One of the top questions I get asked is how to become a consultant. Consulting is certainly attractive work because you get to set your own hours and be your own boss.
Before you quit your day job and hang up your consulting shingle, however, there are a lot of questions you need to answer. How do you become a consultant for a business? Should you specialize in a particular area or work as a generalist? Where and how do you find clients? How do you build your consulting business?
With my years of experience, I have the answers to these questions. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to become a business consultant.
Identify Your Areas of Expertise
Before you dedicate yourself to becoming a consultant, you need to determine if you’re qualified. If you want to advise someone else, you have to know how to do that thing yourself first.
Just because you have an interest in a given area doesn’t make you an expert on that topic. To be a successful consultant, you must have the training and experience necessary to solve your clients’ problems. You can’t fake it.
That said, there may be multiple areas in which you have expertise. That presents another choice. You can market yourself as a consultant in multiple areas or choose which area presents the biggest opportunity for you. Look for those areas that you are not only qualified in, but also have the biggest demand for your services. However, you may not want to spread yourself too thin.
Choose Your Target Market
Once you’ve selected the area in which you’ll be consulting, you need to identify your potential customer base. It may be tempting at first to cast a wide net (any business is better than no business, right?) but in the long run, you’ll find more success by focusing on a smaller target market.
How you present your services will differ depending on what size business you target. You want to be clear not just about the services you offer, but also for whom you offer those services.
For example, you may want to target smaller or independently-run businesses in your area of expertise. Small businesses often hire third-party consultants to fill the gap that they simply don’t have with a smaller employee or management base for. On the other hand, you might find it more profitable to target larger businesses that have larger budgets for consulting and other services.
You may also want to define your target market geographically. While you can travel to distant clients, or offer some services online or via phone, you may find it more convenient to work with clients closer to home.
Set Your Rates
Knowing what services you offer and what clients you target will help you set the rates. Certain types of businesses and areas of consulting have different expectations as to what they’re willing to pay.
For example, you’ll need to decide whether to charge by the hour, day, or job. You should research what similar consultants in your area are charging, and how.
Know, however, that when you’re first starting out you probably won’t be able to charge as much as more established consultants. You’ll need to build up your experience and your client base before you charge higher fees.
Create Your Own Unique Value Proposition
Why should a client choose you instead of another consultant? Here’s where you need to think like a marketer and establish your own unique value proposition – that is, what you offer that competitors don’t. Consider your unique experience, skills, services that you bring to the table. That unique difference is what you need to stress to potential clients.
Build Your Online Presence
Speaking of promoting your services, establishing an online presence is critical. That includes not just having an email address, but also an informative and easy-to-use website. You should also establish a presence on social media, especially on those forums frequented by your target audience.
LinkedIn is a good place to start, but look for websites and blogs popular with your client base and start posting there. The more visible you are online, the more potential clients will value your expertise.
Build Your Network
Another place to find potential clients is among people you know. That means building a network of business contacts. Do you know anyone who works in your target area or audience? You need to let people know that you’re in business and looking for referrals.
Generate Leads and Close Sales
Consulting is also about marketing and selling. You need to find potential clients and sell them on your services. That means using your online presence and network of contacts to identify potential clients that you can contact through email or in person.
You also need to develop the sales skills necessary to convert leads into customers. If you’re not comfortable promoting yourself, this will be more difficult.
Build Your Business
Building your network of business partners helps to grow your business. Every client you attract should serve as a gateway to additional clients. When you finish a job, ask the client to recommend five other potential businesses that might have need of your services and then follow up on those referrals. Over time, you’ll grow your client base and establish a successful consulting business.
Let Mapertunity Help You Become a Successful Consultant
Ready to become a consultant in your own field or in business management? Mapertunity is the world’s first fully transparent, interactive job map. We help people find the right job in the right location. We can help you find the job of your dreams – or potential clients for your consulting services.