Are you tired of working for someone else? Do you want a flexible schedule? These are a couple of the reasons why individuals pursue their independence by becoming a consultant. Other reasons include being laid off or a desire to find their passion.
Currently there are over 80,000 consultants and this number is growing every year. A consultant typically provides a service; is an expert in a special area. A good consultant has developed this expertise through years of experience in a specific line of work. One individual I know worked in the marketing field for over 10 years and then decided to pursue a career as a marketing consultant. Examples of other types of consultants include: computer consultant, research and development consultant, and career consultant.
Consultants typically have certain characteristics common to successful entrepreneurs. Those include being a calculated risk taker, proactive, highly innovative and flexible, and disciplined. While entrepreneurship is not an all-or-none trait, it can be viewed in the context of a range of behaviors. The good news is that you do not have to be born with these hits! You can develop them over time with a little desire and hard work.
Try the Seven Stories exercise to see if being a consultant makes sense for you. Start by brainstorming 25 accomplishes over the course of your life. They can include achievements from your childhood along with work-related accommodations. For example, maybe you had a Kool-Aid stand as a child and earned enough money to purchase a brand new bicycle. Or maybe in your current job you are taken out by co-workers as the expert at solving the company's customers' problems.
Keep in mind your accomplishments need to be something you did well and enjoyed doing. Next, select your top seven, ranked according to the satisfaction they provided. Then, on a separate page for each of the seven, write down all that went into that accomplishment: list the roles you played, the skills required, the types of people you worked with. Once you have the seven achievements, next look for threads, for the common denominators. Do you see a common thread of helping others and / or being seen as the expert?
Let's say you are interested in being a consultant and your Seven Stories exercise and other assessments indicate that a career as a consultant is a good move for you. Next you will want to develop a business plan to see if it's a viable option.
The Business Plan
Establishing your independent consulting practice generally starts with developing a business plan. A business plan is the document you use to manage and control your practice. You can refer to it to see if you are on track. You will also need a business plan if you want to borrow money from a bank or investors.
The next step involves making some logical decisions; including choosing an office location, determining what office equipment is needed, and deciding on a location to hold client meetings.
What Do Consultants Do?
Consultants listen, investigate, analyze, recommend, catalyze change, and implement. Effective consulting requires proficiencies in interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Interpersonal skills including presentation skills and professional materials, relationship building capabilities, listening / communication skills, time management skills, and conflict resolution. Intrapersonal skills include persistence, the ability to prioritize activities, and being a global thinker.
Now you're ready to market your expertise. Target marketing is the key to building long-term clients. How and where do you get clients? Clients can be found through referrals from satisfied customers, professional organizations, partnerships, the Internet, direct mail, and press releases. Every time I go to a conference I submit a press release to my local newspaper. This is an effective and free way to get your name out. I also joined a local professional organization which has replied in several referrals.
When determining if you want to work with a prospective client, you need to ask some questions. "Will this project help me and my business?" If it's not part of your marketing strategy and will not help you, do not do it.
Setting fees is another consideration. There are several optional ways to set fees. The cost-plus approach, the marketing approach, or calculating your hourly rate based on your salary and multiplying times three. Most consultants charge somewhere in the range of $ 50 to $ 300 / hour. Do not sell yourself short! How much your services are worth depends on your industry. Market research will help you determine your worth. The more technical, specialized, or new your field, the less competition, and there before the higher the price you can charge. Your experience and background is another determining factor. Also find out what your competition is charging by calling and requesting a brochure. Some consultants offer a discount or different rates for non-profits.
Many consultants submit a proposal to their potential client that contains the scope of the project, anticipated consequences, action plan, price, and payment terms.
Proposals and Reports
If the client agrees to the proposal, your next step is to draw up a contract. Not all consultants use a contract; it depends on the type of service you provide. A contract is an agreement between two or more parties to do something in return for something of value. A contract with your signature and that of the client will prevent confusion and allow you to explain any extra charges that may occur should the client add on services not listed in the contract.
After the project is finished, some consultants write up a final report. In some cases, it will be the only product that your client will receive from you. Some key elements to include in the report include an executive summary, project background and scope, methodology, findings and conclusion, recommendations, implementation guidelines, and summary of benefits.
Consulting can be a rewarding career option, utilizing your expertise to help others. If you've got what it takes and are looking for a change, join the growing rankings of consultants!