If you feel like you can help people improve their projects through your advice, then business consulting may be an excellent career path. The consulting industry is growing steadily, so the opportunity to make money is there, and you have minimal startup costs since you’re selling your expertise. Still, you can’t just jump into business consulting overnight, at least not if you want anyone to hire you. Following the right game plan can help you get started as a business consultant.
Figuring Out Your Niche
Business consulting is a very broad field, and if that’s as focused as you get, you’re going to have a ton of competition and precious few clients. There are all kinds of niches in the consulting field, including marketing, accounting, technology, and public relations, to name a few. When considering the field, you need to hone in on how you can best help companies to find your specific consulting niche. When you define your niche, clients can find you much more easily. How you present yourself professionally lets them know right off the bat whether you fit their needs in a business consultant. This means the jobs you get should match your specialty, which helps you do your best work each time instead of struggling with jobs that don’t suit your skills. Another advantage of advertising expertise in specific fields is that you can charge more for your services.
Creating Your Business Plan
Your business plan is your step-by-step guide to starting your business. In it, you include your goals for your business, what your business plans to offer, your target market, and how you intend to reach that market. Writing a business plan doesn’t need to be a lengthy process you agonize over for days on end. In fact, you can complete one in a couple of hours or less. What makes a business plan so important? A business plan helps you focus on your goals as you write out a plan, and keeping the completed plan on hand ensures you always know what you need to do at each stage. Planning also makes it easier to spot any potential problems with your business just by looking over what you write.
Whether you need any particular certifications or licences to become a business consultant depends on your area. Research laws for anywhere you plan to consult to determine what you need. Keep in mind that requirements can also vary depending on your specialty. Even if you don’t need any specific certifications, you could still benefit from obtaining a certification with a consulting organization such as the Canadian Association of Management Consultants (CMC-Canada). A certification can present opportunities to improve your consulting skills and make valuable connections. It also looks good to potential clients.
Setting Your Rate
Before you start talking to potential clients, you need to set your rate so you have an answer when they ask how much you charge. One of the biggest mistakes business consultants and many other freelancers make when starting out is setting too low a rate due to worry about scaring off clients. This can actually harm your reputation and make you look unprofessional. If you charge less than other consultants, it communicates you don’t think your services are worth much. Hourly rates tend to be the simplest option, although you can also charge per-project rates. Look up the rates of other business consultants in your area, and use those rates as a guide for setting your own prices.
Unless you’re lucky enough to already have clients lined up, building your client list is likely to be the most challenging part of starting out as a business consultant. If not, you need to get out there and meet people. The standard advice is to pump your current network of friends, family members, and business contacts for any help they can provide. This can work, but you may have more success reaching out directly to people in your target market. Fortunately, the internet allows you to make connections without leaving your home. You can look up businesses and send out cold emails, or go on LinkedIn and start messaging business owners. This can be a tedious process, and you may need to send out numerous messages before you have any success. If you keep at it, eventually you should find some excellent clients who need your services.
As a business consultant, your clients tend to judge you based on the results you bring them. This makes it important to listen to them and identify their specific needs so you can help them succeed. Some clients are easier to work with than others, and not every client is pleasant or has realistic expectations. Be confident in what you can do for each client and stay focused on providing the best guidance possible. The ideal scenario, which you should aim for each time, is delivering the results your clients want so everyone leaves happy. The preliminary stages of becoming a business consultant include quite a bit of introspection as you figure out your niche and planning. You may also need to spend some time obtaining licences or certifications. Once you’ve done all the prep work, you can get in touch with potential clients and start landing your first jobs.