Finding Your Niche as a Professional consultant
There are any number of people who dream of leaving their employee work lives and dream of becoming a consultant of some sort.
So, to assist these people in their dreams, I'd like to share what I have seen over the years (being a consultant myself) as to some of the more common "consulting niches" or "disciplines" that one can pursue. This list includes the following:
Business Strategic Planning
Business Roll Out Planning / Strategy Development
Business Process Design and Business Process Re-Engineering
Business Performance Consulting - KPI Metrics Development and Measurement, ISO Certifications, Six Sigma, etc.
Business Disruption Planning / Disaster Recovery Planning
Product Planning, Product Design, Product Rollout Planning
Financial Planning, Raising Capital, Investment Planning
Going Public Consulting
Programming Core Application Systems
Graphic Art - Website and Social Media (Images, Videos, Logos, Products, etc.)
Network and Device Management and Support
Database Development, Management and Support
Interface Development and 3rd Party Interface Development
Data Warehousing, Data Mining and KPI/Statistical Report Development
Strategic Planning and Architecture Strategy Development (Application Systems, Infrastructure, Performance, etc.)
Outsourced/In-sourced Book-Keeping Services
Government Grant Consulting, Preparation and Submission (SR&ED Grants, etc.)
Payroll Management, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable and Banking
Marketing Plan Development
Advertising Development (Direction Planning, Budgeting, Partner Definition and Contracting, Target Market Definition and Profiling, etc.)
Advertisement Creation (Adds, Videos, News Items, Store Displays, Website Displays, Social Media, etc.)
Product Preparation (Packaging, Labelling, User Guides, Pricing Research and Pricing, etc.)
Human Resource Consulting
Organizational Planning (Business Structures, Resource Structure Definition, Span of Control Definition, etc.)
Resource/Skills Definition, Responsibility Matrices, and Requirements Planning
Staffing and Recruitment, Background Checks, Job Board Postings, etc.
Labour Relations, Contract Negotiations, etc.
Benefits and Compensation Planning
Performance Monitoring, Salary/Wage Management, Recognition and Rewards
Conflict Management and Resolution, Human Rights Violations, etc.
Trip Booking and Trip/Itinerary Management
Flight, Cruise, Hotel and Car Rental Bookings
Travel Brochure Creation, Custom Destination Package Creation
Passport and Travel Document Preparation and Submission
Lodging and Accommodation Services
Tour Development, Marketing and Management
Trip, Timeshare, Cruise, etc. - Telephone Marketing Sales Affiliates
In summary, your life earned skills will lead you down viable paths to begin your consulting career. Before embarking on it however, be sure to prepare for it by creating whatever you might need in terms of templates such as proposals, non-disclosure agreements, checklists, tools, deliverables, etc. The more you have readied beforehand, the better the quality of the deliverables you can create for your clients and the less strain it will be on you to create them, particularly if you are under time constraints to get things to a client or potential client.
Know your markets and target clients and understand beforehand how much you can charge for an hourly rate for what you do and how much you can charge for travel and related expenses. Always try to negotiate travel expenses into your contract where you can. If you can't build it in as a visible component to the negotiated agreement, build it into your charge-out hourly or day rate to the client so you don't end up working too cheaply.
Seek some form of up front retainer for expenses where possible if it is out of town work. It is a lot easier to be exposed on your spent time than on actual expenses you have had to pay for on your credit cards if the client doesn't pay you. Build this into your contract if you feel it to be necessary and don't get on site until you have this money.
Some paths may allow you to start out slowly or part-time and it might be advantageous to complete the first engagement or two while you still have a salaried position if you can as consulting is not ultimately for everyone. Lastly, remember that a consultant, when they walk onto a client's site, is usually expected to know more than most of the internal employees do about your chosen area of expertise!
By Dan Grijzenhout - December 20, 2016
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