Consulting As a Career Option

Are you tired of working for someone else? Do you want a flexible schedule? These are a couple of the reasons why individuals pursue their independence by becoming a consultant. Other reasons include being laid off or a desire to find their passion.

Currently there are over 80,000 consultants and this number is growing every year. A consultant typically provides a service; is an expert in a special area. A good consultant has developed this expertise through years of experience in a specific line of work. One individual I know worked in the marketing field for over 10 years and then decided to pursue a career as a marketing consultant. Examples of other types of consultants include: computer consultant, research and development consultant, and career consultant.

Assess Yourself

Consultants typically have several characteristics common to successful entrepreneurs. Those include being a calculated risk taker, proactive, highly innovative and flexible, and disciplined. While entrepreneurship is not an all-or-none trait, it can be viewed in the context of a range of behaviors. The good news is that you don’t have to be born with these traits! You can develop them over time with a little desire and hard work.

Try the Seven Stories exercise to see if being a consultant makes sense for you. Start by brainstorming 25 accomplishments over the course of your life. They can include accomplishments from your childhood along with work-related accomplishments. For example, maybe you had a Kool-Aid stand as a child and earned enough money to purchase a brand new bicycle. Or maybe in your current job you are sought out by co-workers as the expert at solving the company’s customers’ problems.Keep in mind your accomplishments need to be something you did well and enjoyed doing. Next, select your top seven, ranked according to the satisfaction they provided. Then, on a separate page for each of the seven, write down all that went into that accomplishment: list the roles you played, the skills required, the types of people you worked with. Once you have the seven accomplishments, next look for threads, for the common denominators. Do you see a common thread of helping others and/or being seen as the expert?

Let’s say you are interested in being a consultant and your Seven Stories exercise and other assessments indicate that a career as a consultant is a good move for you. Next you will want to develop a business plan to see if it’s a viable option.

The Business Plan

Establishing your independent consulting practice generally starts with developing a business plan. A business plan is the document you use to manage and control your practice. You can refer to it to see if you are on track. You will also need a business plan if you want to borrow money from a bank or investors.

The next step involves making some logistical decisions; including choosing an office location, determining what office equipment is needed, and deciding on a location to hold client meetings.

What Do Consultants Do?

Consultants listen, investigate, analyze, recommend, catalyze change, and implement. Effective consulting requires proficiencies in interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Interpersonal skills include presentation skills and professional materials, relationship building capabilities, listening/communication skills, time management skills, and conflict resolution. Intrapersonal skills include persistence, the ability to prioritize activities, and being a global thinker.

Marketing

Now you’re ready to market your expertise. Target marketing is the key to building long-term clients. How and where do you get clients? Clients can be found through referrals from satisfied customers, professional organizations, partnerships, the Internet, direct mail, and press releases. Every time I go to a conference I submit a press release to my local newspaper. This is an effective and free way to get your name out. I also joined a local professional organization which has resulted in several referrals.

When determining if you want to work with a prospective client, you need to ask some questions. “Will this project help me and my business?” If it’s not part of your marketing strategy and won’t help you, don’t do it.

Pricing

Setting fees is another consideration. There are several optional ways to set fees. The cost-plus approach, the marketing approach, or calculating your hourly rate based on your salary and multiplying times three. Most consultants charge somewhere in the range of $50 to $300/hour. Don’t sell yourself short! How much your services are worth depends on your industry. Market research will help you determine your worth. The more technical, specialized, or new your field, the less competition, and therefore the higher the price you can charge. Your experience and background is another determining factor. Also find out what your competition is charging by calling and requesting a brochure. Some consultants offer a discount or different rates for non-profits.Many consultants submit a proposal to their potential client that contains the scope of the project, anticipated outcomes, action plan, price, and payment terms.

Proposals and Reports

If the client agrees to the proposal, your next step is to draw up a contract. Not all consultants use a contract; it depends on the type of service you provide. A contract is an agreement between two or more parties to do something in return for something of value. A contract with your signature and that of the client will prevent confusion and allow you to explain any extra charges that may occur should the client add on services not listed in the contract.

After the project is finished, some consultants write up a final report. In some cases, it will be the only product that your client will receive from you. Some key elements to include in the report include an executive summary, project background and scope, methodology, findings and conclusion, recommendations, implementation guidelines, and summary of benefits.

Consulting can be a rewarding career option, utilizing your expertise to help others. If you’ve got what it takes and are looking for a change, join the growing ranks of consultants!

