What It Takes To Be a Consultant
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There are a number of levels to consulting; everything from offering services of manual labor through to providing business or technological skills and intellectual effort to corporations. The common thread in this is that you have to market your services, sell the project and negotiate terms for its completion, complete the project, and last but not least, get paid. With my experience being in business and information technology consulting, my discussion herein will focus on that level of enterprise.
So what is a consultant and what does a consultant do?
- A consultant hires him/herself out to businesses/corporations for fixed or variable periods of time to perform a service needed by that business entity.
- A consultant, in most instances, will be at a completely arms-length business distance from the client corporation and will therefore not receive any benefits from the corporation that an employee would (medical, dental, holiday pay, etc.).
- A consultant usually must pay for all equipment, tools, computer equipment, supplies, and software that he or she needs to utilize while on the consulting engagement.
- All costs related to getting to the client location to complete the consulting engagement are usually borne by the consultant unless otherwise negotiated with the client prior to the engagement commencing.
- A consultant is often an individual proprietorship or “one person/small business” corporation.
- To work, a consultant needs to find each new client and secure a consulting contract for each engagement.
- A consultant when working, usually submits periodic invoices to the client (bi-weekly, semi-monthly or monthly) and then must wait to be paid by the client based on the payment terms defined in the client/consultant agreement/contract
What does it actually take then to become a successful consultant? First you have to put in the time to learn how to find and sell yourself on projects. This can take years depending on the discipline chosen.
To be successful, you will then need:
- The Education – For Example, At Minimum, a College Degree to be Able to Cross Borders to Consult in Other Countries (E.g., Trade Nafta Status – for USA and Canada cross border consulting projects or;
- You work as an affiliated representative of a consulting company allowed to complete projects in the target country or “state/Province” of that country – they would handle your cross border qualification
- The Resume – to Document Your Experience Levels to Prospective Clients
- Probably a Portable Computer and Your Own “Toolkit” of Current Project Delivery Applications, Templates, Agreements, Proposal Examples, Deliverable Examples, etc.
- Usable References – They Will Call Them!
- Access to and posting your resume and/or qualifications to several field related “Staffing/Resourcing Databases”
Being a Consultant requires learning how to…
- Find clients for your services including learning how to:
- Leverage existing contacts to sniff out new project opportunities
- Use project resourcing bulletin boards
- Work LinkedIn, Google Plus and Facebook
- Utilize “Project Headhunters”
- Collaborate with major consulting firms
- Build your CV, Skills Matrix and Usable Reference List
- Build quality proposal templates, Request for Information (RFI) templates, etc.
- Create agreement templates, travel & expense templates, non-disclosure agreements
- Build “Trade NAFTA” and other acceptable cross-border documentation for international opportunities
- Negotiate contracts with client prospects
A few summary comments, as a consultant, you have the freedom to work for whoever you want and do whatever project you want – and this keeps life exciting. But remember, as a consultant, you must take care to ensure you get paid – you do not have the same safety nets that an employee has – such as Labour Boards, etc..
Consulting can be very financially rewarding – but remember, every time you finish an engagement, you are in effect once again unemployed and looking for your next project. Can be stressful for some…but exiting for others.