It was three years ago this week when I resigned from my salaried job so that I could pursue a career as an independent AI consultant. Three years is a pretty long time in business and, in my mind, represents a kind of watershed – I’ve gone from ‘taking a chance’ in year one, to ‘keeping it going’ in year two, to actually creating a sustainable business in year three. Of course, no business model is completely sustainable, but it now feels like I have the momentum to keep this going for many years to come. It is no longer an experiment, no longer an optimistic hope, this is now me. This is what I do, and will probably continue to do for the remainder of my working career. And that feels good.
As I was reflecting on this over the past few days, I realised that I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. There are risks and challenges in working for yourself, of course – the feast and famine of money coming in, the responsibility for absolutely everything to do with the business (from finding work to filing VAT returns) – but these are far outweighed by the opportunities I get to talk to and advise some of the most interesting people in the world about the hottest technologies in the world right now, RPA and AI. I get the chance to speak to hundreds of people at a time at conferences and to write for global audiences, including the opportunity to write my own newsletter and my own book.
The other thing that working for myself has given me is the autonomy to do the work that I want to do and that I enjoy doing. So far, that has also aligned with work that people want to pay me for, which is probably luck more than anything else. It is also means I can, to a large extent, choose to work with people I enjoy working with. When I am qualifying new opportunities, the biggest criteria for me are whether the work will be enjoyable and whether the people are nice. That’s a lovely position to be in, and I am thankful for that every day.
The work that I have been doing over the three years has changed focus slightly, mainly because of the factors I’ve just described. Artificial Intelligence has become a much bigger part of my work now than when I started – the increase in hype and excitement around the technology means that the work that I do to demystify it and bring it back down to earth is more important than ever. And as I keep saying to everyone that will listen, the value from AI can be orders of magnitude greater than any other technology, including RPA. And we are only just at the start of realising its full potential.
So, three years later, and I’m cautiously optimistic that this little business of mine has real legs. I’m constantly re-evaluating whether I am doing the right thing (should I create an AI consultancy business, should I diversify into Blockchain, etc) but, right now, it feels just right. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.