What if you could have the freedom to choose your own hours, make a few thousand dollars extra per month, take vacations when you want, pick who you work with, refuse assignments and work with a variety of creative and fun projects?
Welcome to the life of a consultant. Last year, I made $220,000 consulting for small businesses and leaders around the world. It was one of the most exhilarating and challenging experiences of my life.
However, to become a full-time consultant, you let go of regular pay, administrative help, benefits and health care, tech support and other things many employees take for granted. When you become a consultant, you may also find yourself working alone, without the moral, creative and administrative support of co-workers.
At the core, you become an entrepreneur.
It's your job to lead, to clarify, to organize, to strategize and ultimately make your clients more successful than they were before engaging with you. If you can do this, you will never run out of work.
But the big question is… What makes a qualified consultant?
3 Parts Of A Qualified Consultant
1. Experience: This is completely relative to what you're consulting on. It could be as much as decades or as little as months. Ideally, you would have some success or detailed knowledge on a particular subject.
Critical Question: What field do you have significant experience? Gardening? Fundraising? Computer IT? Church Marketing? Playing Piano? Graphic Design? Branding? You get the picture.
2. Gobs of Self Confidence: Leading leaders takes confidence and levelheadedness. If you have a strong, passionate personality that operates well on the fly and can articulate vision and persuade people, consulting will feel natural.
3. A Niche Service, Program, or Strategy: The best consultants focus on a niche. For example, you might not be a business consultant, you're specifically an e-commerce consultant. Or, you might not be a marketing consultant, you're a customer acquisition and analytics consultant. This provides clients clarity on exactly what you can help them with. Furthermore, having a 5 step program, 3 hour discover session, or 90 day package outlined will help clients feel like they are buying a physical item, not just your brain.
If you've checked all three boxes above but just don't know where to begin. Here are 10 areas where consultants are often needed.
1. Small Business or Startup
2. Personal Career Development
3. Editorial & Copywriting Services
4. Marketing Strategy or Analytics
6. Company Culture or HR
8 Public Relations
9. Legal & Finance
10. IT & Computer Tech
But what do you actually need to get started? Let's say you have some experience, self confidence, and a niche service and you're ready to move forward as a branding consultant for startups. What key steps should you take to get the fire roaring?
1. Get Your Business Essentials Out of The Way: The last thing you want to worry about is looking unprofessional to professionals. Get your business legally stated, launch a simple (clean) website, get professional head shots (you're selling you), update your twitter account, choose an accounting and invoicing software, get your logo and brand ironed out, finalize any client on-boarding documents (questionnaires, etc.) and any legal agreements used during a client relationship.
2. Create The Best Business Card You've Ever Seen: As a consultant, your most important marketing material will be your business card. This is where you should spend much of your marketing dollars. And I'm not talking nice cotton stock with raised letters either. I'm talking a piece of italian leather woven onto chipboard with your information literally hot-iron-branded on to it. Something so good that even people who don't like you will keep your card. I wrote an entire article on creating a great business card here.
“Something so good, that even people who don't like you will keep your card.”
3. Gather Some Friendly Endorsements: If you have some qualified friends or colleagues who can attest to your skills, ask for a short 2-3 sentence endorsement for your website, brochure, or handout. Ideally, you could get these folks (or future happy clients) to record a short video testimonial. There's nothing that relieves “new client skepticism” like a good video affirmation from a past satisfied customer.
4. Create A Brilliant Content Strategy: Consultants sell information, wisdom, or action plans. I find it very disheartening when a so-called consultant/expert is not providing public materials on the subject they claim to be so passionate about. I believe all consultants should be writing articles (weekly), publishing short e-books, or producing videos on the topics they are are consulting on. This will not only increase confidence in potential and current clients, but create a built-in continued education program for your business.
5. Network More Than Anyone You Know: But be careful you don't confuse being busy with being successful. Effective networking requires the discernment to know when to go or say no. By clearly understanding who your client is you won't make the mistake of attending events or meetings where they aren't.
Here are a few suggested books if you choose to become a consultant:
Have you ever thought about being a consultant? What's stopped you in the past?