Do you dream of the consultant's lifestyle? Setting your own hours, being your own boss, living where you want, and accepting only projects that interest you.
Sure, working as an independent consultant can be as risky as it is rewarding, but it's not as hard as you might think. If you're resourceful, organized, and have a wide range of skills, consulting could be just the profession for you. And if you plan it right the first time, you can succeed where others have failed.
Whether you're contemplating a move into the consulting field or you're currently an independent consultant looking for some expert advice, ITworld.com columnist Peter Rysavy has some useful information for you about running your own consultancy -- from securing clients and managing time to branding your company and expanding your business.
What is it really like to be a consultant?: If you've ever wished you could run your own business, with the freedom to choose your clients, projects, and hours, you might be ready for the consulting life. To learn more about the industry and how you might fit in, read on.
The skills you need to be a successful consultant: Becoming a successful consultant is less about specific expertise than about having the right skills and personality for the job. Learn how to evaluate your professional and personal skills, focus your expectations, and you're on your way.
Fear: It's the biggest impediment to starting your own business: Many people dream of leading a consultant's life, but few take the leap. Overcome your fear by examining the key considerations for starting your own consultancy.
Clients: How to get them: Like most other businesses, consultancies require a steady stream of clients -- so how do you go about securing them? The answer lies in diversification, flexibility, and quality of service.
Overcome negative perceptions: As a consultant, you fight negative perceptions about your job on a daily basis. By establishing yourself as trustworthy, efficient, and credible, you not only build your own reputation, but that of the industry as well.
Setting rates: How high should you go?: Setting your consulting fees is a touchy process; if they're too high, you lose business, and if they're too low, you lose money and credibility. Factors to consider when setting your rates include the type of work you perform, the services your client demands, and the timelines for projects.
Proposal writing: The key to getting business: If written correctly, proposals don't have to be time-consuming, but they can be the secret to securing clients. Following these tips, you can develop effective proposals that target clients' needs with language that will make them sit up and listen.
The consulting agreement: What each party expects: The consulting agreement is the marriage contract between consultant and client. Understanding each party's expectations allows you to spell out the process and goals in the agreement so that you can develop a mutually satisfactory relationship.
Time management: Your business depends on it: While being your own boss can have distinct advantages, it also means that you have to run every aspect of the business yourself. Because your duties are so varied, time management and prioritization are essential to your survival and success.
How to work with a consultant: If you think that you'll never have to work with other consultants, you're wrong. Eventually you're going to have to subcontract some work, so be sure to find the right party.
How to get paid: Collecting payment from clients can sometimes be a hassle. Follow these tips and you'll get your hard-earned money when it's due.
Retirement strategies for consultants: To some, the flexibility of consulting can be a blessing, but you must also learn to plan for the future. Here are some key considerations and resources for planning your retirement.
Tools of the trade: To effectively run your own consulting business, you need to have the right tools. To do so, you're going to have to figure out which ones are essential to your trade and then learn how to balance performance and cost.
Staying one step ahead of the client:An important aspect of successful consulting is having a deep understanding of your industry. Research techniques and resources are essential to both your personal knowledge and the work that you perform for clients.
How to grow your consulting business: Another way to develop your consulting business is by entering into partnerships with other consultants. But you must prepare yourself; a partnership in the business world is equivalent to marriage, so take all of the necessary precautions before you commit.
Building your own company: Growing your independent consulting business into a full-fledged company can be a logical transition, but in order to succeed you must be aware of the pitfalls. Learn the necessary steps to build your own company and find out what new hats you'll have to wear as a company manager.
Use these techniques to earn your client's trust: Maintaining client trust can be tricky business for consultants, and if you're not paying attention, it can be easy to take a wrong step. But there are ways to sidestep conflicts of interest and manage sensitive data so that you can divulge information without breaching client trust.
Career tip: Investigate medical savings accounts: A frequent downside to self-employment is that individual health coverage rates don't measure up to those offered for large companies. Few people know about medical savings accounts, which save you big money by using pretax dollars to fund medical expenses.
How to brand your consulting business: Through careful market positioning and branding, you can control how the industry and potential clients perceive you. By following these key steps to branding your business, you can move ahead of the pack.
Know when to say no to consulting projects: Even though rejecting proposals seems antithetical to your professional instincts, every successful consultant faces the challenge of too much work. Learn how to establish a game plan, prioritize projects, set deadlines, and turn down unwanted projects.
Why people do not like consultants: Some consultants engage in unprofessional behavior, giving the entire industry a bad name. Rysavy shares tips on how to redeem your reputation as a consultant and keep the clients coming back.
The downsides of consulting: There are many benefits to being a consultant, such as having the satisfaction of running your own business, controlling your destiny, and enjoying flexible work hours. But there are also numerous downsides. Anybody thinking about a career in consulting should think twice.
How to get known: As a consultant, the more exposure you have, the more successful your business will be. Exposure translates to more clients, better credibility, and a market position that allows you to charge the rates you deserve.