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It is becoming increasingly popular for professionals to reach a place in their career where they are enticed by the prospect of stepping back from full-time commitments and pursuing a portfolio career. The allure of being your own boss, setting your own salary, establishing your own workload and being able to select who you work for is a huge draw, but how do you successfully make the transition? Here are 7 steps that will help you take the leap to become a fully fledged Consultant with less 

1. Identify your skills and your niche 

The key to your success and unlocking your potential as a Consultant is your ability to provide services that go beyond that of competitors. You must be confident that you have a unique offering or unparalleled expertise. By recognising and confirming your niche, this serves to translate your skills into services from which you can gain new business.

Additionally, it is usually advisable (and generally comes with time) that your expertise falls into areas you are highly engaged with and enjoy doing. This allows you to have much more drive and energy - which you need when working on your own autonomous terms.

2. Confirm your reputability

Just as with any business, your reputation is a massive factor in your prosperity. Whenever considering a purchase, we all look at what results the financial transaction will bring. To best clarify this to your potential clients, you can assure them of your ability by championing any relevant certifications or licenses you hold and any accomplishments you have achieved. For example, if you’re intending to be a Finance Consultant, you’ll need professional and absolute recognition of your abilities and legal right to operate such a business. Testimonials from previous clients will also reassure them of your competence, capabilities and potential to achieve and deliver tangible results.

3. Define your goals

Having something to aim for helps you shoot straight; know where you’re heading - and why - and you’ll find it much easier to muster up the conviction needed to be a Consultant. Working on your own terms is multi-faceted in terms of rewards, so it helps to keep track of what your accomplishments as a business are, and where you are headed.

Such directive should be considered with regard to long and short-term aims: be realistic, but don’t be too tentative. This process is all about balance, and the right amounts of realism and hopes coalescing to produce success and affluence in your consulting career.

Be wary of things taking too long to progress and build momentum, but likewise allow yourself and your consultancy enough breathing room to get going.

4. Identify and research your target market

A proficient comprehension of your client demographic is essential to good consulting fortune. Outsourcing occurs in business for a plethora of varying reasons, ranging from the business being too small to operate certain functions in-house, to larger operations that outsource in search of experience, insight and knowledge. Know what your client wants and gage how you can give it to them, and you’ll quickly secure a steady flow of projects and business. 

Use your network to research, ask your target market what they’re missing out on with services offered by other Consultants, agencies or in-house staff and then be adaptable to present yourself in a way that evidences your ability to match that need. Adaptability is an important element of the success in your consulting. 

5. Consider your resources

Given you have the right to do so (double check with rented property, and also if local laws permit so), you have the option of working from home. This creates clear separate work areas within your home, but still saves on travel, resources, and reduces risk as you start out on your consultancy journey. However, there are pros and cons to this as whilst some may work well in a more sedentary, comfortable environment, some may need the psychology of an office environment or different location when it comes to productivity - often the concept of separating a place of rest from a place of work can help. 

Do you already have a wide business network, online or in your address book? Think of this as a resource, and remember with certainty that when you reach out to a contact, you genuinely have something to offer them that will better their situation - a transaction that profits both parties. Think of previous places you have worked that may be in need of a boost from your services. Reach out to old colleagues and kindle conversations about what you are doing for work, and share the fact that you’re looking for clients. You’d be surprised how many potential clients you already know - and who, more importantly, know and trust you already.

One recommendation to think about as you’re embarking on your consulting career is your access to technology. Do you have the computer, software, servers or camera you might need? What about a work phone, or even a separate email or website? Contemplate your day to day needs; what resources you need to translate your function digitally, and how you can carry out your business services with what you may already have? Don’t forget to keep track of all this - allowable business expenses can be processed for tax relief when you complete your paperwork for HMRC.

6. Clarify your pricing structure

A certain challenge to be faced when starting out as a Consultant is working out what fees to charge.  Your experience (on paper) may influence this, but don’t be too quick to undersell yourself - time does not always equal ability and you may well be more capable than someone with twice your experience. Consider your knowledge, expertise, ability to perform and deliver results. These should all be factored into your pricing.

Evaluate market pricing, where the budget of the customer affects the highest prices you can charge, against competitive pricing, where the lowest price offered by competitors can affect a cap on the highest price. Don’t forget to weigh your offering and unique selling points that you have over competitors, which can allow you to increase your prices depending on what you offer beyond their standard provision to customers.

Depending on your service, you may wish to explore retainer options, so that you can secure regular income following the completion of a project. Outlining packages can be a very successful way of establishing reliable income whilst also being versatile enough to match the client’s needs, meaning all parties benefit from arrangements made.

7. Advertise and gain business momentum

There are many advertising mediums, but should nobody know or understand your business, you may struggle to initiate business relationships with potential clients. Build your online and offline presence with a website, marketing materials, adverts, emails, phone calls amongst many other tools in the modern day marketer’s toolbox to ensure people know you’re here, what you do, and why you do it better. Do not confuse your audience - the key to good communication is clarity. 

Clarify your brand, clarify your services, and clarify what makes you better than the competition. Spread this message far and wide through appropriate and considered channels, targeting your audience with an aim to convert as many potential customers into clients as possible. Build your momentum, and you’ll be on your way.