Goals for Professional Consulting
If you’re more interested in giving expert advice than in taking orders, a career offering consulting services might be a good path for you. The Harvard Business Review mentions it's also a good career path for someone who prefers flexibility in their work but understands it can be time consuming.
As a consultant, you can work for a consulting company that finds clients for you, or you can start your own business, potentially earning more money but taking on more marketing and management responsibilities. Setting short- and long-term consultant goals will help you balance job satisfaction and compensation potential.
Choose the Type of Consulting
The first step in creating consulting goals is to determine exactly what type of consulting you want to do. The more you can tailor your services to a niche, the more you’ll seem like an expert in that area and be able to attract clients who are willing to pay for specific expertise. The more general you make your services, the larger your potential target market will be.
For example, a human resources consultant might specialize in training programs, benefits planning and wellness programs. She might decide to offer consulting in all of these areas, as well as recruiting, legal compliance and payroll. If you prefer to work for a consulting company, set up informational interviews to learn how these companies operate and what it will take for you to land a gig with one.
Have a Consulting Firm Plan
If you’re going to try to strike out on your own, understand that consulting is a business that, like any other, requires a business plan for maximum success, cautions Duquesne University. Include a marketplace analysis with a target audience for your consulting firm and review of your competition.
You should then create a marketing plan with a budget. Set financial goals, including an hourly rate for your consulting services that covers travel, overhead and taxes and provides a profit based on the amount of hours you think you can generate.
Have the Right Credentials
Potential clients want to know you’re an expert in your field, so building your credentials should be a key goal. Consulting in an area that’s relevant to your college degree is a good start. Adding a recognized certification in your profession offers is another.
You can join trade associations at the local, state and national level to add to your credentials. Get involved on a committee or join a board of directors to get this experience on your CV and marketing materials. You don’t need a traditional publisher to write and publish your own book; e-book publishing is a simple and effective way to become an author. Write a book in your area of expertise you can give to clients and get peers to post positive reviews online.
If you don’t feel you can write a book, create a blog or quarterly electronic newsletter. You can offer one or more free consulting engagements so you can build client testimonials and present case studies for your website or marketing materials.
Network With Others
To reduce the amount of cold calling you’ll have to do to find work, Forbes suggests start building your professional network. Begin with your current contacts, letting them know your plans to offer consulting services. Create a LinkedIn profile and begin targeting people who might help you.
If you can afford it, mail a print newsletter to your network to make yourself stand out from the many people sending emails that end up in spam folders or get deleted before they are read. Attend and participate in industry conferences, trade shows, seminars, annual meetings, golf tournaments and cocktail parties.
Market Your Consulting Services
In addition to networking, market yourself with a website, newsletter, book and direct mailings to people who hire consultants. If you aren’t interested in handling your own marketing, consider hiring a booker to find work for you. When you get work from a booker, you pay the booker a percentage of the fees you derive from that engagement or a set fee per client.
Steve Milano is a journalist and business executive/consultant. He has helped dozens of for-profit companies and nonprofits with their marketing and operations. Steve has written more than 8,000 articles during his career, focusing on small business, careers, personal finance and health and fitness. Steve also turned his tennis hobby into a career, coaching, writing, running nonprofits and conducting workshops around the globe.