Consultants earn a living by using an existing body of knowledge and experience. They provide expert advice to help businesses or individuals solve problems, meet business objectives, improve processes or achieve goals. For example, someone with a degree in education and years of teaching experience can be an educational consultant. A variety of other fields are open to consulting, including accounting, business and technology. Job responsibilities vary according to a client’s need, but problem assessment is a major part of every consultant's job.
Defining Scope of Work
A primary job duty after landing a client is to firm up the project scope of work. This happens by working with the client to hash out project details, including the nature of the problem, client objectives, expected outcomes and the responsibilities of both parties necessary for problem resolution. Typically, consultants travel to the client’s site to get a preliminary assessment of issues before getting the scope of work nailed down.
The consultant’s next duty is to start the problem identification process, notes Business News Daily. Even though clients have opinions about an issue, a consultant must conduct an impartial analysis to figure out the real problem and its root cause. To do this, says the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, the consultant uses select tools like observations, surveys, interviews, focus groups, and cause-and-effect or root cause analysis procedures.
Problem identification may take some time to complete, and clients may be anxious to start problem-solving; however, consultants must steer clients to a structured process to ensure successful outcomes.
Recommendations and Follow-Ups
After issues are identified and verified, a consultant must then come up with possible solutions. Solutions are planned actions designed to resolve problems, and can range from low-cost alternatives like a procedural change or employee training, to costlier items like changing equipment layouts or making new installations. Consultants prepare written recommendation reports and advise clients on the most viable options. Involvement after this point depends on the project scope agreement. Consultants are advisors, so implementation of solutions may be handed off to other experts.
Administrative and Marketing
Attending to administrative and marketing tasks is also part of a consultant’s job, notes Entrepreneur magazine. After successful project completion, consultants must make sure clients are invoiced for services rendered. Consultants must also keep tabs on business and project expenses like travel, lodging and meals, and keep detailed records for tax purposes. In addition, continual promotion is necessary to bring in new clients; promotional activities include calling on businesses in the consultant's area of expertise.