers, you may find a time when you are considering working for yourself. Circumstances that influence that direction are not always planned or by choice. If you make the decision to own and manage every aspect of what is best described as Me, Inc., you will need to develop a strategy for success.

If you decide to continue seeking work with an employer other than yourself, you will be running two companies with different objectives and marketing strategies. And they may be competitors for each other. While not entirely mutually exclusive due to cross over exposure of you as a brand, I would recommend that you concentrate most of your efforts on one or the other. 

If you decide that you want to be a consultant and work for yourself, you have two possible directions. First, make yourself available as an independent third-party contractor and work on projects on behalf of the firm who has the contractual relationship with the client. On the second path you take the lead in developing and executing contracts for services directly with clients and do the work yourself, have employees on staff, or hire other independent contractors to perform the work. 

To execute either of these approaches effectively, even on an interim basis, you will still need to develop a business plan, determine what your legal structure will be, and obtain the necessary registrations, licenses and insurances before you begin operations. Some key elements in that planning should include asking yourself the following questions:

What is the purpose of the business? The term security consultant is far too broad. One cannot be all things to all customers. Focus on an area you excel at that you can then effectively market to potential clients. Define what problem your product or service solves.

What are my financial and strategic objectives to sustain my business over the next 3 to 5 years?

Who are my customers? Identify and understand specifically who your potential customer is.

What is my market and how do I plan to reach them? Putting up a website and sending an email blast to friends and colleagues is not a marketing plan. Knowing your market and where they are will allow you to better focus your messaging.

How am I going to reach these customers? Develop materials, tools and communication methods that are most effective.

Who is my competition and what is the advantage or differentiator to using my services? There are thousands of security consultants who have set up small companies to assist with a wide range of security issues. Ask yourself what makes you different and how you plan to compete in this very crowded market.

How will I price, position, market and support my services? Complete a thorough market analysis of your chosen service to better understand this. Calculate your personal financial needs, anticipated operating costs and accommodate planning for sustainability. One approach in determining your rate is to anticipate that you can annually bill 1,040 hours, the equivalent of 50% of a full-time employee, to cover all your costs including salary, benefits and taxes.

For many who have chosen careers in corporate security, the thought of being self-employed can feel like free falling off a cliff without a parachute. It is challenging on the other side of the table for those whose only experience is working for others.

However, it can be very rewarding and educational, and it can provide you with new skills and perspectives that will be invaluable should you choose to return to an organization at some point. It can also provide a sense of accomplishment and put you in control of your future.