If every new consultant had to earn their living consulting the minute they started, no one would ever become a consultant!
The leap would be too scary.
Luckily you don't have to dive into consulting all at once. You can put a toe in the water first.
You can consult part-time, alongside your full-time or part-time job or your job search.
That is the best way to start consulting, in fact -- as a side job.
That way, you can learn how to get consulting projects, how to complete them and how to run the back end of your consulting business (accounting, IT and other 'back-office' activities) on a small scale.
Most working people get spooked at the idea of running their own business. That makes sense, because most of us haven't run a business before.
They have burning questions like these:
How will I get clients?
How will I plan and execute my consulting projects?
How will I build my name as a consultant so that work keeps coming in?
How will I incorporate my consulting business? How will I handle billing and other back-office issues?
When you start your consulting business on a part-time basis, you can work out these issues early and put them to bed quickly.
All you need to get started is a simple five-part toolkit:
You need to have an idea of what you will do for your clients. Will you perform virtual assistant services for them, create sales proposals, write code, interview candidates, design databases or something else?
The first question you need to answer is "What services will I offer as a part-time consultant?"
You need to know which people and organizations might need your services, so you can direct your messaging (even the messaging on your business card) to those folks. Ask yourself the question "What kind of Business Pain can I relieve for my consulting clients?"
Maybe it is the pain CEOs feel when they can't find enough talent to keep their business growing. Maybe it is the pain Customer Service managers experience when they don't know how to resolve customer issues using live chat applications. You are an expert at something -- and as a part-time consultant you can turn that expertise into a revenue stream!
You don't need a consulting entity (like an LLC) to get started -- in the US you can consult under your own social security number -- but you might want to incorporate your consulting business anyway on the assumption that your business will grow. You can sit down with an attorney or an accountant to learn about incorporation, or you can incorporate your consulting business online for a few bucks.
You'll need a consulting business card that you can design at Vistaprint or any office supply store.
Finally, you'll need a quick self-introduction to use when you meet new people and when you meet up with people you already know who can refer you to prospective clients. Here's an example:
So Morgan, are you still working at Acme Explosives?
No, I left Acme -- I'm looking at other opportunities and I'm consulting, too.
What kind of consulting are you doing?
I'm helping small businesses build HR processes like payroll and benefits, recruiting and new employee orientation.
Maybe I can send you some referrals.
That would be fantastic!
Everything we do for the first time feels a little scary at first, and launching your own consulting practice is no exception.
It feels scary for a short time, and then it feels like something you can do in your sleep!
Working for yourself is one of the most powerful steps you can take toward running your own career and your own life.
I recommend consulting as a part-time activity to every working person because the benefits are so enormous.
As a part-time consultant you will know the value of your work far more than you ever could as a full-time salary-or-wage-earner. You will see the direct connection between your work and your clients' success.
The income you earn as a consultant feels different than the salary an employer pays you. As a consultant you are the CEO of your own business!
You can take on your first project for a close friend or family member, and you can complete the project in exchange for a home-baked cake or whatever you and your client agree on. Your first consulting project reminds you just how smart and capable you are.
That is something it's easy to forget!
We are all entrepreneurs now, even when we work for other people. Launching your own part-time consulting business is the best possible way to step into your entrepreneurial power. Why not put a toe in the water right now?