Why should consultants write books? For many years I have juggled at least two careers. In one career, I am a consultant, initially working for some of the largest consultancy firms, and since 2005 as an independent running my own niche consultancy Enixus. In the other career, I am a professional writer having published 12 non-fiction books, 1 novel and 5 shorter eBooks, not to mention dozens and dozens of articles. These are not completely separate careers. They overlap and much that I have written about relates to the work as a consultant, but they are not fully connected. I have written books completely unrelated to my consulting work.
Sitting on the side of these two main careers is other stuff I do such as speaking, and for the last decade being a part time philosophy student. Like many of the modern self-employed, my career is unique to me. A career in which I’m always juggling between roles.
Amongst all this, I want to focus on that one big overlap between being a writer and being a consultant to look at why consultants should write books. I wrote just then “look at” and not answer, because I don’t think there is a universal answer to this question. The answer depends on you. Most of the extremely successful consultants I know have never written a book. They are far too busy consulting to have the time to write. But I can name quite a few who have found the time, and perhaps you might become one of them too.
So why should consultants write books?
Let’s put the big elephant behind this question to bed right away. One reason people write is the idea that they will make money from the book itself. Now some people do make good money as an author, but they are few and far between. The average income of an author in the UK is some way south of £13,000 per annum according to the Society of Authors. Not nothing, but not really enough for most of us to contemplate living off. If you do make money, I can name lots of easier and less risky ways of going about it. Of course, you may just be that one in a million writer who makes a fortune.
So why write? For me, money aside, there are four reasons.
The first and best reason to write is simply because you like writing. I love it and am completely addicted to it. I write every single day. That does not mean I enjoy every time I sit down and write, but it does mean that on average I find writing as satisfying as anything else I do. If you are like this – go ahead, write. What are you waiting for?
The second reason is because you think you have something important, useful, helpful and different to say. Each of us has some ideas that will be useful to other people. Some of those ideas suit the format of a book. That sounds a pretty good reason to write one to me. Now writing it, and getting people to read it, are very different things as many authors with forgotten and unsold books know. But you have to start with the writing, and some of the best and most popular books started this way.
The third reason is because you want to develop your own thinking in some area. There is nothing like writing your ideas down, to really force you to deeply reflect on that thinking. There are lots of ideas that float around our heads and seem to make some kind of sense, but when we try to explain them to others, the ideas somehow get lost. Writing has that magical ability to structure and clarify ideas. I have learnt so much from every book I have written. In some cases, I thought I understood it before I started. I very quickly found out that I did not, but by writing I learnt.
The fourth reason is the one that generally interests consultants, and that is to establish your expertise in some domain. Having a book with your name on the cover is a really useful aide to establishing reputation and to showing expertise. It can be a fabulous marketing tool. But don’t get carried away expecting the world to flock to your door when you write a book. There are hundreds of thousands of books published in the UK alone every year. Standing out from the crowd is hard. Some people almost yawn when I say I am a writer, whilst others are deeply impressed. Well, you can never please everyone and for me there have been enough of those who are impressed.
For all the challenges of using a book to build your reputation and name it can work. There are many ways to publicise and promote a book, and it has worked for me. I have had lots of invitations to speak and to work as a consultant, on interesting engagements all over the world, simply because someone had read one of my books. This has been an excellent bonus and has made my consulting career a lot more colourful that it might otherwise have been.
I hope these thoughts help you decide if the writing a book is for you. If you are considering it – pick up a pen, a piece of paper and start scribbling, or open your laptop and tap away. Starting is usually the biggest challenge. You can work out the rest as you go along.