Starting any business can be daunting but with the use of consultants by more and more companies in Australia, it can be a rewarding and lucrative path. According to the dictionary, Consultants are people who provide expert advice professionally. But being an expert doesn’t guarantee you the work.
As a consultant you need to find your own clients directly, or sub-contract to a larger company that provides the same services as you do. Typically you will need to have multiple clients which means working with a broad range of people and personalities – perhaps with a requirement to suit specific needs of individual clients. So what should you consider before starting?
Legality: Depending on your area of specialisation, there may be certain requirements. These could include certifications, legal or insurance requirements. There are also tax rules around working as a consultant. Research all the legal requirements before you start and engage a lawyer and/or accountant to make sure your business complies with relevant regulations.
Qualifications: Do you need any special qualifications to provide your expert advice? This can be the case in the financial and other regulated industries so find out before you get started. You should also look at industry accreditations or professional memberships as a way of establishing credibility and keeping up to date with what’s going on in your industry.
Lifestyle: Is your lifestyle ready for this change? How organised are you? If you’ve been working in a large organisation, it may be a shock to the system to suddenly be in charge of everything from fixing your email glitches to paying the bills (and making sure the money is coming in). You also don’t get paid for any time off any more – no sick leave, no annual leave and no superannuation. Consider whether your personality and lifestyle can cope with these factors.
Target Market: The best services in the world are no good to anyone if there is no market for them. Work out who is going to pay you for your expertise. Is it individuals, small companies, large organisations, or global corporates? Decide whether the target market that is accessible to you is viable. This might not be a major consideration if your services can be offered online, however if you need to provide a face to face service, this step is vital before you do anything else.
Uniqueness: What is it about your consulting services that will make you stand out? What can you provide your clients that other consultants or organisations cannot? As a consultant, you need to be able to articulate very clearly – both verbally and in writing – why someone would use your services. This includes developing collateral such as websites and brochures as well as deciding on your core offer and messaging.
Company Structure: You may want to start small – with just you in a home-based office. Check your own local laws about operating a business from a domestic location, but think about your structure up front. Are you going to hire staff down the track? If so where will they work and what will they do? Can you hire someone to do the administration work while you provide the specialist expertise or would you rather hire another ‘specialist’?
Networking: Networking is key to success as a small business owner. As a consultant it is even more important. You need to make sure you have a consistent flow of work – for that to happen, you should build and maintain relationships with current and potential clients.
Billing: Decide on your rates and stick to them. Be careful of charging too little because your business won’t be viable longer term, but likewise if you charge too much, you may not attract any clients. Finding the perfect middle ground can be difficult but one way to decide is to research what your competitors are charging and base your decision around being competitive. Make sure you are comparing ‘apples with apples’. Don’t forget to consider your expenses and if you are going to incur any additional expenses during the course of a project, provide your client with an estimate up front so they are prepared. Consider charging prior to commencing the work or in instalments if projects are going to be lengthy. Alternatively, specify time-frames for work completion with the clients so you’re not waiting for months to get paid. Determine all of this before you start so you can explain your terms of business up front to new clients.
Are you thinking about starting a consulting business but not sure where to start? Are you worried your personality may not be suited to consulting?
If you would like personalised help from a Career Coach to evaluate your options, please see our Career Counselling and Coaching Services which can be provided over the phone or in person in locations across Australia.