As a consultant, you give advice on how to solve problems, you provide recommendations on best practices, and you show people how to use specialized software, equipment, or tools. It’s a great job, but requires hard work to get to the point where people trust your opinion.
If you’re thinking of becoming a consultant, here are 4 guidelines that will help:
- Leverage the power of technology.
Consultants in the age of the Internet are far more effective than those from an earlier era. This is not necessarily because they know more — although this is possible as we can now access a wealth of information through a simple search — but because they can leverage the power of technology to get more done for their clients.
They can build an online portfolio presence, build up credibility through regular blogging, networking, protect client data, be getting protected through a secure VPN connection, and provide coaching face-to-face or via online methods.
- Avoid self-sabotage. You might imagine that one risk of becoming a consultant is that you don’t have enough clients or that you have irregular earnings. However, with sufficiently robust marketing in the beginning, you will soon develop a client base which will then help your business grow through word-of-mouth messaging. You might reach a point where you have to turn work away or where you have to put people on a waiting list.
The biggest risk is actually something else: the exhilaration of freedom.
You can choose when you want to work and how long you want to work. You can take the day or week off as you please. You can say no to difficult clients. You can refuse assignments that are not worth your time – because you could earn the same amount from someone else for less work. This freedom can be detrimental to your work ethic.
By contrast, when you work for someone else, you go to work at a certain hour and stay for a certain duration and do a certain amount of work to keep your job. You will do this even if you have a terrible backache, your children are misbehaving, and you are having distressing arguments with your spouse. Although you might not have much quality of life, you will be earning a predictable paycheck.
So, in order, to be a successful consultant, you will have to impose some of the same iron discipline on yourself that you would have imposed upon you if worked for someone else.
It’s important to point out that while you can self-sabotage yourself by doing too little work to keep a healthy cash flow, you could also go to the other extreme and do too much work. You could self-sabotage by working around the clock, getting completely stressed out and ruining your health, joy and creativity.
- Develop a support system.
When you work for a corporation, you work within a pre-established support system. HR sets a regular schedule for you so that you know when to work and for how long in order to receive a regular paycheck, and it also takes care of administration, benefits, and health care. If you get stuck in a project, you can talk to colleagues with expertise that can help you figure out a solution. If you get stuck on a computer-related issue, then you can complain to the IT department, who will then troubleshoot the problem. Finally, you can enjoy the camaraderie of those around you because you all share a common mission.
When you work on your own, all these things that you took for granted as an employee suddenly disappear. For this reason, it’s necessary for you to create a network of support to assist you with legal, accounting, marketing and technical issues. You should also develop a network of business peers like fellow consultants, Internet marketers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs so that you don’t feel so isolated.
- Choose an optimum payment system. You can get paid in a variety of ways. You could get paid by the hour or by the day. You could also get paid by a project. And if you’re especially confident about your ability to produce results, you can even accept a percentage of the revenues you generate based on performance. Experiment with the best options for you and your clients.
Get Paid for What you Love to Do
If you’ve spent years in mastering something, you could earn a great living as a consultant. With some marketing, you’ll be able to find people who would love to learn what you know. What’s more, you are likely to earn much more as an independent contractor than if you worked for a corporation.
Photo by Helloquence.