Have the Expertise? Become a Consultant

Many organizations seek outside help when tackling challenging issues -- whether deciding how to grow (or retrench), whether to pursue expansion, solve a marketing or operations problem... just about any major business decision -- and they obtain that help by hiring consultants.

If you are an expert in your field and are looking for something different in terms of employment, you might want to consider becoming a consultant -- allowing you to work with multiple companies and organizations and giving you the flexibility to pick and choose your projects and time commitment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for consultants (also referred to as business and management analysts) is expected to continue on a positive trajectory, growing in the double-digits. Furthermore, consultants, on average, earn more than $90,000 per year -- at an average of about $50 per hour. Obviously, your earnings will depend on your level of expertise, the price you set for your services, and how well you attract and retain clients.

That said, becoming a consultant means losing the security of a full-time job for the uncertainty that comes with finding and acquiring clients. Besides losing the steady paycheck from a full-time job, becoming a consultant also means that you now have to deal with issues such as finding and funding your own health insurance, life insurance, retirement, etc.

But if you're ready to take the leap into the unknown and share your expertise with the world as a consultant, this post outlines the steps you need to take, as well as a list of the best websites that match consultants with clients in need of an expert.

Steps to Becoming a Consultant

1. Carefully Craft Your Area(s) of Expertise. The most successful consultants operate in a narrow field of knowledge and expertise; very few are jack-of-all-trades. Organizations want to hire someone who can jump right into the fire, see the big picture, make recommendations, and sometimes also supplement ongoing work. (Note: In your analysis, if your expertise has a crack in it, fill it with additional experience, education, training before jumping into starting your consulting business.)

2. Decide on a Target Market. The most effective consultants know exactly the type of organizations they want to work for -- whether startups, family businesses, nonprofits, or large corporations. You may also want to focus on specific geographic locations or certain industries.

3. Determine Operational Standards. The strongest consultants build a sturdy foundation for their businesses, which includes items such as rates (hourly, weekly, project-based), hours worked/billed per week, and dedicated office setup (including physical office, as well as communications and office technologies).

4. Build/Create an Online Branded Presence. First-rate consultants have a strongly crafted/targeted LinkedIn profile and consulting website that clearly showcases their expertise and value, including work and consulting experience, educational credentials, certifications, testimonials, work samples. All of these elements are part of a professional brand you need to project to your target market. One important element of this branding is the use of keywords to describe your brand.

5. Network, Pitch, Network -- Repeat. The consultants who thrive do so by continuously seeking the next clients -- even while finishing up projects for current clients. Using LinkedIn (and personal networking), conferences, trade shows, professional organizations, and various consulting websites, these professionals are constantly networking and developing pitches for prospective clients. This piece is essential since gaining new clients is critical to success.

Best Consulting Websites

Here are the best consulting sites. Many of these sites are similar to job boards -- where consultants register (mostly at no cost) their brand and organizations post their consulting needs.

Final Thoughts on Becoming a Consultant

It takes a certain mindset and comfort with risk to jump from full-time employment to consulting, but the payoff is complete control of your life -- and having the luxury of not reporting to anyone besides yourself (and your clients).

If you are on the fence about making the leap, why not connect with a few consultants on LinkedIn and see if one or more would be willing to chat with you and offer their opinions, feedback, and lessons learned the hard way.

Additional Consulting Resources

Dr. Randall Hansen is an advocate, educator, mentor, ethicist, and thought-leader... helping the world heal from past trauma. He is founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com.

He is the author of the groundbreaking Triumph Over Trauma: Psychedelic Medicines are Helping People Heal Their Trauma, Change Their Lives, and Grow Their Spirituality and the well-received HEAL! Wholeistic Practices to Help Clear Your Trauma, Heal Yourself, and Live Your Best Life.

Dr. Hansen's focus and advocacy center around true healing ... healing that results in being able to live an authentic life filled with peace, joy, love. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.