Consulting in a COVID-19 World

Working anywhere has been a part of my life for the last three years. It began with little advance planning and more as a thirst to try something new and break from the shackles of a 9-to-5 job. So just like that, I quit a high-paying, high-benefits full-time position, which also came with high stress because, well, everything has an undisclosed price, and began exploring my options.

I got my first consulting gig after taking an interview in my car, parked in front of a kids’ party place where my daughter was invited to a birthday bash. I didn’t want to miss the interview, but also had to fulfill my motherly chauffeuring duties. My daughter had been talking about this birthday for days. We simply had to make it!

I arrived ahead of schedule, dashed inside with my little one, made sure she was in safe hands, and walked back to my car as the parking attendant looked on, intrigued. I smiled and explained I had important business to take care of in the comfort of my own vehicle, which was the quietest place around. There it began — the interview that landed me my first consulting contract with an international organization, later renewed multiple times, eventually stretching over a period of 16 months.

I alternated my working space between the balcony, my living room sofa, and the neighborhood coffee shop; upgraded my internet connection and mobile phone plan; bought a new laptop and smartphone, et voilà! For the first six months, most of my work came from a couple of clients, often leading to more assignments and eventually new clients based on referrals. Over time, it became increasingly difficult to juggle multiple requests and contracts at the same time. I had to walk a fine line between retaining repeat clients, building relationships with new ones, and keeping my sanity.

Keylime made it possible to take on work at a pace I could manage, gain a degree of stability, and better control the chaotic aspects of my independent consulting life.

Joining Keylime came at a time when I was hitting burnout stage despite my best efforts to learn to say “no,” get on a schedule, and manage different time zones without losing sleep or skipping bedtime rituals with my daughter. Keylime made it possible to take on work at a pace I could manage, gain a degree of stability, and better control the chaotic aspects of my independent consulting life. I was able to secure relatively long-term assignments with the flexibility to intensify or slow down work depending on client needs and my personal life choices — a win-win all around.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, it was for the most part business as usual for me when it came to work despite the monumental changes we’re all going through as far as social life and personal lifestyles are concerned. The toughest part has been juggling work, home schooling, and household management, which has made scheduling of virtual work meetings in between homework supervision, food deliveries, and incessant hand-washing, disinfecting, and other coronavirus-related behaviors all the more challenging. But, in the big scheme of things, it’s been a challenge easy to handle.

After watching many of my friends lose jobs, scale down businesses, or get pay cuts, I count myself lucky to still be able to work at a similar intensity as pre-corona days. With its global clientele, Keylime continued to provide me with steady assignments, carefully matching me with employers whose expectations fit my abilities to deliver.

COVID-19 may have changed the world as we know it. And while we face so many uncertainties, from the most basic questions about when we’ll feel safe to visit friends or go to the gym again, to higher-order issues such as how the future of our global economy will evolve, one thing is for sure — working better and smarter is no longer an essential skill for professional consultants, but a necessary aspect of any career in the post-coronavirus world.

    Susanne Barsoum

    Susanne Barsoum