By Art Koff
For years, consulting has topped the list of businesses started by professionals who leave the workforce or “retire” and wish to continue working. Yet many who seek a new career as a consultant don't know which of their skills and experience will be of greatest value to them. Fortunately, there's an easy solution.
Go to http://www.tempandparttimejobs.com/jobs/search and enter "consultant" or “consulting” in the keyword box, and you will see thousands of opportunities posted by consulting companies and employers located throughout the world. Using this search engine and reading the job descriptions of relevant jobs will help you identify the skills you'll need to make this transition.
You can narrow your search by using a wide range of keywords, and the resulting list will give you an idea of the types of opportunities available. This search should also influence your decision on whether to seek a consulting industry job, or start your own consulting practice.
If you decide to work for yourself, depending on your background, you're likely to need certain certifications as well as credentials for credibility and marketing. For example, process consultants should have Lean or Six Sigma certifications or rankings, while project managers should have certification as a project management professional. Other industry specific credentials or certifications are desirable and sometimes a requirement.
Before you start your own practice, you also need to have a plan for marketing your services to prospective clients. It's important that the network you've established over the years be maintained and expanded if possible. Unfortunately, many who are nearing retirement stop networking, which typically is a huge mistake since you'll need that network to generate clients for your new business.
Of course, you also have to be capable of managing your own consulting business to be successful. If you don't have the organizational skills and abilities to schedule and complete the projects you'll be taking on, starting your own practice will guarantee failure.
Before you move forward, make sure you have the following skills:
- Business to business selling/marketing ability
- Enough money saved to carry you over until your business is profitable
- A network of prospects along with contact information
- A home office or an affordable outside location where you can conduct your business
You should also set both long-term goals (10 clients within 12 months) and short-term goals (an email marketing campaign to 1,000 prospects).
If your goals don't match up with the time and energy it will take for you to successfully build a consulting practice within the time you've budgeted, then reconsider your plans.
One of the best advantages of consulting is that you can usually set your own schedule. You decide how much you want to work and what kinds of assignments you wish to accept.
Prior to leaving your current job, if you are thinking of starting a consulting practice, you should:
- Google “consulting practice” and “starting a consulting practice,” where you will find many resources, including books on how to build a successful consulting practice such as “10 Ways to Start a Consulting Practice.”
- Maintain your contacts and continue to network.
- Decide what area(s) of consulting you plan to establish and make a special effort to network with the people and companies that could use your services.
- Develop any skills and acquire the credentials you will need, including classwork.
- Do some analysis to see if the area in which you plan to consult is truly viable.
- Check out how to acquire a state business license.
- Check out what kind of a corporate entity is appropriate and how to form it.
- Check office space (home or outside location). A shared office space is usually best to start as most offer many of the support services you will need.
- Determine the type of insurance you will need
- Research the marketing/advertising materials you will need (including a Website)
- Research pricing and the amount you will charge for your services, as well as expenses you will incur that can be charged back to your clients.