To become an independent consultant you must first ask yourself a couple questions:

  • Can I sell myself?
  • Do I know how to create my own network of contacts?
  • Can I market myself including both skills and personality?
  • Do I work well with others?
  • Do I work well by myself or do I NEED other people around?
  • What do I have to offer a company/project that they do not already have?
  • What am I able to charge for my services?
  • Is there a demand for my services?

If the answers to the questions above are still making you think that being a consultant is what you are looking for, then you need to start with the following:

  1. Establish if you want to be a 1099 employee (temporary employee) or are you ready to incorporate yourself. There are tax benefits to both and positives and negatives to both. This is something you want to discuss with an accountant.
  2. Determine if you are going to specialize in one area or if you want to be a jack-of-all-trades. Specializing can be more lucrative because it allows you to be an expert in one field; however, it can limit your choice of projects. A general background with a concentration in a particular area will usually be the best course of action but you must determine that for yourself.
  3. Get your marketing materials together. If you are going to be independent then it is your job to get the word out there about yourself. These materials should include but are not limited to:
    • Developing a marketing plan
    • Getting business cards
    • Having a web presence
    • Putting together a 30-second sales pitch that reflects your skills and what you can bring to a project
    • Developing a follow-up plan to your marketing plan. Too many times a consultant misses out on an opportunity because of lack of follow-up.
    • Determining an hourly wage that you are going to charge. This can be negotiable but you want to have an idea of what you are going to charge, as a potential client is not going to just determine that figure for you.
  4. Once your marketing materials are together and you have determined what you have to offer a client, it is time to hit the streets. Work that network of contacts. Call anyone that might need your services and if they are not interested, make sure you let them know that this what you do and you will be there for them the next time they need anything (bandwidth permitting).
  5. If nobody within your network can utilize your services then try and work deals with them to reciprocate referrals. A referral is your best friend, and referrals will be a big part of how much work you end up getting. When a client has you referred to them they already have some picture in their mind of what you might be, based on their relationship with the referrer. People like to buy from friends.
  6. Get yourself involved in the community. This is often overlooked but clients tend to go with who is the most comfortable and familiar when looking beyond the needed skills to complete a project.
  7. Always be promoting yourself. As an independent consultant you are always on the lookout for the next project. Try and create some brand recognition associated with your name. This can be done though a newsletter or email marketing or by successful client satisfaction and word of mouth.
  8. NEVER forget about follow-up. Sometimes a potential client has too much in their plate to get back to you in a timely manner and it is your job to follow-up with them. By talking to the clients in your network on a regular basis you will give them more of a feeling that you have an interest in their business beyond the “quick buck.”
  9. Do not be afraid to give some of your services away on a small scale so that you can reap the rewards later when that client has a need for someone with your skills. Be careful of doing it too often or doing it on a scale that leads clients to believe you easily give away services.
  10. Make sure you are memorable to your clients for all the RIGHT reasons. Do go the extra mile for them and take an interest in their business. They may never ask you for your opinion but the day they do, you want to be ready.
  11. Keep your skills up to date. Do not let your skills erode because it will just limit your opportunity in the future.
  12. Remember that being independent is all about you being out there on your own. Nobody is going to get you the training you need or the equipment you need so take care of all your needs to keep yourself up to date.

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