10 Steps to Become a Self-Employed Consultant

consultant

Have you ever wondered how to be a consultant? What does a consultant do? Well, the answer is simple – a consultant consults. The answer, though true in its basic sense, is much too vague.  If you want to become a self-employed consultant, you need to have a better idea about the business and the way to set it up. Let’s try to define the role of a consultant.

The task of a consultant is to provide advice to an individual or organization about matters in a specific niche. Still sounds vague; right? You need to dig a little deeper into the area before you plunge in to establish your business as a consultant.

Below is a step-by-step guide to help you start off as a self-employed consultant.

How To Be a Consultant: 10 Steps to Self Employment

Step 1: Identify the Niche in Which You Have Knowledge and Experience

You may have an interest in computers. However, this does not mean you can become an independent computer consultant (though it can give you a head-start in this field). Knowledge and experience coupled with interest is the only way to begin.

If you have knowledge about computers (hardware or software), have worked with these for a considerable period of time and have the latest detailed, information about them, you can plan to start a computer consulting business.

Step 2: Acquire the Certifications and Licenses

Some consulting businesses do not require formal training and certifications (e.g., gardening consulting). However, if you are planning to work as an accounting consultant, you need to get professional certifications from recognized accounting institutions.

Also, consider the licensing requirements to start a consulting business. The local or state legal guidelines may require you to get a particular license to work as an independent consultant in certain specialties.

Step 3: Decide Your Short and Long Term Goals

If you excel in a niche that has a good prospect, such as business consulting, computer consulting, career consulting and so on, you may paint a rosy picture of clients waiting for your advice within a week of starting your consulting business.

It’s not magic.  If you have such unrealistic expectations, you are sure to be disappointed. Every business takes time to grow and become known and established. If you lack the time and effort to start and establish a business, you may end up headed towards failure.

Step 4: Choose Your Target Market

If no one pays for your ideas and advice, your business will face failure. It will also face the same result if the recipients of your ideas do not have the money to pay you. The first thing you need to do is to decide whether you will advise individuals or companies.

Every niche in the consulting business provides these options. For example, if you are working as a career consultant, you may help individuals plan their careers. You may also work with a large corporation to help the employees excel in their chosen fields.

Step 5: Research Your Target Market

Individuals and organizations need consultants for a number of reasons. A tax consultant can help a millionaire plan his/her taxes. A computer consultant can help the employees of a large company learn software basics. A human resource consultant can help a big business implement a change in a policy.

After you determine the target market that will hire you for your expertise, you need to find out the various ways in which you may help them. This will help you market your consulting business. You need to tell your clients why they need you.

Step 6: Consider a Home Office

If your local laws permit this, it can work to your advantage in more ways than one. You don’t spend any money to buy or rent an office space to start your business as a self-employed consultant. You don’t need to pay for utilities separately. You don’t need to pay for a regular commute.

Along with the money, you also save time and energy when you work out of your home. You may acquire new premises after you have established your business and employed associates; but more on this later.

Step 7: Build Your Network

If no one knows you and you know no one in your field, you may find yourself in the midst of a disaster soon. It is important to start building your network as soon as you have decided to be a consultant. A strong contact base ensures that you have the sources to find work.

A professional network, coupled with a social network, can help you market and advertise your business. References are also important ways to find work in the niche. Rely on your initial contact base to build your network.

Step 8: Fix Your Fees and the Way to Bill Clients

As a beginner, you may not receive high fees as a consultant. Your charges increase as you become known as a consultant. Keep in mind your credentials and experience as well as market conditions, your target group and your competitors when you fix your fees.

Also, decide how you will bill clients. Hourly billing may seem to be a convenient method; the problem is many clients think that you charge too much for your time. It is best to use the project-based billing method when you start your consulting business.

Step 9: Arrange for Advertising and Marketing

You are not selling a house which, by the way, is much easier than selling your advice. Many of your clients may not be even aware that they need your ideas and advice. How do you market and advertise something so difficult? Believe it or not, you have a lot of choices – print media, cold-calls, online ads and many others.

Before you choose any avenue to advertise, decide your budget. If the costs go out of hand, the chance of success of your business plummets. Newsletters and brochures, advertisements in niche-specific journals, websites and blogs offer the best options.

Step 10:Determine Whether You Need to Outsource Certain Tasks

You may find it easier to handle all tasks of your business on your own when you start. But after your consulting business is up and running, you may need the help of others and you may decide to employ people. Check both legal and tax details before you do this.

You may also outsource some tasks that do not require your immediate attention. Make sure that the tasks are not connected to your consulting business. For example, you can outsource auditing for a career consulting business but not when it is your niche.

Consulting Photo via Shutterstock

38 Comments ▼

Richard White


Richard White Richard White works as an editor at Yellow Brick Path. He enjoys varying his work and researching new and different approaches. He shares an interest in career counseling and recruitment.

38 Reactions

  1. This is something we could say that expert information for becoming an expert in an specific niche of choice, thanks for sharing such an advice for free because I’m going to use it my market research for a product launch business.

