Becoming a Professional Consultant

A consultant is someone who provides professional or expert advice to another person or company for a fee. If you have advanced knowledge in a particular subject area and you consider yourself an expert, there is no reason that you cannot charge others for your opinions and guidance.

Consultants are usually hired on a project-by-project basis. They are not considered employees of the companies for which they are providing guidance or recommendations. Consultants are usually self-employed,  but they are sometimes employees of consulting firms.

Are you an Expert?

One of the easiest ways to become a consultant is to work for many years in a particular industry. While employed, an aspiring consultant must learn as much as possible about the industry and become known as a “go-to” person for questions and advice. After reaching the status of a leader in the industry, it can be relatively easy to transition into a consultant position.

Take Courses

If you are an expert in your professional field you might think it is unnecessary to take classes on how to be a successful consultant. However, courses that are available through companies such as Consultant Journal and Business Consulting Buzz teach professionals how to launch a consulting business, how to promote consulting services, and how to develop a marketing plan.

Will it Cost Money to Become a Consultant?

According to the website Consultant Journal.com, becoming a consultant can cost a little or a lot. The money that must be put into developing a professional consulting business depends on a few factors:

  • Does your profession require a license, certification or permits? If so, these items may cost a significant amount of money.

  • Are you going to need a designated office space or building to complete your job duties? Some professional consultants perform their jobs by visiting their clients at their offices or places of business. Other consultants must complete work at their own location. This can play a large role in the amount of capital necessary to start a consulting business.

  • Will you need to spend money advertising and marketing your consultant services? Some professional consultants are able to generate clients through word-of-mouth recommendations or through methods of networking. But, when a business is new it can be important to spend money on paid advertising.

  • Will you need to purchase equipment or supplies before offering your professional services? Some types of consulting businesses require more expensive items than others.

The exact dollar amount you will need to launch your consulting business will vary. If you intend to start your business slowly and grow your list of clients over time, your start up costs will be lower than they would be if you jump into your consulting career full-time.

Getting Clients to Choose You

Becoming a consultant is not easy. Even if you are an expert in your professional field and you know everything there is to know about a certain product or service, you will have competition from others. You may believe that you are the most competent and least expensive consultant available, but this may not be relevant if your potential clients already use and trust other consultants.

A few tips on how to gain clients

Offer initial consultations for free. Take the time to meet with potential clients and provide them with a product or service at no cost to them. If they like the product or service more than the product or service they receive from their current consultant, they are likely to switch to you.

Meet with potential clients to show them how your services can benefit them. Some businesses do not use consultants. But they might hire you if they believe you can provide them with something valuable.

Network! You must make an effort to meet with potential clients or sources of referrals in person. There are numerous professional leads organizations such as Le Tip International.  Read "Changing Careers" for further assistance in breaking into the consulting industry. 

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Consultant

Just like everything, there are both pros and cons associated with becoming a professional consultant.

Pros:

You are able to choose your own clients/customers.

You have the right to refuse work.

You will work on unique projects for each of your clients.

You can choose your own work hours.

You can take time off without asking for permission.

Cons:

You have to find your own clients.

You must spend your own money on advertising, marketing and office space.

You will not receive a regular paycheck.

You will have to purchase your own insurance (healthcare, malpractice, etc…).

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Written by Melanie Fischer, Career & Job Expert who has been writing professionally for over 10 years.