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So You Want to Be a Consultant

Here are a few things you should consider before taking the plunge.

So you want to be your own boss. These days, more and more people are trying to find work as consultants, and it's not hard to figure out why. You can operate a consulting business from home, set your own hours and name your price (within reason).

The consulting industry has grown significantly in recent years, and with such a variety of career options available and the ease of working from a home office as a consultant, it is likely to continue its upward trend.

A successful consulting business offers companies solutions for common problems. If you offer services that are in high demand, your growth potential and chances of succeeding increase substantially. The following 10 fields are among the options available if you have ever thought about starting your own consulting business:

  1. Advertising
  2. Accounting
  3. Taxes
  4. Payroll
  5. Communications
  6. Public relations
  7. Computer/IT
  8. Headhunting
  9. Grant writing
  10. Career counseling

What You Need to Get Started

  • Marketable knowledge. With the right combination of education and experience, you can establish yourself as an industry professional. Your options are practically limitless.
  • Licensing and certifications. Show your current customers and potential clients that you really are an industry expert. If licensing or certification is available in your field, make sure you get it and stay current. Take continuing education courses whenever possible, and don't let your professional licenses expire.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills. This is important. As an independent consultant, you need to be able to communicate the benefits of your work to people who don't know how badly they need your help. Reach out to potential customers and network at every opportunity. Develop white papers, professional blogs and literature to show off what you know -- but make sure they are well-written and free of errors. You also need to be able to draft well-written proposals your clients can implement.
  • Problem-solving skills. Consultants earn a living by identifying problems and offering workable solutions to their clients. You need to be a master at identifying and prioritizing areas of concern.
  • Business management knowledge. No matter what your field of expertise, you need a strong understanding of how businesses operate. Not every company is built on the same model. Some operate under a strict, hierarchical chain of command. Others encourage creativity and urge employees to see themselves as equals. Your proposals will have to accommodate a number of variables.

Looking Ahead

Don't be taken by surprise. In the beginning, you may be able to operate your business on your own. However, as your client base grows and you take on more projects, chances are you will need to delegate some of your responsibilities. Set goals and decide whether you should outsource to other niche consultants or start hiring employees. 

Lesley Spencer Pyle is the founder and president of HomeBasedWorkingMoms.com and HireMyMom.com , and she is the author of The Work-at-Home Workbook: Your Step-by-Step Guide on Selecting and Starting the Perfect Home Business for You. Pyle has been working from home for more than 13 years.

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