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What Is Consulting? How to Get Paid to Share Your Expertise

What Is Consulting? How to Get Paid to Share Your Expertise

Last updated: September 12, 2019
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If you plan to venture into the world of freelancing and have expertise in a particular field, you may want to consider opening your very own consulting firm. But first, you must answer the question, “What is consulting?”

This guide will not only provide the answer to that query, but you’ll also learn which steps to take to become a consultant and earn money doing it.

What Is Consulting?

Simply put, a consultant is someone who offers advice to a business in exchange for a fee. Sometimes, the advice also includes implementing a particular plan that results from the consultation. As such, consultants are also sometimes referred to as business advisors.

A perk of offering your consulting services as an independent consultant is work you could do full-time, part-time, or as a side hustle.

Consultants cover many areas of expertise but are most commonly needed for business strategy, management, operations, and technology.

Consultants are usually called in when an existing business requires a solution for a particular problem or if a new business needs to set up particular policies or procedures.

As a consultant, you’ll analyze how the company operates and then provide your expert opinion and recommendations on how to solve a certain issue.

Consultants are in demand because they can provide a fresh, independent, and unbiased perspective on a company.

They offer extra help when the company needs it, and their main focus is on the project at hand and not day-to-day responsibilities that employees may have. Consultants may also provide in-depth knowledge and expertise the company doesn’t have.

Consultants also make sense from a financial perspective, as they’re often used to solve temporary or short-term problems. This eliminates the associated costs of hiring full-time, permanent staff whose services may not be required in a few months’ time.

How Much Money Do Consultants Make?

As a rough estimate, full-time consultants in the United States earn around $75,000 a year. However, because consultants work in many different industries and locations with varying levels of expertise and specialities, your actual earnings as a consultant can be very different.

Some full-time consultants can earn more than $100,000 a year, while independent, entry-level consultants charge around $175 per hour.

If you’re interested in discovering just how much you’ll earn as a consultant in your specific area of expertise (more on the different types of consultants later), take a look at salary tracking companies such as Glassdoor, PayScale, and Indeed.

How to Become a Consultant

An analysis chart on a laptop

Now that you have the answer to “What is consulting?” you need to determine your area of expertise. Is it in information technology, real estate, or something else completely?

Whatever it is, you need to identify it and decide if other businesses would like to learn from your knowledge.

If you’ve found your niche, remember that being a consultant will also require higher education — at least a bachelor’s degree if not a master’s degree.

It’s also recommended that you have at least a few years of experience working in the particular field that you wish to consult. That being said, some consultancy firms also offer a graduate hire program where they’ll train fresh graduates to become consultants.

As you’ll work closely with people, there are many skill sets that would go a long way to helping you become a good consultant:

  • People skills and an ability to build rapport quickly
  • Good communication skills
  • Ability to develop business relationships built on trust
  • Willing to be honest even when it hurts
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills

There isn’t a specific “consultant certificate” that you need to obtain, but you may be interested in joining the Institute of Management Consultants to learn from and connect with other consultants.

Joining a professional association also improves your credibility, as you’re expected to adhere to a certain code of conduct and ethical guidelines, as well as to continue your professional development.

Types of Consultants

There are just as many types of consulting jobs as there are professional industries. If you’re thinking of setting up a consulting business, here are a few for which you may be able to provide specialist expertise.

Management Consultant

Management consulting is about providing expert advice on business strategies and goals. As a management consultant, you’ll talk to the movers and shakers of a company, analyze their business model, and help them identify goals and set the direction to achieve those objectives.

Strategy Consultant

Like management consulting, strategy consulting is about the big picture of a company and helping an organization achieve a particular goal. However, strategy consulting is a little more niche in that you’ll work towards a pre-set goal (as opposed to management consulting, where you’ll help to identify and set the goals).

Project Management Consultant

As a project management consultant, you’ll likely carry out a plan set out by a strategy consultant to help achieve a certain goal or outcome. Project managers are often selected based on their technical or managerial expertise, and not on a particular certification or qualification in project management.

If you want to be a project management consultant, it’s important that you’ve gained the expertise and experience of working within a specific industry.

Human Resources Consultant

Just as its name suggests, HR consultants looks at the employees of a specific company and determines how they best serve the interests of the organization.

You’ll create a human resources model outlining the type of personnel required to achieve particular goals and also ensuring that current employees are motivated and efficiently working to the best of their abilities.

You may also be involved in establishing company policies and procedures to ensure they comply with employment laws as well as grievance mediation processes.

IT Consultant

Woman holding a laptop while standing in a data center

Job opportunities within the information technology industry are numerous because practically every business relies on IT in one form or another.

As an IT consultant, you’d be responsible for advising clients on how they can use information technology to overcome any operational problems and to meet their business objectives.

You may also be involved with planning their IT system or looking at ways to improve it.

Marketing Consultant

If you have work experience in marketing, you might want to consider becoming a marketing consultant. As a marketing consultant, you’ll need to have good knowledge and understanding of your client’s target market.

You’ll create marketing plans, determine marketing messages, and implement the marketing strategy you’ve developed for your client. Depending on your contract, you may also be responsible for monitoring and analyzing the results, and adjusting your strategy appropriately.

There are a number of different types of marketing you could specialize in as well, including:

  • Online and SEO marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Non-profit marketing

Where to Find Consulting Jobs

Consultants are needed by companies in the private or public sector — big corporations and small businesses alike. As previously mentioned, the consulting industry covers a wide area, which means consulting jobs also come in many different forms.

Here are some options to consider depending on what consultant services you wish to offer.

Full-Time Positions With Consultancy Firms

Consultancy firms have a pool of in-house consultants who will offer their consulting services to other clients. This is a good place to start if you’re at the beginning of your consultant career path. You’ll build valuable experience and gain exposure to potential clients.

Freelance Consulting Jobs

There are several freelance job websites that are ideal if you want to be your own boss and set up your own consulting business.

If you’re venturing into freelance consulting and need to build up a client base, check out these freelance websites:

As a freelance consultant, you should keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date, and also have your own website that details the services you offer, your speciality, your experience, and all the clients you’ve worked with. Think of your website as a more interactive version of your online resume.

That said, don’t rely on your website as somewhere potential clients may potentially stumble upon while searching for consulting services.

The higher possibility is that you’ll direct prospective clients to your website, so networking is key as a freelancer (don’t forget to print some business cards). Make sure people know that your services are available for hire.

If you’re a member of the Institute of Management Consultants, you can also list your services on their Find a Consultant directory, where over 10,000 people visit each month as they search for a consultant.

Start Your Consultancy Career Now

What Is Consulting: Two people in a shared work space consulting each other

If the idea of helping companies achieve their goals and solve their operational problems appeals to you, becoming an independent consultant may be the job for you.

Using your expertise and experience, you’ll spend your working hours analyzing, strategizing, and coming up with plans to help organizations head in the direction that will help them to operate better and more effectively.

What is consulting? It just might be your dream job.

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