How To Become a Consultant

The decision to create a consultancy business is an exciting one.

Most people who pursue the path start by thinking about the areas in which they excel and the portfolio of services they have to market to potential customers.

If you’re a first-class operations professional, marketer, engineer, accountant or general manager, you’ll probably focus on who you can target as customers and how you can add value through the skills and experience you have to offer. You’ll also be asking yourself how you should charge for your time.

However, the art of being a successful consultant is recognising that from now on you’ll have to engage with areas of business you’ve never had to deal with before. Suddenly you’ll be dealing with PAYE, HMRC, VAT, invoicing, credit control, sales, marketing, customer service, insurance, pensions – all of the functions that were probably covered by other people in your corporate life.

Ignoring them isn’t an option, so the most successful consultants are those who work out how to manage their weakest areas. The freelance economy provides many opportunities to outsource the work the new consultant simply doesn’t want to do. Accounts, marketing, IT –  all of these functions can be outsourced, for a price. An extended and active network is never more valuable than at the outset of a consultancy career.

The main area of development for people making the transition from paid employment to consultancy, however, is Emotional Intelligence. Working out where individual strengths lie and knowing how to manage behaviour. Knowing how to be resilient in the face of setbacks and managing harmonious relationships with people, establishing trust and rapport. There is a strong correlation between emotional intelligence and measurable business results, so the new consultant will quickly realise that although high IQ and functional competence are essential, emotional intelligence is twice as important for sustained success.

For more from career development coach Anne Watson, sign up for our online learning course: How to be a Successful Consultant.