Management consulting is known to be one of the highest paid professions. It is therefore not surprising that many people would want to break into this field. Aside from the financial rewards, there are plenty of other attractive benefits such as intellectual challenge, networking opportunities, high level of job satisfaction and prestige.
Now, if you want to become a consultant there are two paths you can consider – either you work for others or you go solo. If you don’t have enough experience or a fresh graduate, then working for others is probably your best option. But if you feel you have already gained enough professional experience in a particular field, then going solo is quite a feasible option.
Creating your own career as a consultant will not be as easy compared to having a full-time employment. To survive as an independent consultant you must constantly hunt for new opportunities, market your expertise, and refine and update your skills.
However, going solo in pursuing a career in consulting can be extremely rewarding. You’ll definitely enjoy picking your projects, being your own boss, and making all of the big decisions.
To guide you in your journey to building your own career as consultant, here are some important reminders and tips:
Develop key skills
There are certain skills needed to become a management consultant. Some of the most important you need to have and further develop are problem-solving, communication, data gathering, leadership, analytical and math skills, as well as business acumen. Other skills and attributes that are extremely helpful are computer skills, presentation skills, and grace under pressure.
Continue to educate yourself
Although it is not required to have a business degree or an MBA, having one won’t hurt either. In fact, it will help you stay in the game. Aside from a university degree it is important that you continue to educate yourself about current business and management issues. Knowledge is your primary investment in the consulting world so make sure to keep up. As you won’t be given resources like those entry levels in top tier firms, you need to exert extra effort to learn.
Address contractual obstacles
If still currently employed, you need to talk with your employer. Have an honest conversation with your current employer and clearly explain such decision is a personal choice and would have nothing to do with them. Also assure them that you’ll not put them in a negative light or try to steal their customers. Just be as honest and professional as you can as you discuss these matters with them.
Figure out your cash flow
The transition from being a full-time employee to being an independent consultant may bring about financial challenges if you don’t prepare well for it. We recommend that you don’t quit your job until you already have a solid client base or a long-term contract. It is also best to have at least five to six months of living expenses saved for better financial cushion.
Test the waters first
You have to get some management consulting experience first. You may do pro bono consulting work with an organization that is in your line of expertise. By offering free support for an organization, not only you can gain experience but likewise build confidence in your abilities. Also, you may try having an internship or applying as a summer associate in a consulting firm.
You may also speak for free. This is just to get your name and ideas out there. Prepare well for it so as to impress people. If you do great, then people will start contacting you for other opportunities. Soon, your next speaking engagement as a consultant will be paid.
Give thought on how you’ll charge for your services
Consider the market and figure out how fellow consultants in your field of expertise are billing for their services. You may use bill rate calculators to help you determine your consulting rate. You may consider striking a discounted rate or a special deal for your introductory rate. This will really help you land your first contract. However, be careful not to undercut your value by too much. Remember, each client should feel confident that they would get highly specialized skills even at a discounted rate.
Continue to build and nurture your network
The biggest challenge in creating your own career as a consultant may be to find your first contract. To help you find sources of work you should be active in networking activities. Join groups to expand your professional circle. You may also use the social media, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to grow and nurture relationships. You should send your connections a well-defined message about the types of services and specializations you offer.
Remember, in order to be successful in consulting you’ll need to have the right skills as well as attitude. It can be pretty rough at first, particularly if your contact base is not that strong. But with determination coupled with passion, you’ll certainly get through the tough spots.
For more helpful insights on starting a career as a consultant you may visit our website. Consultingfact.com is an online resource that provides comprehensive guides on the consulting recruiting process, as well as tips on staying on top in this industry. One of the more popular guides can help you write management consulting resume.
About the Author: Daniel Stefanac is the founder of ConsultingFact.com, a website helping candidates land a job at top tier management consulting firms. Daniel himself is a former McKinsey management consultant and author of several career ebooks and the online course ConsultingFact Academy.