Begin the quest to become a consultant by deciding if you want to be an independent consultant or work for an established consulting company. The field is not important because all consultants work the same way. A person or company needs help running a business, promoting a product, or implementing new equipment.
The advantage of becoming a consultant by joining an established firm is that you get benefits and less risk. The downside is that you are still working for someone else and not making the maximum dollars for your time. However, you may actually make more when you factor in the benefit package and very little time without work.
Working for a consulting firm will give you a wider range of experience in your field. You will be moved from place to place. Every company does the same job in a different way and with different equipment. Each assignment prepares you for bigger and better things. It also makes you more efficient at your core responsibilities. As you get more experienced, your value to the company goes up.
This will prepare you for either a better consultant job or to make the step to be an independent consultant. During this period, build a contact list. If you have signed a no-compete contract, this can be a little difficult. The trick is to find those people who are not using consultants now that may be able to be tapped for work later.
If you decide to stay with the current firm, you can always funnel these into their client mix. Most of the time, companies are just concerned that you do not raid their current customer base. Once you have established a list of fifty or so real prospects, try to land some clients for work on the side.
When you reach enough business to require more than twenty hours per week to service, you will have acquired a sufficient number of clients to step out on your own. It is important that you are charging enough to cover your new overhead. Things like professional insurance, workman’s compensation, self-employment insurance to the government, and other business expenses must be included in your hourly rate.
If you were being paid $30 per hour by your employer, you will need at least $75 per hour on your own. Even amounts above $100 per hour are not unreasonable. You need to charge enough to cover your time on the job and your time between jobs. If you can find out what others are charging, it will help you set a rate.
A good rule of thumb for you would be to charge about 20% less than the established competition. If you do not do this, you will have trouble getting work. You can raise the rate when customers start to call you.
Two final thoughts that are important to consider. Take a hard look at your sales ability and work ethic. If you cannot sell things, you will not sell yourself. You have to be able to make the calls and persuade companies to use you instead of the competition. If you have a tendency to like to play games and hang out with friends in place of going to work, self-employment is not for you.
The second thought concerns your financial position. If you do not have enough resources to ride out the early problems of keeping enough work, you need to keep the independent consulting as a sideline. You need to have at least enough money put back to cover six months worth of expenses. If you are good enough that your work never slacks, you will just build a bigger estate. Most people find that it takes more than a year to stabilize a new business. Having a nest egg to rest on will make the difference between success and failure.