Steps to Transitioning Into a Consulting Career

May 23, 2023

Making the jump from full-time employee to contract consultant can appear like trying to reach one end of a chasm to another, especially if you’re coming from a different industry or field. And you know the truth? That’s because it is. 

The only difference is that with the right preparation and mindset, you can successfully make that leap (a leap of faith, in many respects) and build a lucrative consulting career in spite of what challenges stand in your way. 

To set yourself up for success as an independent consultant, here are several key steps you should take:

Identify Your Consulting Niche

There’s a call for consultants in every industry imaginable. The first step in transitioning into consulting is to identify your area of expertise. What skills, knowledge and experience do you have that you can leverage in a consulting role? A CPA with tenure at a Big 4 could segue nicely into consulting. A CFO charged with the finances of their company may decide to start consulting as a side gig. A trial attorney may want to start advising other law firms on best legal practices. Determine which area you have expertise in, and then focus on developing the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in that field.

Develop a Consulting Mindset

To become a consultant, you must think like a consultant. Consulting requires a unique mindset that differs from traditional staff employment. An independent consultant needs to be self-motivated and able to work effectively with clients. They must also be comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. Develop this new way of thinking by reading books and articles on consulting, attending seminars or workshops and talking to experienced consultants.

Create a Compelling Consulting Brand

Think about the types of clients and engagements you want to attract and build a brand and messaging that resonates with them. Register a domain and establish your website as well as profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to help broadcast your brand and highlight key areas of expertise, experience, thought leadership and accreditations or certifications. Your brand is your most important asset, so invest the time to develop it professionally.

Define Your Business Model

Will you offer advisory services, interim management, project consulting or something else? Determine how you will work with clients, what types of long-term engagements or project-based work you want to pursue, your fees and billing model, administrative needs and more. Develop financial projections and business plans to ensure your model is viable before launching. Here, hiring your own business consultant to work out these fundamentals can prove a worthy investment for your business.

Build Your Professional Network

Those new to consulting may find some of the above tips like treading in unfamiliar territory. To get a better lay of the land, start networking, making personal introductions, attending industry events, joining relevant professional associations and connecting with people at target companies. Don’t forget to leverage your existing network. Actively look for unmet needs and potential consulting projects or partnerships that could lead to new client work. Having a solid pipeline of leads and opportunities will be important for successfully getting your consulting business off the ground.

Set Realistic Expectations

Transitioning into consulting is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes time to build a successful consulting career, where patience is a virtue and it’s essential to set realistic expectations. It may take several months or even years to build a steady client base and achieve financial stability. However, with persistence and hard work, you can succeed in consulting.

Start Small, Think Big

Consider first working with small businesses or nonprofits to gain experience and build your portfolio. These clients may not have the budget to hire a large consulting firm, making them more open to working with independent consultants. Remember that consulting requires adaptability. As a consultant of any breed in any field, you need to be able to adjust to changing client needs, new technology and industry trends. Being adaptable can help you stay ahead of the competition and provide better value to your clients.

A Consulting Career is Around the Corner

A range of strategic services? One focused niche? A part-time gig? A full-time endeavor? The beauty of consulting is that you are your own boss; you decide the direction you want to take your business and how it grows. While uncertainty exists, going independent can be a rewarding career move built on helping others achieve success just as you’ve achieved the same. With hard work and a commitment to excellence, you can build a thriving consulting practice.

Let Pinnacle help reach the peak of your budding consulting career. Join our pool of experts across the finance, accounting, IT and legal fields. Connect with us today.

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