One of the things I have learned working as a self employed consultant for the government is that it is less stressful than my last full time job as an engineering executive. This is partly due to my semi-retired status but also due to the nature of the job of a self-employed consultant.
What makes it less stressful for me?
- No one is working for me. So no worries about their well being, no performance reviews, no requirement to assign work, etc.
- Few corporate processes and procedures other than the health and safety stuff that your customer might require you to follow. No employee satisfaction surveys, no HR forms, no training on the new pay and benefits system, no requests to join the Save-The-Whale committee.
- Little work during my personal time. I get paid by the hour and if I work after hours, I charge for it. Hence, I don't get much work after I have done my 8 hours.
- Less politics. Don't have to worry about being promoted. No one sees me as a threat. Have to get along with customer-employer but not much else in the way of politicking.
- Little pressure to perform at above a satisfactory level. As a full time employee, you are incented to work as hard and as well as you can by the rewards of bonuses, special awards (employee-of-the-month), higher raises, and promotions. A self employed consultant just gets paid an hourly rate. You cannot perform poorly, or your contract will be terminated, but there are no incentives to go above-and-beyond the call of duty.
- Less travel as customers usually don't want to send you to trade shows or meetings unless it is really necessary.
- Fewer meetings as the customer wants you to concentrate on your work and will not send you to a meeting that is not directly applicable to your project.
- Less worry about meeting big company objectives. The nature of the relationship is that a consultant does what they are contracted to do and can be let go after the project is done or at anytime for the convenience of the customer. Hence, you don't have as much commitment to the customer's business and are not as stressed about meeting big company objectives.
It is a surprise to experience a lower stress job like this, but as I said, it is partly the nature of the job and partly the nature of being semi-retired and not needing to work. Some of my consultant colleagues are under more stress as they are younger and have children at home and really need to have a reliable source of income. Consulting like this is not a reliable source of income and does not give you the satisfaction of advancing your career, these are disadvantages for people in a different situation.