Five tips to start your own consulting business
WITH many organisations downsizing, the role of the consultant has gained importance in the modern workplace.
Businesses are looking to consultants for expertise in niche areas that may otherwise have been fulfilled in-house.
A consultant provides expert advice in one particular field to a company or an individual fulfilling the role of expert, facilitator or mentor. They help broaden scope with their extensive knowledge and can get to the very core of the matter. They help with problem solving, planning and strategy. They can identify problems and bring outside eyes to an organisation’s internal issue as well as objectivity.
And their field of expertise could be anything from accounting, auditing, marketing, to data and technology, to cutting staff.
There are firms that specialise in consultancy work or a consultant could be self-employed.
Here are five tips to starting your own consulting business:
Check out special qualifications
Investigate if the area you are entering needs special qualifications. Also, do you need a certificate or licence to ply your trade? See if you need a diploma, certificate or degree. It would depend on your chosen field of consultancy.
Also check if you need to register with a relevant registration board or need to have some sort of accreditation.
Choose a specific business
Consultancy can cover a range of topics. With companies shedding staff a lot of in-house work, consultants come in to fill the gaps. So you can take your pick and specialise in one specific area – it could be communications, accounting, advertising or human resources, to name a few.
For instance, take human resources. It could be that in your corporate life this is the role you played and you would have an all-round knowledge and expertise in handling staff. So it would be no surprise if you choose this area for your consultancy.
Choose one consulting specialty and stick with it. You do not want to be all over the shop. Of course, if somewhere down the line you feel another area is more suited to your knowledge and talent, then a change could be on the cards.
But the more you stick with one, the longer you are in it, the more your name will be linked to it. If you are seen to be flitting from one topic to the next, that may not bode well for your reputation or that of your business.
Expert knowledge pays off
You have to bring an in-depth knowledge to your chosen field for clients to want to pay you for your services. Keep in touch with all the latest trends and technologies in that area.
The latter is especially important if you are social media consultant. So, if social media is your chosen field of expertise, make sure you know how best to harness the medium for the good of the business that has hired you. You would need to stay abreast of the latest social media trends, all the emerging platforms and their pitfalls.
If you do not know much more than your client, then you will not be performing your task as you should.
And a happy client could mean a happy testimonial for you, which could translate into more clients.
Build a good network
There is nothing like having a good network. Start to build your network via either face-to-face meetings or at events. There is the well-worn technique of exchanging business cards.
Attending relevant industry events and workshops could be part of your relationship building process. Harness social media to stay connected with clients and users in the digital age.
Define your business structure
So you want to be the expert other businesses turn to when they have a problem or a need. But what about your own set-up?
Do you have a viable business model? What is your pricing model? Do you charge by the hour, by the day or by the project?
Do you have the infrastructure in place to take on a project as well as resources such as finance, staff, skills and knowledge?
Have you set yourself targets to be met over a period of time or are you functioning in a fluid manner?
Remember, you are hoping to give other organisations some semblance of structure in a particular field, so it would not be amiss to have a business that has dotted every ‘i’.