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You can go about choosing an independent consultant in much the same way as you would an employee. You may review prospective consultants' resumes or lists of clients and check references, for instance. Part of your screening process might also include considering whether a prospect has a suitable level of education or comparable life experience. Additionally, you can consider a prospect's availability and the fairness of his proposed contract in making your decision.
Many business people carefully screen prospective employees but then take the word of an independent consultant when it comes to his qualifications. This may work out sometimes, but it can also prove to be a mistake since a poor consultant is unlikely to voluntarily reveal that his qualifications are lacking. To avoid this, you can screen a consultant just as carefully as you would a prospective employee. This may mean asking for a resume, portfolio, or client list as well as references.
It might also be wise to consider the education of your prospects very carefully when you are trying to choose the best independent consultant. If people in your particular field usually need degrees, you will likely want the consultant you hire to have a comparable level of education. This doesn't mean, however, that the best independent consultant will always have a formal education. In some cases, you may find highly qualified consultants who have gained their knowledge through life experience. For instance, a person who has started and run a successful business in the past may prove to be a well-qualified business consultant.
The consultant's availability will typically be an important factor as well. You might find that some of the best consultants have a heavy project load already. If this is the case with one of the consultants you are considering, you may do well to scratch him off your list. If the person you choose is too busy to fully commit to your project, you might eventually become dissatisfied with the arrangement. As such, you may do well to question the individual you are considering on his current scheduling and the amount of time he can commit to your project.
It is typically important to consider an independent consultant's contract as well. You will want to make sure it is fair for both you and the consultant, and that it includes terms you can live with, even if something goes wrong with your business. For example, if your sales totals for a particular period are less than you expected, you will still have to live up to the terms of the contract. Additionally, you may find it helpful to have a lawyer review the contract before you sign.