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How do I Become a Consultant?

Article Details
  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 October 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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If you’ve been working long hours for little pay, but feel like you’re an expert in your field and could pass on that expertise to others, you might be wondering how you can become a consultant. Consultants are able to charge much higher rates, set their own hours, and choose their own clients, effectively becoming their own bosses and putting themselves in a position of power that most people find preferable to a traditional working relationship.

One can become a consultant in any number of fields, from technical support, to marketing, to overall strategy, to law and mediation. Being a consultant basically means you are a freelance contractor, but is differentiated from a simple contractor in a couple of important ways. Perhaps most importantly is that where a contractor usually has only one client, to which they dedicate all of their time, a consultant juggles many clients at the same time, balancing all of their needs to create a portfolio of work. Secondarily, a contractor is often a one-off hire, brought on for a single job. While a contractor might be brought back for other jobs, they are usually only guaranteed the job they’re hired for, while a consultant is an ongoing position, much like a full-time employee.

One of the most interesting things many people discover when they first try to become a consultant is that getting jobs is often less about having the exact right skill set, and more about being able to interact well with the clients. Customers are generally going to a consultant to get something they can’t get in-house, and they need to feel immediately safe and comfortable paying the consultant fairly large amounts of money to get those skill sets. If a consultant can make the customer feel like they’ve chosen the right person for the job, the skills can often be honed more exactly to the project to ensure the consultant is doing the best possible job at the task.

When first trying to become a consultant, finding work will necessarily be the most difficult part of the job. Once connections have been established, and you have a steady portfolio of work and good word of mouth, work will tend to look after itself. But in the beginning, you’ll need to convince your target audience that you’re the right person for the job. At first this means talking to everyone you know to let them know about your new consulting business, checking job postings, and generally pounding the pavement. Always charge the rate you plan on charging, even at the outset, rather than succumbing to the temptation to charge a lower rate, or even do the work pro bono to build a portfolio. The rate you start with will largely establish your credibility, and set expectations for the future.

To become a consultant you are depending entirely on yourself. Unlike other jobs you might apply for, where your education and past resumé will factor heavily, to become a consultant you largely just sell yourself as a person. Work on your people skills, your ability to project confidence without arrogance, and moving quickly on your feet to respond to questions and concerns potential clients may have.

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What is the going rate of pay for an independent consultant?

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