  2. Great job with this one, Richard.

    I can tell you from personal experience that focus is the key.

    Any would-be consultants…here’s a tip: Focus on one niche. Don’t try to be a Jack or Jill of all trades.

    It’s too difficult…stick with one thing in a niche…or create a niche of your own!

    The Franchise King®

    • Thanks Joel.

      I agree with your advice – it is much too difficult to handle more than one niche at a time. Creating a niche of your own sounds like a great idea. Sure makes it easy to succeed when there is no competition!

  3. Awesome checklist. Becoming a self-employed consultant can prove to be difficult but your list has simplified the steps involved. Thanks for sharing.

    Ti

    • Thanks Ti. It’s nice to know that my checklist is of any help to you! Succeeding as a self-employed consultant takes time, but it can be a rewarding career choice if you plan it well and take one step at a time.

  4. I will add, be prepared, at the beginning, for:
    Responsibility
    Lots of work, pressure
    Manage your own time
    Become Proactive ALLWAYS
    Keep an eye on the cash flow

    • Yes; I agree with you Mario. It is very important to be prepared for the challenges ahead. There is no secret to success – except hard work, sincere effort and responsible management.

  5. Hi,
    These points are self evident but aspiring consultants like me forget to consider when starting as a consultant.
    regards
    vinodh

    • Hi Vinodh,

      It’s true that aspiring consultants do tend to forget even these self-evident points. My article is just a small reminder to help keep on track.

      Regards
      Richard

  6. Great tips. Finding the right niche is the hardest part.

    • Thanks Jeremy! Yeah, I agree with you; I think that the key is to find the thing you love. Then you would have the enthusiasm to learn and gather experience in the same.

    • I second jeremy. Its difficult to find right niche.
      despite that i have 15 years of full time programming experience
      i find it difficult to choose a niche. finding clients etc.

      • I agree that it is difficult to zero in on the niche. But I think that the way to do it is to ask yourself – what do I love the most about my area of expertise. This is often the right answer.

  7. Timothy O. Avele

    Am thinking of starting a consultancy business on counter-terrorism for corporate bodies and VIP’s. I found your article simple and direct to the point. But what other advice can you give to me? Thank you very much for a well done job of helping people.

    • Thanks Timothy! Well, you have the 10 basic points to start off as a consultant in this article. It is a good idea to read up as much as you can about the niche you have chosen. This would give you the necessary insight you need to succeed.

  8. Hi Richard,
    Thanks for sharing these simple and very direct tips.

    I want to pick up a career in that line and I find your write up really helpful.

    Thank you very much

  9. its simple and direct and i love it. thanks Richard. i am now ten steps ahead!

    • Well, Beejay, it was great to know that the article was of any help for you! Thanks for the appreciation.

  10. Hi richard,I’m thinking of consulting on computers or ICT,how do I go about it…. I need help,thanks

  11. I love your advise. I was actually thinking of being a garage sale consultant. I would offer to getbsupplies, and help get the word out for the customer. Any hints to start this would be appreciated. It would be a more seasonal thing, but there are always fundraisers or bizarres.

  12. i started become consultant at agribusiness field, any advices dear Richard ?

  13. Thanks for the advice. Finding a niche is important but its also tricky to find a profitable niche that can generate positive cash flow for your own business. Just my two cents worth.

  14. You missed one major step: learn to accept the word “No”. As a senior partner for CXXC Group, I have heard “no” more than I heard yes starting out. It’s not you, just business.

  15. You mention setting project prices instead of hourly. Any ideas where to find competitive pricing for a niche with no competition?

    • niche with no competition itself means that there is no money in that niche

      • vinodh: f there’s no competition, I don’t think it necessarily means there’s no money in that niche. It could be that it’s a totally new area or one that a very small amount of people have given thought to exploring.

  16. Hi Richard, as a retiree I could easily sell my services in the form of technical advice to my particular industry. I would do this on my own (no outsourcing)as a kind of hobby/ interest. When should I consider obtaining a limited co ? Is there an earning level below which I should simply manage this on my self assessment.
    Also, If I am giving advice on a technical basis, should I take out insurance to protect myself if somebody takes issue with my advice ? ie. is there a basic insurance cover for the individual consultant; a sort of liability cover I should consider ?

    Any suggestions or pointers would be greatly appreciated.
    Many thanks,
    Richard

  17. Hello Richard, Great article! I am retired but elect to do consulting to keep myself busy. So far I have joined Linkedin with lot of contacts and groups in my field. I have posted resume tailored for consulting and getting good response.

    Do you have an article to expose other side of taxation, forming business with your city/county etc.?

  18. I really appreciate this piece.
    However, I have been consulting freelance for individuals and a few firms, thus I want to go into the market. But my problem right now is that I’m being consulted for almost everything. How do I do it?

    I love the youth/students career consult. but I cannot concentrate on just that because I’m way into consulting for lots of things.

  19. Great information. Thank you

  20. this steps i agree it but another problems facing its starting capital for establish self employment

  21. Hi thanks for this list. I have being thinking of how to start my Hr consultancy but not sure how to go about it, now I can do just that with your help.

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