How To Create a Job by Creating a Consulting Career


In late February 2001 at 7.30 at night I got fired on the phone.  As I remember it was raining.  I was Executive Vice President and Partner of an advertising agency.  Who cares?  Four days later I had my Hank Blank business cards and my consulting career began.  I knew a lot about working but I knew absolutely nothing about consulting.

Thus began one of the most interesting and exciting and frightening decades of my life as I totally reinvented what I do and how I do it.  I have created ten years of income and self employment.

As readers of my blog know, I do a lot of networking.  This is what I see.  Some of the very capable people that I network with have now been out of work for going on two years.  They face questions from hiring managers asking them why they haven’t been hired in a long time.  If those hiring manager were in transition they could be in the same boat but since they have a job they get to ask the stereotypical questions not aligned with today’s reality.

It doesn’t appear things on the job front are going to improve or change in the immediate future.  There are still jobs but robust job hunting may never return.  This recession started in the middle of 2007 is entering its fourth year.

Ten years ago I started my career basically in a year of recession.  It was a few months before 9/11. I have been able to survive for ten years, paid my mortgage, raised a couple of great kids but I had to totally reinvent myself.  I was wired for working but not wired for consulting and creating a job for myself each and every day.  I had to totally reinvent my skills to have a consulting practice.

The job I had in advertising ten years ago as a Senior New Business person doesn’t exist in large numbers anymore like many other jobs.  It went the way of overhead machines, acetates, receptionists, and vacations.  In ten years I have heard about two openings with that title.  There are plenty of Junior jobs but not the job that I had.

I am going to write a blog or two on developing a consulting career.  First consulting is not for the faint of heart.  As I mentioned you have to create a job for yourself each and every day.  A consultant is basically perpetually unemployed.  That is why I relate to people in transition.  They are constantly hunting for work and I am constantly hunting for work.

Then there are no benefits, no healthcare insurance and no vacations unless you succeed and can provide those benefits for yourself or your partner can provide them.  No car allowance, no expense accounts, no bonuses unless you earn enough to provide those perks.

The first capability you need to have to succeed as a consultant if the ability to adapt and reinvent yourself.  Recently I have been speaking in Calgary, Washington D.C. and Palm Springs on New Business Development and Networking.  I will be speaking in Baton Rouge, Scottsdale, Orange County and other cities later this month.  Ten years ago I didn’t speak to companies and organizations about networking.

I recently completed an agency review for a client.  Ten years ago I didn’t do agency reviews.  I had been in plenty but never been paid to conduct them.  I have done reviews for companies such as Jenny Craig, Villeroy & Boch, Raley’s Supermarkets and Jacuzzi.

Reinvention is key to successful consulting. If my skills were the same as ten years ago I would be in dire straits. Are you reinventing yourself or are you staying the same and getting left behind?

More to come.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

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19 thoughts on “How To Create a Job by Creating a Consulting Career

  1. Great words Hank. I’ve been struggling for the last 3 1/2 years. With 24 notice I was laid off as Marketing Director for a major Lasik surgery company where I had been extremely successful for 6 years in creating brand awareness and growing the practice. The last 2 years I’ve had 2 positions (one in sales-not a good fit, or at a good time, and one as a part-time marketing director for an orthodontic start-up that never really started up. (issues with funding and hiring the correct orthodontist). So now after not working at all for a year, I’m at a loss. 12 years ad agency experience, 3 years running my own print broker business, a handful of years in printing sales and almost 15 years in corporate marketing/marketing communications. I’m single with 2 kids in college, so no one to depend on for health benefits. I’m currently taking courses through UCI to obtain a Spa Management certificate, as nothing in the advertising/marketing world seems to be out there for me.

  2. Hank,
    Excellent post. In the past 2 and a half years that I have known you, your story and your encouragement has been a great inspiration to me and the reinvention of my career. I am looking forward to reading the follow-up posts.

    For all of Hank’s readers, I highly recommend the purchase of his CD’s as they have been invaluable to me in developing my own networking philosophy.

  3. Hank, I have always admired you and your drive.
    There are a bunch of us in this situation, once VPs and above with ad and marketing agencies, now finding that account director positions are few and far between, and the positions that do exist are filled with junior level people half our age making half what we used to make working twice the hours.
    I personally have stepped back into an account manager role, digging my heels in and just trying to survive, do good work and get results.
    Consultant work is great, if you can get it, and keep it. I was able to consult for 2.5 years with a major healthcare company.

  4. Hank. Great post. Reinventing yourself on a job hunt journey is certainly the key to finding work; which I am never afraid of. I really don’t want another J.O.B. (Just Over Broke, as I like to put it) which should scare anyone. Identifying the skills you have and interests will help a job seeker transition into a new career. Yes, the competition is tough in today’s market and many job seekers are giving up the fight instead of fighting on. Hiring managers and HR people that have never faced a period of unemployment have no clue what it is like and cannot identify with long term unemployed. They think there is something wrong with those that have not had a JBO with a company in a long time.
    I faced the same situation in 2010 that you faced 10 years ago. After knocking on doors, checking the for open positions, and networking, I found consulting to be much more fun and rewarding. It will be more financial rewarding in time as I build my client base and work portfolio.
    There are always jobs out there. You never want to give up looking for work.

  5. Dan Velarde

    Hi Hank,
    Awesome blog!! After reading this I was very encouraged. I couldn’t agree with you more about re-inventing yourself and getting current with todays methods instead of relying what we knew 10 years ago. Its exactly what I have been doing, learning new strategies and learning new branding skills to align myself to stand out from the masses.

    Thanks for sharing

  6. Hank,

    I’ve done something similar, but in a different capacity. Being a recent college grad, I was faced with the mentality that there were no jobs available, and that I needed to accept something less that what I wanted. Obviously this is not what I wanted to hear. Finding a job in social media is definitely an uphill battle, and not having the 3-5 years of experience required for the most basic level jobs is problematic. So, I decided to start doing my own small consulting. As there are many small businesses that just don’t “get” the Web 2.0 boom, I figured that my experience and knowledge could benefit others.

    I have since been reinventing myself, much as you have done. I have been learning web design, studying the most recent social media trends, and networking as much as possible. I am still job searching, but I am using this time now as a way to learn new and applicable things. As I am learning new things, I think my skills will begin to far exceed those doing traditional agency work.

    My question is this: how do you convert your consulting experience to experience into experience that an employee will consider? There seems to be a lot of weight placed on “agency” experience.

  7. Thank you for your inspiration Hank! I have been following your blog for a while and it’s always enlightening.. I have been fired from my corporate job recently and I have decided to pursue my own marketing, internet and consulting business. With a handful of clients, I am quickly on my way to replacing my corporate income. How did I accomplish this? Networking!

  8. True words, Hank. Change and adaption are what’s driving many industries today, especially those of us in creative fields. I would like to add these thoughts: May sound corny, but follow your passions and believe in yourself. And, one more thing. If you decide to go into business for yourself, run it like a business. Don’t give away your services.

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