Business Consulting Certification – A Business Consulting Career

Business consulting, also called management consulting, is a career field that is becoming more popular with strategic planning consultants, finance consultants, business associates, supply chain management consultants, business analysts, financial analysts, process improvement consultants, and risk management consultants. Consultants work with company leaders in a variety of areas, including strategic planning, process efficiency, communications within the organization, and more. Though it is not a regulated industry in the United States, many client companies are beginning to hire for certified consultants over non-certified ones. Consulting certifications can be earned through a training course and qualifying exam.Some traditional universities and college offer degree programs in management consulting but these are usually thousands of dollars and take years to complete. In contrast, business consulting certification training courses can cost under a thousand dollars and be completed in less than six months. The most flexible format for these courses is an online format. This flexibility allows students to keep their full-time jobs while pursuing the business consulting certificate. Lecture videos, study guides and memorization aids are all used to help students learn the fundamentals of business consulting. Theses guides and aids assist in preparing the students for the qualifying exam, increasing the success rate on first-time test takers.

Good business consulting certification courses also teach the best practices in the field of management consulting. Students learn how to structure consulting assignments most effectively. Client garnering and retention are addressed. Good courses also train their students in consulting delivery models and service line management. Marketing considerations, such as branding, are also considered. An overall view of business consulting as a business helps students confidently build their own consulting companies if that is their wish. However, some students are entry level workers for a consulting firm and simply want to advance in the company they already work for. Training courses are beneficial for both kinds of student.Management consultants are in the business of increasing efficiency and productivity. However, making a business more efficient does not mean cutting out integrity. Business consulting certification training courses also teach the ethical and legal compliance issues in the consulting business. A less than reputable business name is a very difficult thing to overcome, so it behooves students to start out and stay strong in high business ethics. After passing the certification exam, business consultants can add the certification credential to their business cards, resumes, and websites. Some courses even offer resources and support after the completion of the course to help ensure continued success.

Tired of Doing the Same Boring Thing, Become a Business Consultant

Every day, small businesses and companies grapple with all sorts of problems. Business owners and executives sometimes have no clue as to how to handle these challenges which make their jobs more difficult, or cost the businesses to lose money.

These people need help.

And if you’re the type of person who can help these companies come up with solutions to their problems, you can have a successful career as a business consultant.

I’ve enjoyed the life of a business consultant for the last 8 years, and I can tell you that businesses of all sizes, and in all industries respect business consultants, and rely on them a great deal to help their businesses succeed.

What exact types of problems do business consultants help clients solve?

Any type of business problem:

  • Reputation Management
  • Increasing sales
  • Improving productivity and performance
  • Improving communication
  • Team building
  • Improving operational efficiency
  • Financial Audits
  • Risk Assessment
  • Insurance
  • And the list goes on and on

I know consultants who specialize in working with businesses in particular industries like manufacturing, health care, or waste management. There are other consultants who work with clients in a variety of industries, but concentrate on specific business functions, such as marketing, human resources, or information technology. and then there are those who specialize in certain industries and functions.In my own case, I currently work as a high performance coach and marketing consultant focusing on Africa. With many western companies expanding to Africa, I get to help them reduce turnover and maximize performance through the implementation of high performance leadership and marketing principles.

There are many consultants who go on to work for large consulting firms; but there is huge opportunity for those who want to have their own business or work as freelance consultants.

If you have a decent amount of knowledge in your area of expertise, you can become a consultant helping businesses solve their problems, and earning a decent living for yourself.

And you can do all of this without any large start-up costs. In fact, you probably already have all that you need – a computer and phone – and much of your business is likely to come through low-cost marketing such as networking. This is what I do.

You can also start on a part-time basis, while keeping your current job as your primary source of income. Then as the demand for your services grows, you can commit to consulting fulltime if you so desire.

While many consultants do have Master’s degree, it is not a prerequisite. As a matter of fact, you don’t even need a degree to become a consultant. There are many independent consultants who don’t have degrees.

But they have education. And there’s a difference.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 28% of consultants do not have a degree of any kind. When I first started consulting, I did not even have a bachelor’s degree.

Those who succeed in this field of independent consulting are the ones who are constantly learning and improving themselves so they are able to serve their clients better.

The bottom line here is, if you have the ability to solve a business problem, and are confident enough to sell your services to senior management, you will get projects.

If you want to know if consulting is the career for you, here are some questions you need to be asking yourself:

  • Do people frequently ask for your advice?
  • Do you enjoy finding solutions to problems?
  • Are you a critical thinker?
  • Do you know a variety of problem-solving techniques?
  • Do you enjoy doing research?
  • Do you have a good vocabulary?
  • Do you avoid using jargon or technical terms that others may not understand?
  • Do people consider you to be a good listener?
  • Do you understand non-verbal communication such as body language?
  • Do you have excellent written communication skills?
  • Are you comfortable speaking in front of a group?
  • Do you have project management experience?
  • Can you see the big picture and break it down into manageable components?
  • Are you well-organized?
  • Do you meet deadlines?
  • Do you have experience leading teams?
  • Are you ethical in all your business practices?

The need for business consultants continues to grow especially as economies become though globally. There’s no better time to position yourself as an expert consultant in your field.