The idea of becoming your own as an independent consultant might sound like a dream. You choose your own clients, you set your own pay, and you can stop jumping through so many hoops. But how do you know if you’re ready, or if you have what it takes to be successful? And how do you go from wanting to be a consultant to actually being one?

Are you ready to be a Consultant?

Here are three signs you’re ready to take the leap:

1. You’re experienced enough to have developed reliable expertise and specific skill sets. You’ve not only mastered techniques, but also attracted some confidence, teamwork, communication, and interpersonal skills.

2. You have a well-established, wide-ranging network of clients, colleagues, and peers you can draw on to help you find new work and endorse your skills.

3. You’re stable enough financially to take on a risky professional move. (Or you’re retired with a reliable income, but want to keep working here and there.)

Steps to Success as a Consultant:

So you’ve got the skills necessary to be a great consultant. But how do you actually get started?

Pinpoint your strengths. How are you going to position yourself as an expert? What specialized skills and knowledge do you have to offer potential clients? Back it up with demonstrated experience and references.

Figure out how to market yourself. Now that you’ve determined the unique skills you have to offer, you need to spread the word and convince potential clients you have what it takes to deliver their project successfully. Decide exactly who you’re going to target. Build a website. Join the Splice Platform. Consider offering a reasonable rate to land your first few projects.

Keep building your network. Put in the effort to maintain solid relationships with colleagues and clients you already know, and keep expanding your circle. Make sure you tell everyone in your network about your new venture as a consultant so they can help spread the word. You never know who will help you snag your first gig! One way you an do this is attending Splice Meetups that are held monthly. Great way to meet new consultants and network with potential clients.

Lay the groundwork for your business. Being a successful consultant takes more than just being great at what you do: it makes good business sense as well. How will you handle billing and expenses? Will you charge by the hour? By project? How will you cover insurance for yourself and your family? The time to answer these questions is now. Reach out to a financial advisor or an established consultant to see how they organized their business.

Understand your financial routine. Because it’s common for consultants to be paid monthly, you’ll need a reserve of savings to last you those first several months while you’re lining up work and still in the midst of completing your first projects.

Avoid Burnout Take care of yourself! 9-5? Sick days? Vacation time? When you’re working for yourself, it’s all too easy to push yourself too hard. You need to be just as dedicated to your “off” time as you are to your work. When you’re overworked, you’re more likely to make mistakes. And as an independent consultant, mistakes are one thing your reputation can’t afford. Block off “me time” in advance — and stick to the plan!

Lastly, engage your confidence. Ultimately, you need more than experience, networking skills, and a solid business plan. You need confidence in yourself and in your decisions. After all, you’ll be the expert everyone will look to, clients and project team alike.

We asked Splice to tell us ‘What competencies make a Great Consultant?’

Curiosity. Consulting is about problem-solving, and great consultants have insatiable curiosity in their DNA. They are constantly thinking about what the real problem is (“what is the question”), what’s causing it and how best to crack it.

Structured Thinking and Communication. This skill is fundamental to recommending and implementing. Structured communication is also important—which is the ability to communicate succinctly and precisely.

Continuous Self-ImprovementGood consultants never stop learning and keep up to date with market conditions and trends. Being contemporary and on top of what’s happening is vital.

Flexibility. Good consultants adapt to new projects, work cultures and colleagues…easily!

Team Playing. Consultants who work well in teams is one of the ingredients for a successful project. They put company goals and team spirit first.

Delivery Management. Good consultants will have contingency plans, but will inevitably need to adapt mid-course and still deliver the expected goods. They accept friction, unforeseen circumstances and negative feedback, they learn from them and they move on.

Point of Difference. Clients want to be provided the best people, and the expertise of consultants must be demonstrable. They are confident about their skills and expertise. They expose natural collaborative leadership and leave their ego at the door.

Judgment. Then, there’s judgment. It’s probably the hardest to test for until you observe it. Good judgment requires the attributes of 1-8 combined with good decision-making. Successful consultants have good judgment in abundance.

 

If you’re a consultant, we’d love to hear your perspective! What advice would you give other consultants just starting out?