Becoming a consultant can allow you much more flexibility. As a consultant, you are expected to be an expert in your field, and you will be called upon by many different companies and organizations. While the salary is not as steady, many people find success as consultants. If you are considering a career as a consultant, here are the steps you need to take:
- Build your knowledge. Before becoming a consultant, you must have specialized skills in your field. Firms looking to hire a consultant are looking for someone who can provide certain skills that they cannot find elsewhere in the company. If you do not have this experience yet, try marketing yourself as a contract worker instead of a consultant. This is structured similarly, with project-based tasks rather than full-time work.
- Show off your experience. In order to get hired by clients, make sure you have any relevant certifications or licenses in your field. This will help confirm your expertise and make you more credible. You should also create a portfolio to show your previous work.
- Plan your business. Define the service you have to offer. It may be helpful for you to make a list of the types of projects you’re willing and able to take on. Before moving to consultancy as your main source of income, be sure to define what your time is worth. Consider travel expenses, office space, and any other costs associated with working on your own. Because working as a consultant often involves intense work on short projects and then relatively quiet times, make sure your fees are enough to cover you through the quieter times. Try to find out what other consultants doing similar work charge for their time. Be sure to consider your experience in the field when setting your rates. Determine how you will be paid- by the hour, day, or project, on commission, or based on your performance. Make sure you understand the tax implications of working as an independent contactor instead of an employee.
- Network. Most consultant positions are gained through networking. Be sure that people in your field know that you’re available. Contact people you have worked with in the past, as well as industry leaders. Make sure that you have business cards to hand out, should the opportunity arise. You may also want to consider brochures or other forms of advertising. Speaking engagements and seminars can be another way to find prospective clients, as well as prove your expertise in the field.
- Build your business. Once you become a consultant, be sure to keep adding to your portfolio. Also ask for referrals from each client, which can quickly lead you from one job to another. Happy customers will help spread the word about your work.
Becoming a consultant can be risky because of the loss of a steady paycheck. However, it has worked for many, allowing them the flexibility to choose their own workday and take vacations on their own schedule.