When you’ve gained a lot of experience in a particular field, you may find yourself looking at companies and thinking, They aren’t doing things the best way. Then you probably have a good laugh at your own arrogance, thinking how unlikely it is that they’ll ever ask your opinion about it.
It may not be as unlikely as you think. Many of the decisions made by businesses and government are driven by the input of consultants. These mysterious people swoop in, dig through the entity’s operations, and then provide a report on what’s going right, what’s going wrong, and how to go the right direction in the future.
Could that be you? Could you be one of those corporate mercenaries who come in and right the ship? It’s a possibility.
There’s a very distinct set of skills and experience that these consultants have, and only if you’ve achieved that level of proficiency will you have any chance of succeeding at telling others how to succeed.
Let’s look at some of the things you’ll need to do to establish a successful consulting firm.
As a one-man or one-woman show, you’ll need to be able to operate things from wherever you may be. When your clients want to pay, you need to be ready to accept their money. That’s how Checkout.com serves their customers: they handle online payment transactions while you go on about your normal business.
Most people report to work every day, usually in the same location where they reported yesterday and the day before, and countless hundreds of previous days. When you work as a consultant, you will be based at home, but your workplace will change as often as your clients change. You’ll be on the move for sure.
You will also need to be able to market. If you have a resume with a lengthy listing of former employers, you should start right away by re-connecting with co-workers and supervisors who know what you can do. Those people are likely to be scattered among dozens of new employers themselves, and they can give you inroads to a market without such an arduous process of soliciting business.
You may think that operating a home-based consulting firm will leave you snugly ensconced in your spare bedroom, gently sipping coffee while scrolling through email on your laptop.
That’s not the case. Consulting is a job that requires you to go to your clients and see what they do on a daily basis. If they’re in manufacturing, you need to see their fabrication and assembly processes to detect the shortfalls. If it’s a restaurant, you’ll want to view their kitchen layout and dining room configuration.
In short, you have to go to them, and that will require a lot of time in airplanes and hotels. You’ll bounce from one time zone to another, and you’ll miss school plays and birthdays back home. For many people, travel is exhilarating, but if that’s not you, you should consider other career options.
Great Communication Skills
Diplomacy has been defined as the ability to tell someone where to go in such a way that they look forward to the trip. Some of what you uncover about your clients may not make them happy. There may be inefficiencies, fundamental mistakes, or even theft going on.
Can you frame that to them in a way that doesn’t insult them? Remember that you need to give them what they are paying you to give them, but your networking will erode quickly if you are viewed as a hack who just wants to come in and create havoc.
You must be a communicator. You must be able to explain why certain problems must be addressed, both in person and in writing. You need to be able to document the reasons for your recommendations. And in most cases, you had better prepare for a lot of “But we’ve always done it this way!”
Starting a consulting business can provide you with good income, great variability in your routine, and lots of independence. If your experience level is high enough to constitute expert status, this could be a great option for you.
Content contributed by a regular reader and fan of Money Beagle.
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