If you’re looking to go into consulting, remember that the real product you’re selling isn’t your expertise in a subject or your knowledge or even your advice. What you’re actually selling is yourself.
Who you are is a full package. This means that you need to know yourself from soup to nuts, and understand who you are both as a person and a professional, and what exactly you can bring to the table when it comes to the needs of the client. This requires a great deal of self-awareness, as well as a high amount of business savvy.
Not only do you need to be knowledgeable, but you also have to be able to be able to sell yourself, as well. This sounds a lot more titillating than it actually is – a lot of “selling yourself” involves getting social networking accounts and schmoozing with potential clients. Never underestimate the power of the schmooze – if you’ve got serious social skills, now is the time to have them shine. If you don’t, now is the time to learn to cultivate some.
Another thing to consider when you’re going into the business of consulting is how much you’re actually worth. Your mom might say that you’re worth your weight in gold, but it’s unlikely that most clients will say the same. In general it’s a good idea to charge your clients hourly rather than by the job, as it presents a more consistently professional image. It’s more difficult to judge how much an individual job may be worth, too, and if clients believe that other clients are getting preferential treatment, it does damage to the reputation of your company or your name, which is anathema in consulting.
Remember to take the time to establish a relationship with the client that will go beyond the first sale. Building and cultivating longevity in your consulting endeavors should be one of your most important goals – if you can sow the right relationship in the beginning, it’s very possible you might have a customer for life. Treating clients like long term business partners right off the bat helps – be sure to approach new clients with a professional attitude and a comprehensive plan as to how you are the right consultant for the job. A firm handshake and smile will go farther than you will ever know.
In short, it’s not just about your ability to think and your expertise in a particular subject that will make you a god consultant. There are of course, millions of people who have the knowledge to be excellent consultants but only a small amount of people are able to make it happen. It’s very important to remember to package yourself as first-class goods and get out there and market – often, it’s not what you know, but whom you can convince that you know enough to get the job done!