So, you’re thinking about becoming a consultant, huh? But, how does a consultancy work? A lot of people don’t really know what a consultant does but the truth is, it’s a viable full-time career and side hustle for a lot of people. It just takes knowledge and expertise in just about any field and you can call yourself a consultant.
I dabbled in consulting for a bit a few years ago. This is how it all started.
I was fortunate enough to see success with my eCommerce business. So much so that it allowed me to quit my day job to manage the business full-time. I was a one-woman show, handling all parts of the business, outsourcing some areas later on in the process.
That means I was in charge of marketing, sourcing and fulfilment, customer service and more. I ran the store for several years until I sold it later.
That experience was super valuable to me and it helped me transition into the next phase of my career plus, help and educate other entrepreneurs along the way. It also gave me the expertise to call myself an eCommerce consultant.
I consulted a handful of people and really enjoyed the process. If you’re naturally helpful and enjoy sharing your knowledge, this can be a very rewarding job for you, that doesn’t even feel like work. Keep reading while we share with you how you can turn your expertise into money by becoming a consultant.
What is Consulting?
First, what is consulting?
A lot of people have an image of what they think consulting might be.
No, you don’t need to be retired to break into consulting.
No, you don’t need to have decades of experience or be an inventor or pioneered a new technology to consult others.
A consultant is an expert in a field that can offer help and professional advice to others.
Pretty simple, right?
There are many different kinds of consultants, from:
- Tax consultants
- Productivity consultants
- Business consultants
- Sales consultants
- Ecommerce consultants
- Strategy consultants
- Legal consultants
- And, more!
Why do people become consultants?
Aside from consulting being a very lucrative profession, it also allows you to connect with others, lend your expertise and offer real help to your clients.
If you think you can help someone else in an industry where you’re an expert, then you can be a consultant.
Here’s how you get started.
How to get started with consulting?
There’s an 8-step process to getting started with consulting:
- Identify your expertise
- Create a plan
- Create your website
- Choose your target audience
- Get certified
- Set your rates
- Get clients
Identifying Your Expertise
Identifying your strengths and uncovering your expertise is the first step in the process. This is a crucial first step because it sets the path to your consulting business.
What are you good at?
Where do your passions lie?
What are you an expert in?
Think about your job and work experience, hobbies and passions you have, and how you can help others to really drill down and determine where your expertise lies.
For example, if you are a PR strategist in your day job, could you be a PR consultant?
Or, if you are known as the top salesperson in your company, could you be a sales consultant?
Hone in on your skills and once you’ve identified your skillset, it’s time to move onto the next step.
What if you don’t have strengths?
If you feel like your skills aren’t strong enough, then take the time to master your skills to really feel confident enough to call yourself an expert.
Being an expert doesn’t mean you’re the best of all time. It just means you know more than your client that you’re helping.
To develop your skills, you can practice using them, take courses, or even consult others for free and get feedback and try other tactics to refine your skillset.
Then, move onto step 2, which is about creating your plan.
Creating Your Plan
Creating a plan is about goal-setting. You’re going to think about your business goals, what you hope to accomplish, how many clients you want to take on, if you’ll have staff or not, if this consulting gig will be a side hustle or full-time job, and more.
Your plan can be informal but you want to think of it as a professional business plan and it should be in hard copy form, not just a bunch of ideas in your head.
- Make it actionable
- Make it measurable
This means your goals should require some kind of action to achieve them. And, making it measurable means you can measure your progress, like growing 10% in revenue in quarter 4, for example.
Put it all together and then, get started working on your website.
Building Your Website
Your website will be your web presence for your business. It’ll be how people find you, where you can house your portfolio, share success stories, talk about your background and experience, and accept payments.
You can create a simple WordPress website yourself in about an hour at an affordable price, with a free or paid theme. You can also hire a web designer to build a custom site just the way you want it.
Whichever direction you take is fine, just make sure you have your website before you launch your business.
Choosing Your Target Audience
Your target audience is your target client. Who are your clients?
Ask yourself these questions:
Where does your audience hang out?
Where do they live?
What do they do for a living?
You want to get to know your audience intimately. This will help you target the right people when you are seeking out clients.
For example, if you are a legal consultant for social media influencers, you will want to know as much as possible about your client, social media influencers.
What are their struggles?
How can you help them improve their business?
Get as specific as you can here, to really hone in and pick your target customer.
Certification may or may not be required, depending upon where you live and also dependent on the type of consultant you’re going to be.
