Who can be a consultant?
Updated: Oct 21, 2021
Many people with different talents and skills can become consultants
Think of your own experience. How often have people asked for your advice? This may be in areas that have nothing to do with your field of work.
Do you have talents that are well recognized outside of the workplace? Friends may say to you that you have such an immaculate and organized home that they wish you would come over and help them figure out how to get rid of the mess and clutter. There are consultants that do that for a living.
Others may often seek your advice, because you are polished, have great manners and etiquette, always know the right thing to say and the best way to dress for any occasion. Yes, there are image consultants that do that for a living.
Do others approach you, because you are considered to be great mentor? Do they ask your advice about how to move ahead in their careers, how they should approach their work, or what training they need to move up in the organization? Coaching consultants do this for a living.
At work, do others ask for your advice in your technical area of expertise? If you are a resource for others in your working life, and you are paid to do that, you could be a consultant in the very areas that you are being paid for now.
You may already be working for a company that specializes in consulting. You can turn your advice and knowledge that you use in your job into an independent consultancy. We will go through the process step-by-step.
But if it is so easy, why isn’t everyone an independent consultant?
Here are some reasons:
The area in which you could consult does not pay well.
It may pay well per hour or project but may not provide sufficient income, because of too much competition.
You may have difficulty dealing with the change and the possible risks of going into consulting.
Life may be so busy for you that it is hard to add new activities to make the transition.
You may be tempted to look for employment by someone else rather than start something on your own.
You may procrastinate while thinking, “I could do my job anywhere, or if I ever leave this job, I could go into consulting.”
You may not know where to start:
How do I go about it?
Will I be able to earn a living doing this?
Can I afford the startup costs?
How much can I charge for my services?
Where will I find clients?
You may believe that you have to start a complete consultancy from the beginning rather than moving into it gradually.
Where and how to start will be addressed for the most part in future blogs and some are addressed here in my website at https://www.consultsinfo.com/get-started.
Are you a consultant or a contractor?
A consultant is an advisor, a trainer, a teacher, or a person who provides a roadmap or approach. When business as usual is not working, when there is a problem that is difficult to solve, the consultant is a resource. Of course, a consultant generally works as a contractor, but a contractor is not necessarily a consultant.
Contractors provide services. They perform work that an organization needs to outsource for various reasons. This does not necessarily imply giving advice or solving a problem.
The Internal Revenue Service defines independent contractors as follows: “People such as doctors, dentists, veterinarians, lawyers, accountants, contractors, subcontractors, public stenographers, or auctioneers who are in an independent trade, business, or profession in which they offer their services to the general public are generally independent contractors. However, whether these people are independent contractors or employees depends on the facts in each case. The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.“
Much of what is written here is relevant to contractors, whether you are strictly a consultant or a technically skilled individual, who provides services that require outsourcing.
Generally, successful consultants have reputations as a leaders and experts in their fields. It most often means that they are experienced and accomplished in their areas. To succeed in consulting it helps to successful in marketing yourself, or to find someone who will market your services and get you clients. It is also helps to be known to be excellent at your work, or to be well-known in your field.
Consultants earnings depend on the type of work they do and their perceived expertise. For those who have limited expertise, the pay may be less. Clearly, on the other end, there are consultants who earn thousands of dollars an hour, such as well known public figures, and the top experts in some fields.
While becoming a consultant has its perks, there are some risks. Taking a stepwise approach, you can begin to build your consultancy, while you are still employed. You should check on your current employer’s policies on outside work. If their policies don’t allow for outside work, you have a decision to make.
While you are getting established, you will may have ups and downs. You may earn a lot one month and much less the next month. By averaging out what you are earning and planning ahead, you can live on what you are really earning per year.
Some people who go into consulting find the fluctuating income unmanageable, seek a regular job, and give up their independent consulting.
If you are a self-starter and value your independence, you will likely try harder to remain a consultant. Here are examples of two consultants in the pharmaceutical industry, both of whom are physicians:
The first physician, let’s call him Dr. AB, left his comfortable salaried job in the pharmaceutical industry and moved to another far away state to be near one of the biotech hubs. He confided that for the first year, it was very difficult, and he had to moonlight as a physician to make ends meet. For the next year, it was a struggle, but he was able to survive. Finally, his consultancy took off after two years, and since then he has over many years always had more consulting opportunities than he can handle.
His experience shows that it is good to have another source of income, while you are starting up.
But sometimes the transition is easy.
The second physician, let’s call her Dr. CD, left a comfortable salaried job, too – in this case, it was in the Federal Government. She headed to a city on the East Coast, rented an apartment and worked from her new home. From the moment she started she had more business than she could handle and eventually she had to hire an assistant.
Why become a consultant now?
Never has there been a better time to be a consultant than right now. The phenomenal and continual growth of global connectivity has opened up a wealth of opportunities. Today you can work from anywhere, and in many organizations, it’s required. In the age of the internet and worldwide communications, with a laptop computer, and a mobile phone, you can take the show on the road.
Widespread availability of Wi-Fi connections across the world allow almost anyone to be extremely mobile.
Free open source software allows anyone with a computer to download programs for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, and many more applications. Though, it is better to use the most widespread software if you deal with documents and spreadsheets, especially the software that your clients are using. A growing number of resources on the internet provide free email, applications, and a place to leave documents, pictures, and information.
Free computer-to-computer communications apps, such as Skype, Zoom, and others, are available.
With a small investment, you can set yourself up as a more sophisticated business with your own home office, internet provider, and all of the formal business arrangements. For example, Microsoft 365 and Google apps for small businesses can help you get started for a small monthly cost. They provide email packaged with a number of the kinds of apps used in business.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that office staff can be productive working remotely. It helped to expand the use of Zoom at a phenomenal rate. Other companies have risen to compete with making it easier to use their applications for teleconferencing. Changes in Microsoft Teams and Apple's FaceTime. Telemedicine, which had been very limited, became widespread during the pandemic. Many conferences moved to virtual meetings. Many adaptations had to be made to allow such large numbers of people to attend online meetings at the same time.
Freelance work is on the rise, remote work is more favorably regarded than ever before, and it is a favorable time now particularly for consultants who are in fields where work can be done remotely.
For consultants who need to work face-to-face or at your clients location, until the COVID-19 pandemic is over or under control, establishing a consultancy may be more difficult, depending on your age, health, and local conditions, but you can take steps to prepare for a transition in the near future.
What are your thoughts?