A career as an independent consultant allows you flexibility while working in the field of your expertise -- and with the plethora of businesses requiring consultation services, you're likely to keep your roster full. Perhaps you paid your dues, honing skills in a corporate environment, or you possess a unique talent coveted by a modern marketplace. Either way, building a solid clientele and a lucrative consulting business takes time and unwavering effort. Refining the attributes of a quality consultant helps you develop return customers and attract new clients.
Starting Your Business
Gather your industry contacts. Start with former employers with whom you have a solid rapport. Then perform an online search for key influentials in your industry.
Develop a mission statement and pitch for your current consulting services. Put together a print, electronic brochure and/or website that highlights and explains your services.
Pitch prospective clients via email or phone. Slightly customize each pitch to accommodate the potential needs of your contact. Make sure to attach your brochure or a link to your website.
Land your first gig and complete your tasks professionally. Constantly look for an angle to continue work with each client.
Develop your portfolio -- and make sure to constantly reach out for new clients. The more irons you have in the fire, the more work that comes your way.
Fine-Tuning Your Abilities
Become a good listener. Allow the client to fully present their needs and desires before disclosing your tactics. Solid listening skills can reduce or eliminate the guesswork -- and allow you to streamline tasks to deliver exactly what the client needs.
Foster grassroots relationships. Future business depends greatly on word of mouth. Developing professional relationships helps cultivate referrals and gains you lifelong allies.
Learn collaboration techniques that are productive yet humble. Remember, a client's employees might feel intimidated by outside help. Approaching meetings as a collaborator, rather than a dictator, gains you points.
Be objective. Gather information from multiple perspectives and decipher it as you move forward with strategy.
Examine the big picture and always anticipate a client's next move. Being able to answer questions before a client asks them and predicting business paths before they occur validates your skill as an expert.
Freelance work is always a sales game. Make sure to allot time in each day for researching potential leads and new clients.
Becoming an effective consultant takes time and experience. Every project teaches you new strategies for success.
Sometimes the client-consultant relationship turns sour. Know how to legally sever a contract should the client become more than you can handle -- and always fulfill your obligations first.