How to become a consultant
Wondering how to become a consultant? Learn how to become a consultant in this article. We cover the definition of a consultant, the risks when you become a consultant, and the kinds of people who become independent consultants.
Definition of Becoming a Consultant
When you become a consultant, you offer your skills to other people. When you become a consultant, you’re saying you offer skills, knowledge and expertise that businesses or other people can use. A consultant gives advice, solves problems, makes recommendations, or provide specialized work, such as programming, editing, designing, writing, or business analysis. Someone who decides to become a consultant is usually paid by the hour, day or project, on commission, or based on performance. They are independent contractors and not employees of the hiring organization.
And that’s a big distinction. You may find that employers want to set up up as a consultant, when you’re really a contractor with no autonomy, control over your hours or work, or ability to bring in other talent to work on the project. In comparison, an independent consultant is an entrepreneur who builds out a practice or business and has the ability to turn a profit, make decisions about the business, subcontract to others and set their own hours of service.
Rewards of Consulting
As an entrepreneur, you can create independence, wealth and a lifestyle that suits you. Some consultants decide to build out multi-million dollar services businesses. Others choose lifestyle, working remotely from beach towns, fitting their business into their children’s school hours or working part of the year in one place and travelling internationally for other times. Some work full-time, some work over-time and others just pick up work when they choose. Obviously, if you want to build out a multi-million dollar service firm, your choices will differ from those who are semi-retired without established businesses.
Risks and Rewards
When you become a consultant, you become a risk taker. People who become consultants have freedom to choose their own hours, take vacations when they want, pick clients, refuse assignments and work with a variety of projects. However, to become a 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.
People who become consultants
Recent grads often become a consultant because it seems to parallel their academic experience. Short-term projects, lots of clients, research opportunities and bursts of stress followed by periods of calm. However, it’s rare that a recent grad would yet be considered expert enough to become a consultant, regardless of their academic backgrounds. The key here is to present yourself as a contract worker – a worker for hire – until you have established a track record and a client list. If you do not yet have the credibility and experience to sell yourself as even a contract worker, seek work in a mid-sized company. You’ll have an opportunity to work on a variety of projects, without being steeped in the bureaucracy of a big company or the administrative duties and chaos of a start-up.
People sometimes change careers when they become a consultant. In most cases, these people have honed their skills in a hobby, side business or pet interest, or they have gone back to school to gain new skills. In some cases, they’ve found themselves laid off, bored in retirement or simply aching to try something new. Although their past experience has shaped their outlook, career changers take up new pursuits when they become a consultant. Hot consulting careers for career changers include real estate, financial planning, writing, graphic design, business management, and sales, although the list is endless.
A seasoned expert will often become a consultant after spending years in a field or industry. Seen as a true opinion leader, this veteran will often become a consultant by contracting back to their previous employer and business contacts. This professional often heads into retirement or leaves a senior management job, hoping to become a consultant. The seasoned professional who decides to become a consultant tends to be in high demand, because their specialized knowledge cannot be found elsewhere in the company. This expert will often become a consultant because their old company and colleagues beg them for help.
Some people decide to become consultants because of a life change. For them, becoming a consultant is about changing their world — not their career.
- Wanting to work from home while you care for a child or parent.
- Needing to be home when your kids finish school
- Finding yourself unemployed and realizing you’ve got a great opportunity to finally start the business of your dreams
- Realizing you want more control over your life
- Facing medical issues that prevent you from working full-time
- Realizing you don’t like working for a boss
- Being downsized and discovering that other companies need someone with your skills — but not on a full-time basis
- Retiring, but wanting to keep busy
- Wanting to supplement your existing job by moonlighting
- Being offered consulting work and realizing that you’d like to do more of it
Whether you’re looking for become a full-time consultant or just do it as a part-time, second or side job, the articles below can help you find your way. If you need help moving forward, continue scheduling a discovery session.
How to become a consultant series
- How to become a consultant
- Why become a consultant?
- Should I become a consultant?
- Who hires consultants?
- Becoming a consultant FAQ
- I’ve decided. Now what?