How to Be a Consultant
A consultant is someone who can help businesses identify their problem areas and discover new opportunities available to them, thus being a part of what makes that business grow. Consulting requires a lot of knowledge and a strong commitment. Here are some things you'll need to consider before setting up your consultant business.
Landing a Job
Polish your resume.This may be the first impression an employer gets of you, so don’t cut corners. Now that you have the skills and requirements to make a splash in your particular field, make sure your resume explains why you’re the right person for the job.
- Have a clearly defined goal
- List your employment history. Don’t sell yourself short here or take anything for granted, you never know what you’ve done that an employer might find interesting or worthwhile.
- List awards or other achievements. If you don’t have an extensive work history, you can lead with educational achievements, contests won, or community service/outreach you’ve had experience with
- Overall, be clear, concise and check dutifully for any spelling or grammatical errors.
Line up references.Never underestimate the power of a good reference. Understanding who to use and why is a strategy that could be just as helpful as your air-tight resume.
- List someone you’ve worked with. Most employers will want to know about your work style and attitude, so choose someone with whom you’ve had a positive working relationship.
- List a professor. If you’re fresh out of school and haven’t had a chance to build a positive working relationship yet, you can select a professor or advisor from school that is familiar with you and your work.
- Select people who want to see you succeed as much as you do.
- Make sure they know enough about you so that they express your strengths, areas of expertise, and development.
- Overall, make sure that it’s someone you feel good about having as a reference.
Be persistent.Even with a good education, a shining resume, and a list of the world’s best references, it can be difficult to land a job. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing something wrong. It means that there’s a lot of competition out there. Don’t give up if employers don’t respond to your resume right away. Keep looking, learn from your experiences, and have confidence in your abilities.
Going into Business for Yourself
Decide whether to start your own practice or join an existing one.You have the experience and know you’re ready to consult. Choosing whether you want to go it alone, or work with an established firm is an important decision and there are multiple things to consider.
- Working for yourself – some Pros:
- Builds your self-esteem. Any success you have is going to be based on your hard work and decision making. It can be a deeply satisfying experience.
- Control. You’re in charge! You pick the jobs. You set the hours. You can work from home if you feel like it.
- Tax advantages. You may now be able to take advantage of some worthwhile tax deductions. Check with an advisor before going overboard.
- Great income opportunities. Your hard-work and dedication could reap huge rewards, and since you’re the one at the top, you don’t have to stress out about getting your cut.
- Working for yourself – some Cons:
- Long hours. Getting a business off of the ground is a lot of hard work. Just because you can sleep in and work from home, doesn’t mean that you can get away with this all the time.
- No guaranteed salary. Whether or not you make any money is now entirely dependent on you. A lot of the perks that you may have taken for granted like sick leave and paid vacations are probably out the window, also.
- A lot of responsibility. All the paperwork and operational chores are now on you, but even more than that, the fate of the business is also on your shoulders. It can be a large burden to bear.
- Working for yourself – some Pros:
Calculate business costs.If you’re going into business for yourself, you’re going to need to supply yourself with everything you need. This may vary from situation to situation, but some important things to consider are:
- Office rental
- Services such as internet, phone, security, etc. for your office
- Office supplies
- Travel expenses
- Fees for any pertinent licenses or certifications required to run your business
Work out the legal stuff.You need to make sure your business is legitimate, or else you can run into some serious problems down the road. These are just a few items to consider, but you can learn more .
- Taxes. You need to determine your tax obligations. The four basic types of business taxes levied by the federal government are: income tax, self-employment tax, taxes for employers, and excise taxes.
- You will have to select the form of your business. This will also play into the tax forms you’ll need to file. These are the common forms a business can take:
- Sole Proprietorship
- S Corporation
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- Your state income taxes may also vary depending on the form of your business and where you’ll be operating.
Find an office space.Depending on how you plan to work it, you can rent an office or work from a home office.
- Renting an office will be more expensive, but may also have a more professional feel.
- Working from home can save you money, but you may also have to keep yourself motivated in that environment and not give into the urge to relax at home.
- Make sure you select a location that gives you the best opportunity to communicate with your customers and effectively meet their needs.
