Some businesses rely on flashy products or savvy marketing to paper over the cracks in their customer service. Unlike other businesses, however, a consultancy is solely service-based, which means your performance must be second to none.
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, coupled with the emergence of outsourced “green” solutions alongside traditional management and accountancy specialties, there is an increased demand for quality consulting services.
StartupSmart provides a snapshot of this growing industry to ensure your offering is right on the money.
What is it and who is it suited to?
A consultant provides professional or expert advice in a particular area such as management, marketing, law or finance.
Consultants usually work for a consultancy firm or are self-employed, typically engaging with multiple clients.
Some consultants are employed by a consult staffing company, which is a company that provides consultants to clients, and this is particularly common in the technology sector.
Other consultants are hired by companies to do work for them on a contractual basis, which means they are not employees of the company but contractors.
Being a consultant means working with people, which requires good communication skills, confidence, and the ability to tailor your service according to the requirements of each client.
Rules and regulations
Perhaps the issue of sham contracting is the most important point that consultants need to be aware of, particularly since it has presented itself as a widespread problem throughout Australia.
Sham contracting occurs when an employee is made to believe they are providing a contract for services, allowing the employer to avoid providing leave, superannuation or fair wages.
The Australian Taxation Office says it has no issue with genuine and productive independent contracting arrangements, stating most of Australia’s 800,000 employers do the right thing.
However, workers are still encouraged to visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website to ensure they do not fall victim to sham contracting.
Research and competition
To make a name for yourself as a successful consultant, you need to know your stuff back to front, which means reviewing your knowledge, skills and experience in order to decide which sector you are best equipped to service.
You then need to look at market trends to determine whether your skills are considered a necessity or a luxury in the current economy, and whether that’s likely to change.
Pay close attention to the areas that are encountering growth and the areas that are not. Depending on the nature of your skills, this will give you an idea as to how well your services will be received.
With regard to training, The Consultants’ Consultant has a range of courses available for those wanting to improve their general consulting skills, as does Consultant Training Australia.
CTA says its workshops and courses will help participants to market or deliver their services more effectively.
“The workshops and courses… are designed for consultants working within consulting firms, or as independents and as internal consultants. Contractors will find them valuable as they develop their careers,” CTA says.
Costs and earnings
Being a consultant requires very little outlay because you’re selling a service as opposed to a product. A lot of consultants work from home, which is ideal if you’re a cash-strapped start-up.
One of the first things you will need is a website for prospective clients to browse and gain an insight into who you are and what you do.
You may even choose to operate solely online, which means it is even more important to ensure your website is easy to use yet comprehensive.
If you’re meeting clients face to face, invest in business cards and maybe even branded stationery – this will help build up your profile and drum up new business.
Income varies depending on your specialty. A consultant can expect to earn at least $50,000, while an IT consultant takes home as much $140,000.
An average day
It is the consultant’s responsibility to lead each client through every step of the process, from the initial consultation – whereby the consultant identifies the client’s needs – through to the final outcome.
The consultant needs to ask every prospective client a series of questions along the lines of: What do you want to accomplish and why do you need me to help you do it?
Once the consultant has gained an understanding of the client’s needs, they need to outline to the client a plan and timeframe, and ensure they remain in close contact with the client until the project is completed.
Many consultants work on several projects simultaneously or wrap up one project while developing the next.
The Consultants’ Consultant
02 9550 2151
Consultant Training Australia
03 9593 1678
Australian Government Small Business Support Line
1800 777 275
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
02 6273 2311
03 9668 9950