Ways to become a successful business consultant
Are you at a point in your professional career where you want to do more for yourself? Consulting might be the perfect fit for you if you have a deep knowledge of a specific topic and a desire to help others succeed.
Establishing your own consulting business is not as daunting as it may seem. It does take drive and determination in addition to confidence and skill. Read on to see if you have what it takes and discover how you can become a successful business consultant.
What is a consultant?
The simple definition of ‘consultant’ is ‘a person who provides expert advice professionally.’ Sure sounds easy enough, right? You went to school, earned a degree, and maybe even put a few years of service working for others in your field of knowledge. Does this make you ready to consult for others? Maybe!
Is higher education essential to becoming a consultant?
There are different schools of thought on the topic of education level to be a consultant. It’s generally expected that a professional consultant would hold a Bachelor’s degree – at minimum. Those with MBAs, professional certifications, and continuing education credits may find their consulting businesses succeeding faster based on their educational merits.
That said, it comes down to marketing yourself and including concrete examples and data to accompany your education when prospecting for new clients. Your degree and certificates will only get you so far; real-world examples of your work are highly valued. Businesses and individuals looking to work with a consultant want to be confident in their choice to hire you. They are looking for assurance that you can deliver the results they’re aiming for.
Below you’ll find some advice on how to effectively market yourself and your services to help you become a successful consultant.
Are there specific fields of consultants?
Yes, of course! There are consultants in just about every area of business. The most popular are:
- Accounting and Finance
- Human Resources
- Public Relations
If you have a great deal of knowledge and expertise in a specific area, look around to see if there is a need for your services. Start with a simple google search of what you can offer. Do you see results appearing on the first page? Do you see others providing similar services? If so, dig a little deeper. Is anyone offering these services locally? Gathering the answers to these simple questions can help you determine if it makes sense for you to proceed.
Should you be looking to focus on one particular niche of your area of expertise and you’re not finding a great need, maybe broaden your reach and offer a bit more, if it makes sense. Pay attention to the search results; there could be an over-saturation of consulting firms offering similar services.
Don’t set yourself up for failure. If demand is high and you feel you can offer more than what is available in your area, get your plans together. If demand isn’t so great in your area, consider operating virtually – the world is getting smaller every day, and chances are you can find the right audience for your services – do the research first, though. If there is great demand, it could be a good indication that you’d be successful in offering consulting services.
How do I find clients?
This can be answered in one word: Networking! When you set out to become a professional consultant, it's essential that you lean into your network of contacts and have them spread the word about your services. LinkedIn is a great place to get started – if you’re not currently on that network, stop what you’re doing and create an account. It’s one of the most popular social media sites for professionals to market themselves and network with others.
Devote some time to networking events, conferences, and expos. Not only do you have the advantage of making business connections at these types of events, but the outpouring of knowledge is usually worth the price of admission.
In addition to networking, visit employment sites like Indeed and search the term ‘consultant’ with your area of expertise. You may find a few hot leads looking for someone like you.
How do I market my consulting business?
As a consultant, you are offering your expertise for sale. When you market your consulting business, you’re essentially marketing yourself. Think about what sets you apart from others in your industry, and what specific expertise you can offer.
Then, take these steps:
1. Create a mission statement
The first place to start is to write your mission statement and value proposition. What are your business's goals and plans, and what services do you intend to offer your customers to attain those goals? Your mission statement should be brief and to the point, and every word should count.
2. Design a logo
With your mission statement and value prop in mind, it’s time to create a logo for your new consulting business. Make it eye-catching and memorable. Try your best to incorporate values for your business.
3. Build a website
With that beautiful new logo all set and ready to go, it’s time to build your website to showcase it. You don’t have to be a web designer to make this happen; many site-building websites, like Wix, provide easy-to-use templates to assist you in creating a professional-looking website. If you’re opening a web or graphic design consulting business, here is your chance to put the spotlight on yourself. Don’t hold back; if prospective clients find your website, you want it to leave a lasting impression.
Regardless of what type of consulting you’re doing, your website should showcase you. Give some background information on your path to consulting. Include reviews, testimonials, references, and a portfolio of your work. Again, individuals and companies looking for your services want to know about you and your work; the more information you provide, the easier it is to get to know you. That’s not to say you should publish an autobiography on your website – if you’re having difficulty creating the right content for your website, look for a copywriter or editor for assistance.
If you don’t want to include prices for services you’re offering, be sure to have a clear direction on how customers can get in touch with you to learn more. It’s good to include a form to collect some data, whether this is an email subscribe form, or a Contact Us form, give people a way to leave their information so that you can get in touch with them later.
4. Get involved with the community
Aside from building a website, join your local chamber of commerce and see where you can get involved in your community. Your local town and surrounding neighborhoods may host community day events where you can get a space to highlight your services and interact with those in the area. See if you have an option to sponsor a local sports team or youth activity; this not only highlights your business but also shows your support for the community. You need to get your name out there and what you can offer. The confidence you display in marketing yourself will aid in clients wanting to learn more about you and perhaps even entice them to work with you.
What else do I need to be a successful consultant?
A business plan is essential for success in becoming a consultant and in any business endeavor one might have. Following your business plan should be your marketing plan. Both should include the goals for your business and how you intend to reach those goals.
It would be best if you also had a certain level of organizational skills. This sounds easy enough, right? Not surprisingly, there are many time management consultants in the US, as many of us suffer from not effectively managing our time.
Depending on the area you intend to consult in, you may need special licenses to operate, so be sure to check the legal requirements in your state.
Are you ready to become a business consultant?
As highlighted in a Forbes article earlier this year, before you can begin operating as a professional consultant, you must register your business with your state’s Secretary of State. You should decide ahead of time if it’s best for you and your business to register as a sole proprietorship or as an LLC.
In addition, you should protect your new business venture with an insurance policy to fit your needs. Consultants should have the following in place:
- General Liability
- Professional Liability (Errors & Omissions)
- Cyber Insurance (if you have a website or accept credit card payments, this policy is necessary)
Hiscox has been protecting small businesses since 1901. Get a quote today to begin your coverage. Then, rest soundly knowing that what you built is safeguarded by America’s leading small business insurer.