I'm at a point in my life and career where I might try to be my own consultant/independent contractor. Really, I just want to kick it around and see if it would be at all feasible. I don't have the luxury of not making a living for my family, so this isn't about "starting my own planning firm" merely as a resume-filler.
I know I have strong skills and experience for certain types of planning work, but I don't know how I would actually obtain a sustainable flow of work, other than to get into touch with a few contacts who worked with my old employer (well-known regional planning firm in CA).
So I've been thinking about how to market myself and the services I can provide. Obviously, you can't go after RFQs/RFPs like a firm can, because you don't have the resources and personnel to be a primary contractor. So you need to market yourself in a support position to those firms, where they can sub out work that they don't want to do themselves. The previous firm I worked for in CA would often contact individuals who had the experience to do substantial portions of the work (writing environmental reports, responses to public comments, general plan sections, etc.), and one of the things I was continually mystified by was how often these people (who we'd often pay about $50/hr) apparently had decades of experience but the quality (or delivery) of their work wasn't as good as what I could do in-house, or just didn't really seem like anything special. These were very well respected planners who you'd see at conferences, local mixers, who knew all the city managers and planning directors, etc., but when it came to actually doing the work, they didn't deliver a high-quality product. So they had the professional reputation without the actual expertise. In my case, I feel like I have the expertise, but not a comparable reputation.
I know the following about my abilities and marketable skills: High attention to detail, ability to process and make order out a large amount of information, ability to see things from a larger perspective and what needs to happen so projects get finished, broad technical skillset, creative solutions to sticky issues, communicating in high-pressure environments, working effectively in a support capacity or taking the lead, as needed. Experience in environmental impact analysis and review (CEQA and NEPA), long-range planning, development review, space management, facility planning, graphics, high-volume document production, etc.
So, what are some ideas about 1) how to market yourself--as a sole professional--to entities which may want to hire an independent contractor, and 2) actually get the work. Do you think this is really possible without having a lot of personal contacts who you've worked with before? I can make a few phone calls right now and ask if they, or someone they know, would like some work done, but I really don't know where to begin when it comes to getting work in this manner outside the word-of-mouth realm.
Any tips or ideas would be very much appreciated.