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Making the move to being a consultant

Date Published: Wednesday 9th April 2014

What is a consultant? The dictionary defines a consultant as: A person who provides expert advice professionally. BUT, do you have what it takes?

  1. Decide which area you wish to consult in
    Analyse where your knowledge and expertise lie.
    Ensure that there will be demand for your services and that you have the required skills/certificates/qualifications from the recognised institutions to allow you to consult in your chosen area. Sometimes licences are required in order for you to work as an independent consultant in your specific field.
     
  2. Choose your target market
    Decide whether you will serve individuals or companies and ensure that they have the money to pay for your services.
    Make sure that you research thoroughly your target market to identify different ways in which you will be able to help them.
    Define all the services you plan to provide and highlight the particular service you feel the customer needs. Making the need clear to them can often give them the push they need to use your services. You are essentially making the customer believe that they need your assistance.
     
  3. Network with people in your field
    Build a strong contact base to ensure that you have the sources to find work.
    Ensure you build both your professional and social network so you are advertising your business to the largest possible audience.
     
  4. Set your short and long term goals
    Ensure these goals are realistic and achievable because this process will require a huge amount of time and effort over the next few years in order to reach them. Preparing your business and marketing plan is an extremely important step as this will often help you define these goals
     
  5. Decide what billing structure you will use
    Be aware that your fees may not start high. This will depend highly upon your level of experience in your particular field.
    Research the consultancy fees in your area and ensure that you are inline with these.
    Research your target group for price sensitivity and review the market conditions at the time. These all may have an affect on the prices you decide to charge. On the other hand, do not set prices too low as it may be hard after establishing a relationship with a customer, to raise the fees you charge them. This could have a detrimental affect on your relationship.
     
  6. Organise your marketing and advertising
    Ensure that the marketing message that you use displays the skills you have to offer and how these will assist the customer.
    Attend as many networking events as possible in order to spread your name. Whilst at events, ensure you are approachable so people want to come and talk to you and give out as many business cards as possible.
    Put advertisements out online and in the local newspaper.
    Write a press release and send it to the local media which briefly explains what you offer.
    Set up a blog so people can follow what you are doing and here you can then write about the news in your field. Having this can increase someone’s trust in your services, especially if display your knowledge in the material posted online. If you do decide to start a blog, you must keep it up to date.
     
  7. Decide if you require funding
    If you do not have the money to fund setting up your new venture, you may need to consider accessing help. Preparing a business plan is crucial in this instance. Within the plan, you must overestimate any costs in case you are faced with extra expenses that you had not budgeted for.
    Decide where you will be based i.e. from home or from an office. However, working from home will ensure you save on rent, utility and commuting costs. Working from an office may be a requirement further down the line should you need to hire more staff.
     
  8. Prepare a consultancy contract
    Ensure that a contract is drawn up with any client you work with.
    This step is important because:
  • It sets out clearly what is to be performed by both parties
  • It identifies the compensation that you will receive
  • It describes who will own any product you create i.e. graphics, software etc.
  • It determines if you need a Non-Discloser Agreement to protect certain information.

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