Set the office up.Organization is going to be the key to your company’s success, especially when you’re just getting started. You’ll most likely need:
- A thorough filing system. Keeping track of client information as well as any vital legal or tax forms for your company will be crucial to your success.
- Hardware. This includes phones, computers, printers, routers, and anything else you may need.
- Set up any services that you may need , such as phone, internet, security, etc.
- Give yourself a comfortable place to work. Make sure you create an environment that you can perform well in.
Set goals.This will be very helpful in keeping yourself on task and will make you feel a sense of accomplishment when you start achieving what you set out to do.
- Here are some examples of short-term goals:
- Set a number of potential new clients to contact in a day, a week, or a month and then try to beat that number.
- Build relationships with other people who can help you. They may not be paying you, but sometimes building out your professional network can lead to opportunities that you couldn’t access before.
- Spend a month or so analyzing the competition and piece together a new marketing strategy that differentiates you from them.
- For long-term goals, you may want to consider:
- Turning a profit. This should be first and foremost on your mind. It may take a while, but keep your eye on the prize.
- Double your revenue. Maybe you’re profitable already, but you can always be doing more. Set a goal to double your take by the end of the next fiscal year.
- Plan for expansion. Think about what comes next after you’ve been successfully operating for at least a year. Consider taking on more office space, or possibly taking someone else on.
- Here are some examples of short-term goals:
Advertise.You need to get your name out there, and you’re a one-person marketing department so be prepared to work for it. Here are some ways to spread your name and get recognition:
- Network. Go to industry events and make yourself visible. Engage in conversations and make contacts.
- Cold calling. It’s not everyone’s favorite thing to do, but business won’t just walk up to you and hand you money. Hit the phones and try to drum up some business.
- Public speaking. Offer to speak at events on topics you have expertise in. This visibility and demonstration of knowledge will be very attractive to prospective clients.
Publish materials.Writing a book, article, editorial piece, or even maintaining a blog can get you recognition as a noted authority in your field.
Spread the word.You’ve probably made some contacts in your career thus far; don’t be afraid to ask them to put you in contact with people they may know.
Ask satisfied clients to spread the word.Don’t be afraid to use a referral from a satisfied customer to help get your name out there.
- Ask for their permission before using their name.
- See if they’ll give you a quote in writing that you could use in an ad or on your website.
Expand Your Business
Keep up on trends.This is your life now, and you’ve set yourself up to be an expert, so you have to stay up to date with the most current trends, news and events in your field.
- Read industry news, magazines and blogs.
- Attend events conferences frequently. These are just as useful as learning experiences as they are networking opportunities.
Keep up to date.Tax laws and business regulations can change and it’s up you to stay on top of them. You could always check in with the
Keep learning.Your education should never stop. Strive to be at the forefront of your field and maintain your cutting edge.
- Consider an advanced degree in your field if you haven’t already received one.
- Attend seminars that are designed to teach new practices or reveal new advancements in your industry.
- Adapt quickly to change so that you can maintain your position as an authority in the field.
Education and Experience
Choose a consulting field.Pick a field that you're not only an expert in, make sure that it's something you're passionate about. You can consult for just about any type of business, but here are some of the most popular fields (see a longer list ).
- Public Relations
Get the degree.In most cases, a bachelor's degree in a related field is the bare minimum for becoming a consultant. An advanced degree, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) will greatly improve your chances, especially when paired with courses in the following:
- Strategic Management
- Consulting Practices
- Business Development
Get a license.Even though you may be working for yourself, you have become a business and may need to take the proper legal steps before operating. These steps may vary depending on the state your operating within and the type of business you'll be consulting.
- For example, a financial consultant should have certificates for Financial Planning (FP) and the Member of the Society of Financial Advisors (MSFA).
- Fund-raising consultants don't need special certification, although you can become certified through the National Society of Fund Raising Executives. And in some states, you may need to register as a professional fund-raising consultant before starting your business.
Take an internship.If you've just graduated, this is a terrific way to learn the ropes of a business without being too bogged down by the corporate process. You'll see a lot and most likely have an opportunity to work on multiple projects, thus expanding your knowledge of the business.
Video: What the heck does a consultant DO, exactly? - Management Consulting 101
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