With companies pushing their employees off the plank into the sea of financial and professional uncertainty, one of the best options to take control of one's career is to start a consulting practice. A consulting practice is a good way to regain your self-esteem and an even better way to generate revenue.

I can speak from experience. A company I had run was bought by another company, and I had no immediate options. I always hated interviewing and preferred to have more control over my life.

Remember, companies still need professionals with a variety of skills but can't afford to hire full-time people. You don't need many tools to start your own practice, especially with available software, Internet, hardware and online services. Here are the essentials:

1. Microsoft Office 2007: With this ( MSFT) product, you can save contacts, send e-mails and word documents, create presentations and financial spreadsheets, design Web sites and put together newsletters.

2. QuickBooks or Peachtree First Accounting: You need to keep track of income and expenses. Both products are very good. I prefer Peachtree because I find it more intuitive, which is ironic since the maker of QuickBooks is called Intuitive. For those uncomfortable with accounting software, you can easily do the same functions by using Microsoft Excel.

3. Tax planning: Intuit's ( INTU) Turbo Tax for Home and Business is the best product on the market. It's the easiest piece of software I've ever used. If you use QuickBooks, you can download information directly into Turbo Tax. The software also allows you to plan for the following year's taxes.

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