Author Meg Prater describes a consultant as a “person who is an expert in a particular field who gives professional advice to individuals and businesses on their area of expertise.”
The job market has become competitive, traditional career paths are diminishing and the lack of job security is becoming the new norm. If you have been toying with the idea of leaving your 8-5 job for your own consultancy, keep in mind that there is a lot at stake.
To quit the guaranteed salary and all the perks that come with employment, it is important to get a good understanding of what you are getting into to avoid silly mistakes. Here is how to be tactical about it:
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Build authoritative expertise
From its definition, consultancy requires one to be experienced enough to give dependable advice when their opinion is sought. Other than having the knowledge, mastering practical skills will help you bargain great deals.
In this fast evolving economy, keeping yourself refreshed and in touch with emerging industry trends is not negotiable. You have to provide a unique point of view. Study the industry to know if there is demand for the service you want to offer.
If you are unsure of what you are good at, check out your most commendable areas in performance evaluations. Do not disregard your side hustle; if it offers a better deal compared to your eight- five job, go for it.
You could be a renowned expert in your field and still lack in other aspects. No one has ever been 100 per cent good at everything. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.
Have strategies to outsource or manage where you fall short. Consultancy requires you to be excellent at boundary setting, meeting deadlines, organization and ability to meet client demands.
Consider getting accreditations where the consultancy is concerned. Getting certified will give you an edge and underscore your credibility.
You are your brand
Every capable consultant knows that values are a critical part of any company. Unlike in employment where an employee can easily fault the company as a whole, consultancy has everything hinged on you.
For you to run a credible consultancy, you have to have a good grasp of the values you live for. Your values and preferences will determine how you interact with your clients. Create a coherent system, with branded documents and maintain the same level of quality in different platforms.
Provide the necessary information to your clients, diagnose their problems, offer recommendations for corrective actions and assist with implementation of solutions. Facilitate learning and contribute to improving overall company performance. Learn when to say no when a client goes beyond your values and give yourself a break when you need to.
Do the math
Money matters. Inadequate planning results in financial anxiety especially in the startup weeks/months. When venturing into consultancy, ensure you have enough savings or credit offer to support the business for at least six months.
Most of the time, we have to pursue partnerships and investors to hit the ground running. What consultancy should offer you is the flexibility of time. Financial anxiety defeats the purpose of a consultancy in the first place.
Set your pricing structure considering what other consultants are charging in. Factor in performance, experience, workload and time to compensate yourself fairly. Do your taxes and cover expenses that you would enjoy when employed, such as health insurance and retirement funding.
Get the word out
You may be an excellent consultant but you won’t bring in the money if no one knows you. Thanks to technology, there are many cost-effective means of self-advertising. You can always seek the services of professional advertisers if your budget allows.
Decorate your portfolio with authentic success stories, launch a website and invest time in networking where you are most likely to find clients. Apart from making yourself known to potential clients, networking connects you with colleagues in the industry. It is one way to keep yourself updated with industry trends.
To create your position in the business, set goals for the short term and plan ahead for the next one, five and 10 years. Anticipate setbacks and purpose to review your business plan from time to time. This will allow to make necessary adjustments as the consultancy grows. Get your licenses and seek to connect with other consultants that offer complementary services.