How to Become a Small-Business Consultant

You’ve mastered the art of the small business — and now, you’re ready to take your career one step further. Serving as a consultant to those who hope to follow in your footsteps is a viable option, but it’s one that might be difficult to navigate at first. After all, you’re a master of your industry and your chosen trade, but you might not have ever been in a position quite like a consultant’s before.

The following are five steps to take in your quest. With the right foundations in place and practices learned, you will be well on your way to consulting fellow small-business owners for a living.

1. Figure Out Your Sweet Spot

Every consultant has to find his or her niche. As you begin testing the waters of a career in the field, figure out what your specialty would be. Where did you really shine in your business? What do you have to offer small-business owners that other consultants might not know?

Once you have an idea of your sweet spot — and the types of problems you can solve — you can start to form an idea of a business. Plus, you’ll be better able to come up with a list of services that will help clients in your focus area.

2. Know Your Role

A job as a consultant isn’t a black-and-white career path. Aside from the fact that you need to find your specialty, you need to figure out the type of services you’ll provide to your clients. Everyone is different, and your business may take on an entirely different shape. However, most consultants tend to fit in one of the following categories:

Teacher: The teacher consultant shows their clients how to do something. Then, they can use that skill to build up their business on their own.

Guidance counselor: The guidance counselor at school listened to your vision and helped you map out a path to getting you there, either personally or academically. As a consultant, you could help clients come up with a business plan and outline the steps to get them to their end goal.

Doer: Some consultants actually do the work for the small-business owners they contract with. So, you might see yourself stepping in to complete a specific task that you’ve mastered in your own ventures.

You might be able to find a different role for yourself, of course. These ideas are a general starting point, and places that many consultants have found themselves to fit perfectly — you just might do the same.

3. Develop Consulting Understanding and Skills

You already know how to start a company and run it successfully, and that’s step one in learning how to become a consultant in small business. However, there are more practical steps to take so you understand the consultancy side of things.

Start by shadowing a consultant or otherwise stepping into someone’s shoes for the day. If you can’t do the former, the latter will do just fine. Choose a business and either offer to consult for them for free, or imagine what steps you’d take to improve them if you were, indeed, their consultant.

You might also want to read up on the subject. There are plenty of books about becoming a successful accountant, and you can read them in your spare time or listen to audiobooks while you’re driving or otherwise unable to sit down and dive in. Then, of course, there are business classes, which can help you master your new craft, too.

4. Earn the Required Qualifications

One of the questions to ask yourself before becoming a consultant is whether or not you have the credentials required. This goes beyond business know-how — that, you already have. Some fields will require you to have specific certifications in order to prove you are, indeed, ready.

Start with the general ones — you can get a certificate from the Association of Accredited Small Business Consultants. You can also join the Institute of Certified Business Consultants.

5. Reach Out to Your Network

You never know who in your circle is looking for just the service you’ll provide — that is, of course, unless you ask. As a new consultant, it’ll be up to you to drum up a list of clients or, at the very least, a list of contacts to whom you can market your new services. Get inspiration from experts like Geoff Goacher, who is known to have a proven track record as a law firm marketing consultant to some of the industry’s most successful firms.

Even if your direct contacts aren’t in need of your consulting expertise, they might have a client or friend who is. You never know what kind of opportunity a conversation will open up. So, send that email or post on Facebook and let people know what you’re up to — then, let the clients roll in.

Get Started!

You see consultancy as the next chapter. You have the business skills to make it happen, and now, you have the practical steps to get started, too. The only thing left to do is dive in and see just where this career path will take you — we bet it’s somewhere much more successful than you can imagine.

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum