Going into business puts the wind in your sails. Whether you are seeking greater freedom of action, to work on a variety of projects or to be your own boss, consulting is an appealing option. But becoming a “consultant” is not for novices. Between expertise and social skills, here are some tips to stand out.
“To do well in consulting, it is essential to like working with people,” starts off Hernan Cespedes, president of Amauta Web Marketing. He was a consultant for over 10 years before hiring employees for his online advertising business.
Interpersonal skills and reliability
According to Mr. Cespedes, the relational aspect is paramount in the consulting profession. This is firstly because you are serving others, directly connecting with customers. Secondly, it is essential to continually develop and maintain a network, devoting about 20% of your time to it, or one day a week. A good dose of interpersonal skills, adaptability and diplomacy is therefore necessary.
When starting out on your own, be aware that you will be your own salesperson and… your own product. Think about polishing your image. While it is true that in the service field you only need a laptop computer, a phone, some business cards and a mini website to begin, invest in quality tools. In addition to promoting your services, a well-optimized website will attract potential clients.
Mastering the service you offer is also essential. You must be operational immediately and you will be judged by your results. “A satisfied client is your best spokesperson,” believes Mr. Cespedes, “and he will not hesitate to recommend you if he knows that you are reliable.” Count on offering services you have experience with. Clearly restate the need and plan the time to absorb priority changes.
Versatility and expertise
This is the consultant’s paradox – to be both versatile and an expert. You have to manage accounting, be able to debug your computer, create a PowerPoint, etc. At the same time, you need to refine your expertise. Keep up to date, attend conferences, be part of a network of professionals. “I love my job,” says the president of Amauta, “so I have no difficulty meeting people in the industry and testing the new functionalities of my domain. You need to feed on passion.”
And passion is what makes it possible to last in this profession. Consulting is a form of entrepreneurship. You build your own business, come rain or shine. It’s important to stay passionate about what you are doing.