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How to get started as a consultant

There’s a nice sounding ring to being a consultant, isn’t there? The idea that readily comes to mind is that you get paid a big bundle of money to be an expert with a sought-after opinion. But what does a consultant really do, and how do you become one?

What does a consultant do?

A consultant will have a particular niche that they know very well. Well enough in order to be paid by a business simply for advice. For example, control room consultants would need to know the field of security very well. They’d be well-versed with the technology, policies, and trends of security. They’d know how to integrate this with buildings, as well as what different businesses or institutions would require in a specific security strategy.

A consultant needs to be able assess a situation and make informed decisions that get results.

Where do you start?

You generally don’t just graduate from school and become a consultant. Stepping into a consultancy role generally isn’t the first step on your career ladder. It’s a job title you can take on when you have the knowledge and experience to qualify you to tell a business what’s what.

Even if you’ve paid your dues and consider yourself ready to consult, it can be tricky getting started.

You need a network. Now, what does that involve?

References

Never underestimate the power of having a few good references behind your name. As a consultant, having good words spoken on your behalf from a trustworthy source is particularly important. When you consult, you aren’t just drawing from the qualifications on your degree. You’re drawing from experience, which gives you the hard-earned knowledge that justifies what you have to say. And a potential employee will want to get a closer look at that experience from your references. Especially when you’re first starting out as a consultant and still establishing your reputation.

A client base

Once you’re sure you have good references to draw from, it’s time to get a client base. Referrals are a good way to get new clients as a consultant. You just need to start out somewhere to get your first clients, who will be able to go on to refer you to others. Seeing as how you should have experience and references already, it stands to reason that you already know some people in the industry. And those people know more people. Fish around and see if anyone you know knows of someone who could make use of your services.

Also, learn the essentials of establishing yourself as an industry expert through the web. This may entail having a professional website, doing some content marketing, and diligently using social media. The calls will eventually come.

Finally, remember that when you’re starting out, it might be good to keep your rates low. It’s for this reason that people often begin doing part-time consulting in their spare time, while still holding on to the security of their old job. Once you get the swing of things, have a more steady supply of work and have happy clients, you can start charging more and enjoy all the benefits that come with calling yourself a consultant.