For a lot of people, being their own boss is the ultimate dream.
While a lot of this is driven by the idea that you’ll be sipping cocktails on a beach while your business ticks along in the background, there are plenty of more realistic ways you can benefit from being self-employed.
Being your own boss is great for flexibility. If you’ve found that you don’t work as well in the typical 9-5 grind, you can swap out your office hours for a time where you’re most productive.
It also means you can work as much or as little as you’d like – giving you plenty of opportunities to shape the type of salary you’re looking for.
Consultants can make a great income when self-employed. If you have some serious expertise, you could easily find yourself consulting for top businesses and individuals with a pretty price tag attached.
So how do you get started?
- Find your niche
You first need a topic that you know a lot about.
Consultancy isn’t just about talking about something you are interested in, however.
You need to know serious, valuable knowledge about your niche and preferably have some experience in the field.
Those that have work in accounting, banking, or investment could find themselves becoming an in-demand financial consultant, for example. Day to day, you may work with private investors and help them make better decisions with their money. Alternatively, you might help businesses create insurance and retirement packages that suit their employees.
- Get certified and licensed
Even if you’ve got the degree or certification to back up your knowledge, you’ll also need to set yourself up as self-employed according to local or state guidelines.
For those interested in complex topics like financial consultancy, you’ll likely require a degree or an MBA from a recognized institution. Otherwise, it will be difficult to find any client that’s willing to trust your decisions about their money.
- Create long and short-term goals
As with any business, the key to success is setting and achieving goals.
Those consulting in a popular niche like finance, business, or IT could easily find themselves overwhelmed with potential clients pretty quickly. That’s why it’s important to set short and long-term goals in place before you get started.
It’s also important to be realistic. If this is your first time being self-employed, you’ve got a lot to learn. So, try not to be too hard on yourself or set yourself unrealistic expectations. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself disappointed and ultimately ready to give up.
- Establish a target audience
Calling yourself a business consultant doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be the right consultant for everyone with business queries. You’ll need to find a more specific niche – for example, E-Commerce – and find a target audience to match.
Deciding on a target market will help to land your first client, and it’s not something to rush. Offering your services to small businesses or individuals may mean you end up providing your services for free or at a discounted rate. After all, you can only charge what your clients can afford.
If you want to earn more, you should set your target audience at larger businesses with the financial security to pay your rates.
- Learn the ins and outs of your market
Both individuals and companies use consultants for a variety of reasons, and you need to find how you can help. It might be best to offer people a number of different services to show that you really know your stuff.
An IT consultant, for example, doesn’t just have to help businesses implement new cybersecurity systems; they could also offer computer training to employees.
- Set up a home office
Rather than spending money you’ve not yet earned on office space, you could set up your own home office until you’ve found your feet.
Even those who are self-employed need a specific space to get their head down and focus. Sitting on the couch all day could easily lend itself to procrastination.
Setting up a home office will save you money on business premises and commuting and also help you to stay focused. It’s also a good way to set boundaries for remote workers, as you’ll have a dedicated space for work and the rest of the house for relaxation.
- Start networking
If nobody knows that you’re offering consultancy services, you’ll struggle to get any work. If you’ve quit your steady job to follow this dream, you could find yourself in a financial crisis if you don’t land clients soon.
For any freelancer or business owner, the key to steady income is networking. The earlier you can build your network, the better.
Having a strong contact base means you’ll have plenty of potential to reach out and offer your services. Not everyone will be interested while you’re just starting out, but they’ll likely keep you in mind for the future. All you need now is for one person to give you your lucky break.
Your network should include both professionals and friends, as these people are integral in motivating you, celebrating your success, and, most importantly, advertising your services. Friends will tell their friends, professionals will recommend you to other business owners, and suddenly your network is bigger than you ever imagined.
- Set your rates
Now for the difficult part. As a beginner, you don’t want your rates to be too high, but you also don’t want to undersell yourself. With consultancy, the more experience you gain, the more you can charge. So, it’s best to start off reasonable.
Credentials and experience mean you can charge more, but you also need to take into consideration the current market conditions. In times of recession, nobody is going to want to pay a huge price for a consultant – even if they need the help!
To help set your rates, you may want to think about how you’ll bill clients: hourly, daily, monthly, project-based, or even work on retainers.
- Get marketing
Of course, the only way you’ll be able to sell your services is to sell yourself first. Marketing is the key to getting your services in front of all the right people. Anyone can learn to market themselves these days, and there’s plenty of information online to help you with both offline and online marketing options.
With all your efforts, you’ll have your first client in no time. Then all you have to do is flaunt what you know. Good luck!