It seems like everyone is either consulting or hiring consultants to get more from their business, and if you know your stuff, being a consultant is a great gig. You can work around your own schedule, participate in projects that truly challenge you, and do work that’s mutually beneficial rather than simply serving someone else’s goals.
The thing is, you’re probably not going to hit it big as a consultant right away. If you’re able to get started on the side while you build your brand, though, you could easily do anything from earning a bit of extra cash to building the foundations to start your own company. So let’s take a look at how to start consulting on the side.
Lay A Plan
Before you do anything, make sure you’re in a good place to be a consultant. Think about what you know and how well you know it. You might be good at your job, but does six months of experience really translate into insight that a project team member can’t gain from some thorough Googling? Be sure you know your stuff so that you can go in with confidence and give your clients resources and insight worth their time and money.
When you have a field in mind, such as network consultant or advertising consultant, plan out everything you’ll need to make sure you’re operating on the up-and-up. This could be everything from business cards to build your network to proper licensing both as a consultant and within your industry. It doesn’t matter how foolproof your business plan is if you’re operating outside of regulations.
Plan for your deliverable, too. You’re there because you know things – you’re going to implement the things you know, and you’re going to teach other people how to work with the knowledge you’re giving them. Be prepared. Ask questions in advance. Have recommendations ready. Draw up samples or templates if they’re relevant. You’ll be expected to hit the ground running, so don’t be surprised when you’re expected to work from the get-go.
Get To Business
Consulting isn’t quite like other entrepreneurial ventures. Once you’ve decided on your specialties and have everything set up so that you’re legally ok, all you have to do is take the plunge.
A good reason to start consulting on the side is because it gives you a chance to build your network. Especially at first, you can’t be all about bringing in the cash. Instead, you have to focus on making meaningful connections – the type that will make you stick out in a potential client’s mind and prove you know something that’s useful to them. You may even have to do a bit of pro bono project work.
Just remember that when you’re consulting, you’re only as good as what you can offer. You not only have to be able to prove that you know your stuff, you have to get in good enough with a potential client that they’ll be comfortable letting you prove yourself.
Be prepared to network. Hard. Once you have a solid client or two under your belt, you’ll be able to transition into a more business-oriented mindset, but always remember that your first goal is to keep people coming to you, and your second is to give them reason to stay.
It’s no easy gig, but if you’ve go insight consulting may just work for you. Start on the side and build your brand, and you may just find yourself in a whole in career not too far down the line.