Oprah isn’t the only one being paid to give advice. Professional consultants turn a profit by helping companies work at their best. Consulting is growing rapidly, and it may be where you want to start your small business adventure. Unfortunately, you probably will have to start out small until you can begin consulting for Fortune 500 companies. Here’s a guide to opening your own professional consulting business:
Figure out your skill setCompanies have different requests and requirements for a consultant, and the responsibilities involved are changing. However, there are a few staples to consulting that include the ability to investigate, listen and think creatively. When you are a consultant, you are hired as a fresh pair of eyes, and as such, you have to be able to understand a company’s problems better than anyone in the company itself. Some consultants are also hired to instruct employees. Depending on your specialty, you may be asked to introduce a new computer program or offer team leadership skills for project managers. Focus on your passion, and you will be more likely to succeed.
Choose a specialtyThere are three main types of consultants: management analysts, market research analysts, and environmental scientists and specialists. Management, scientific and technical consulting services are particularly prosperous, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. These consultants typically help a company organize its managerial structure and find ways to increase efficiency and profits. Market research analysts replace or augment a company’s marketing team and help companies determine what types of products people want. They often help companies come up with effective advertising strategies, promotional angles and sales plans. Finally, environmental scientists employ their specialized knowledge to help companies become more sustainable.
Build a client baseReaching out to your networks is one of the best ways to start building a client base. After all, most businesses want advice from people they already know and trust. Another way of attracting potential customers is by holding a free workshop. Avoid a sloppy presentation at all costs, for this small exposure could make or break your relationship with a company. You can also promote yourself with video and audio materials — strong testaments to your skills and industry understanding. If a client decides to take on your services, do not accept immediately. Make sure that this company is free and clear of any current or upcoming lawsuits.
Stay ahead of the packConsulting is one of the fastest-growing industries, which is both good and bad news for you. This means more businesses are seeking out consulting services, but it also means a lot more competition. One key to success is making you sure you stand out from your competitors. To be a desirable consultant, you have to be knowledgeable about your subject and fully aware of any relevant new technologies or industry information available. For example, if you are a technological consultant, you have to stay abreast of the latest, most cost-effective hardware and software that offices are using. If you start setting up your reputation as a true innovator instead of trying to follow in everyone’s footsteps, clients will come clamoring for you.