Starting a consulting business is a terrific way to parlay your expertise in a particular area into a career. The consulting field is rapidly expanding, as technology makes it easier for consultants to connect with potential clients. Businesses are recognizing the value of hiring consultants rather than needing in-house experts on areas that are not part of their daily business model.
If you are an expert in a particular niche and are passionate about teaching others, you will make a great consultant. To start your consulting practice, you will need:
- A business plan. Every new business needs a business plan. Creating a business plan, no matter how informal, helps solidify your goals for your business. Determine where you would like to see your practice in a year and five years and write down your goals. Next, brainstorm your ideas for how to achieve the goals you have set. A business plan will be fluid and change as your business grows.
- Determine if you are truly qualified to act as a consultant. If you question your overall knowledge, then consider extra training or education. Make sure you keep abreast of trends and changes in your area of expertise.
- Are you genuinely a people person? Your knowledge is valuable, but people skills will be necessary to work as a consultant.
- Identify your target market. Who are your potential clients? Once you can answer this question then you are prepared to sell your unique skills.
- Determine if you will need any certifications or special licensing to act as a consultant.
- Marketing and networking are necessary for success in consulting. Do you have an established network of contacts to start with? If not, how do you plan to develop contacts? Your marketing plan will be the most crucial step in developing a successful consulting practice. Consider taking the following steps:
- Have a website made that showcases your education, experience, and the best examples of your work. Add client testimonials as soon as you have them.
- Let everyone in your network know that you are now acting as a private consultant.
- Attend trade shows and other industry-specific events where you can meet and network with new contacts.
- Make sure you have a thriving LinkedIn account and keep it updated with examples of your work.
- Be prepared to cold call or visit potential clients. You need people to know about the service you provide. Get comfortable selling yourself and the knowledge you can provide.
Starting a consulting practice has advantages over attempting to start other types of business. These include:
- Low initial start-up cost. You can probably run your business from your home and may need no staff. If you do need an assistant, consider hiring a part-time virtual assistant.
- You will not have to commute on a daily basis. Not having to commute frees up both time and resources.
- As a consultant, your time will be bought in designated chunks. You will have the flexibility to determine how you invest your time between paid consulting jobs. Some forms of consulting may be done via technology and not require you to leave your home.
Once you have established a consulting practice, remember that you must stay up-to-date on knowledge and trends in your field. Someone who was a computer genius ten years ago, but has not followed technology trends in that time would no longer be an expert. Spend your time between consulting jobs expanding your knowledge base. The more you know, the more you are worth.