Consulting suffers when you depend on pleasing the end client and become reliant on a regular paycheck.
It’s why so many consulting engagements are nothing more than resource augmentation and expensive staffing, rather than a driver for change organisations so desperately need. Many clients cannot fully articulate the actual organisational need from the outset, and it (should be) the consultant’s job to help figure that out rather than take instructions and commissions at face value.
Organisational complexity can make acting as a good consultant very difficult because, usually, at certain points in every engagement, saying no, standing your ground, and explaining why the client is headed for a certain disaster is called for. Interventions bring conflict and cause uncomfortable feelings; knowingly doing this is harder when you are an independent consultant with mouths to feed at home.
Sometimes the consultant, through years of industry experience and acute listening, can quite clearly see what the client needs, but finding the right opportunity to seed the idea is the actual job at hand. Sometimes you might lack the formal remit and be doing something else, but waiting for the right moment to educate the client would be in their best interest.
I’ve turned down good perm offers, offered to recruit my own replacement, and occasionally walked away from a bad situation (only to be hired back in a few months later with the actual remit I needed). My communication is sometimes hampered by my autism, but equally, I’ve never had a client doubt the sincerity of my actions even if they didn’t fully understand them.
I really love being a consultant and fundamentally believe in the power of being external and independent. Temporarily risking my own income at key points of the engagement, in the service of the client, is something I’m not afraid to do.