For example, a business consultant may not need a certification to help small businesses improve their workflow but a legal consultant might! Do some research to figure this out for your consultancy.
Set your rates
This is the part of the plan that entrepreneurs get excited about, setting your rate. But, it can also be one of the most challenging parts of setting up your consultancy.
Setting your rate is when you determine how much you’ll charge for your services.
- By project?
- By the hour?
- On retainer?
It’s important that once you set your rate, you stick to it. You will most certainly get requests for discounts or cutbacks on your rate but you need to stand firm.
Do some market research to see what your competitors are charging and set your prices accordingly.
Once you determine your rate, make sure you have a system in place for actually collecting payment. You can do this with invoicing, through programs like Square, PayPal, Freshbooks, Invoicely and others.
Invoicing allows you to send a bill to a customer so they can pay on demand. Some invoice systems even have deposit structures and other cool parameters built-in, to give your business more flexibility.
Keep these things in mind when you choose your invoicing provider.
Then, dive into networking. This is where you’ll mix and mingle with your peers, meet people, spread word about yourself and your business and it’s an opportunity to get new clients.
Amanda Abella recently shared that after attending a personal finance conference, she got $30,000 in new clients in a single afternoon!
This is not unusual and a testament to how powerful networking actually is.
Today, networking means more than just attending conferences and fundraisers. There are a ton of places online where you can network, too! And, this is perfect for introverts that feel too shy to approach strangers in person.
Here are some top places online where you can network and gain new clients:
- Social media networks, like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
- Social groups, like Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups
- Professional forums
- Social communities like Reddit
- Neighbourhood groups like Nextdoor, etc.
Lastly, it’s time to get your clients. You can choose a variety of paid and unpaid marketing methods to get your first clients. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure you have identified your target customer
- Ensure that your website and portfolio are built out and you’re set up to take payments
- Create an outreach strategy
- Hire help
- Practice amazing customer service and be clear in your communication
Identifying your Target Customer
We talked a bit about this above so we won’t rehash it here but, it’s important to make sure you have this step done before you try to bring on new clients.
You need to know who your ideal client is and not just reach out to everybody. It can be tempting, for the purpose of growing your business but make sure you take the time to research your customer avatar.
Make Sure You’re Set Up
Next, you want to ensure you have a finalized website with payments set up so you can hit the ground running with your first client.
Nothing is worse than winning over your client, just to have them visit an unfinished website or be met with no defined way to pay you.
Develop Your Outreach Strategy and Hire Help
Think about creating a strategy for outreach to help spread word about your business. And, consider hiring out for the execution, to help you cover more ground faster.
Bringing on a virtual assistant is a great way to have a helper execute your plan for gaining more clients. They can do tasks like cold calling, email response, client onboarding and more.
Amazing Service and Communication
Make sure you handle each client with care. Customer service and communication is everything in business, especially today, where much business is conducted online.
Common Questions about Consulting
Now that we’ve covered the basic 8-step plan for starting your consultancy, here are some frequently asked questions you might be wondering about.
1. What salary do consultants make?
The salary of a consultant can vary, based on geographic location, type of consultant, and other factors. According to this source, the average salary of a consultant is $75,000. It’s not unusual for consultants to make a six figure salary on part-time hours.
2. What are the day-to-day activities of a consultant?
To get a behind the scenes look at a day in the life of a consultant, check out this story.
In general, some tasks you’ll do might include:
- Meeting with clients, in person or online
- Outreach emails to prospective clients
- Networking with peers and prospects
- Meetings with your staff
Your day-to-day activities may vary and because this will be your business, you can determine how you want to spend your day and what activities you’ll outsource.
3. What qualifications are needed to become a consultant?
No formal education, background, or work experience is required. If you are an expert in a field, then you can be a consultant. It’s really just about helping others, through coaching, training, guidance and lending your expertise to help them be better at their job.
4. What are consulting jobs like?
Depending on what kind of consultant you’ll be, your time will be spent working with clients, either one-on-one in person or online. You may also be called to be an expert for TV interviews, flown out by large companies to train their staff, write a training guide, and more.
Consulting is a great job that many people find fulfilling and very fruitful. You have an opportunity to help others and make a nice living while doing it.
To recap, we talked about what a consultant does, the different types of consultants, how to become a consultant, the steps to follow to launch your consultancy, and common questions you still might have.
What do you think?
If you’re thinking about diving into the world of consulting, share what kind of consultant you’re thinking about becoming.