Are you at the stage in your career where you feel you have enough experience to go self-employed as a freelance consultant?
Dip your toes! Most freelance consultants start of by connecting with their existing contacts and finding opportunities to work through them. If you’re not quite ready to up and leave the security of a full time job and salary, then perhaps the best option is to trial a few projects alongside your current job and reduce your hours over time.
You will have to manage your time extremely well but it is a good solution if you’re not quite ready to make the full transition just yet. It’s also good to do as a consultant does before jumping straight in, you will be faced with many new scenarios away from the structure of a busy office, like constantly having to motivate yourself and not having any colleagues around to bounce idea off.
Are you ready?
When you’re part of a a team you’re one of many cogs working away to achieve an end result, if one person slacks (including yourself) it doesn’t mean the results aren’t met, just that the other cogs work a little harder to make up for the shortfall. Working as a consultant requires confidence in your ability to execute the task start to finish and deliver the required results.
What’s your specialism? There are tons of consultants out there, you can’t try to be all things to all people, while it’s tempting to try and be all things to all people its much better to offer out your expertise in areas you are extremely skilled in and can demonstrate experience in.
Businesses have the choice of using experienced agency with multiple disciplines but some choose to use consultants for their expertise in a specific field and for a more personable experience.
What can you expect?
Variety: with each client a new challenge is presented and you get to use a range of your experience and expertise to find a solution, there will be a certain a huge need for crystal clear communication between yourself and the client, making sure their requirements are understood so that you can get to work on the best solution.
Flexible Hours? Many people love the idea of consultancy as being something that fits around their lives, which in many cases is an advantage, but you still have to be flexible to meet with clients and will still have to stay within deadlines to complete the work, this may require you to work a lot more than the standard 40 hours a week.
Trial and Error: in a completely new phase of employment you will be faced with new challenges such as generating your own business, motivating yourself and trying to maintain structure without any office structure! You have to be able to roll with the changes and accept some things will work and some wont, it’s about working towards finding a style of work that you thrive in.
Who becomes a consultant?
Anyone with enough experience can become a consultant but the people who tend to go for it are extremely confident in their abilities and thrive in new challenges, not just the challenges of clients but also the challenges of working for themselves. You will have to leave behind the perks of paid employment such as company cars, pensions and healthcare.
To succeed as a consultant you have to be extremely motivated to achieve personal monetary goals and the goals of your clients.
How much experience is required to become a consultant?
It hard to put a number on it because some marketers experience will be so varied, one person may have worked for a huge branding agency for 15 years with a range of different clients and another person might have only worked in email marketing for 5 years but has the ability to apply their expertise to many different industries.
The thing that bonds all levels of experience is the ability to demonstrate this experience to clients, they will be looking for examples of your work and perhaps even testimonials from previous clients.
Most importantly, reputation is key to marketing consultants, especially in succeeding at generating new business through “word of mouth.” If you want to keep your personal marketing costs low, which I’m sure most independent consultants do, then your reputation is the most important marketing tool from day one. You have to be able to go above and beyond to satisfy requirements because your money and reputation depends on it.
How to get there?
Set up a website: there are tons of websites to help you set up your own page, even for those with the most basic design skills, websites like moonfruit and create have a selection a great website templates that you just have to add your content to and you’re ready to go, most of them cost from as little as £4.99 a month.
If you really want to take your website further then try running a blog, this can help solidify your industrial experience. Keep your website like an online portfolio and add testimonials from clients once the work is complete.
You won’t be aiming to have a website that features at the top of Google when someone types ‘marketing’ in but your website should be a well presented, with a quick reference guide to your areas of expertise and some evidence to support them. It’s an inexpensive way to market yourself and appear professional.
Update your LinkedIn: This will be one of the most useful tools in generating business and engaging with potential clients. Not only is it a great starting place for tapping into your existing connections it’s also a great way to approach new ones and gain introductions. Be sure you ask for recommendations from clients and ensure your profile is up to date with each job you carry out.
Network like crazy with your existing contacts, chances are they will have some work coming up at some point, you just need to make them aware that you can do it. Time to start nurturing that base, Queue lots of coffee catch-ups.
Chartered Marketer status: it might not win you a ton of business but is a great seal of quality as an experienced marketer and you are listed in the directory of Chartered Marketers.