Crafting a Consulting Career
By Leon Gettler
More and more managers are taking to consulting as a new career. There’s a good reason for that. Most businesses are focused on selling goods and services but consultants are in the business of selling knowledge, which makes it perfect for managers. It comes with leveraging your reputation as a leader and expert in the field and draws its strength from your experience and accomplishment. How do people make the transition?
Entrepreneur.com identifies several areas that are perfect for consultants: accounting, advertising, auditing, business, business writing, computer consulting, editorial services, executive search and head hunter firms, gardening, preparing grant applications, human resources, insurance, marketing, payroll management, public relations, publishing, taxes and writing services.
Cindy Tonkin at consultantsconsultant.com.au sets out a complete guide on how to become a consultant. It’s a good read, covering everything from creating a personal business plan, deciding where to work, getting the right equipment, knowing what to charge and managing cash, fast ways to generate business, getting work from existing contacts, marketing yourself and building new contacts and various professional associations.
The business know-how site advises anyone setting out to be a consultant to first of all assess their own skills and talents and work out what you can offer that’s so unique. Secondly, find a niche. Think carefully about where your interests lie, and how dedicated you believe you can be in serving other clients. Then research the field you are going into. Let’s say, for example, you have decided to become a human resources consultant. Who uses human resources consultants? Where is most of the work going to come from? How much money can a human resources consultant make? Will it be easy to find clients?
After that, you have to define your market. Will it be companies and large corporations, or individuals? Will it be non-profit organiszations or politicians?
Art Koff at MarketWatch says you are likely to need certain certifications as well as credentials for credibility and marketing. For example, I know some consultants who have gone out to get a PhD. Having Dr next to their name ensures more credibility and more work. Koff says process consultants should have Lean or Six Sigma certifications or rankings. Project managers should have a Project Management Professional certification; knowledge gaps,Facilities managers should have a Facility Management degree. Other industry specific credentials or certifications are desirable and sometimes a requirement.
“Before you start your practice you need to have your ducks in order including all necessary certifications and qualifications as well as a plan to market your services to perspective clients. Certainly the network you have established over the years must be maintained and expanded,’’ Koff writes.
Writing in Inc.com, Scott Steinberg says aspiring consultants should exploit specific knowledge gaps. Remember, clients are seeking outside expertise because they’re exploring unfamiliar problems, markets or methodologies. They need objective insight that their in-house people can’t provide. Focus on relationships, not revenues. Because the work is intermittent, it is better to knock on many doors and make a point of keeping in running contact with connections, and above all else, maintaining good rapport with them through your work. You have to be constantly on the lookout.