What It Takes to Be a Consultant
What does a consultant do? Few people really know. Not only that, what does a day in a consultant’s life actually look like? What is their purpose and how do they set and achieve their goals? What is the practice of consulting? It is, in fact, the business of offering expert advice on a certain subject or a specialized service to a business, individual or a group of people. It doesn’t matter in what industry, business or aspect of life. The bottom line is consultants are in the business of advising their clients, whoever they may be.
What Experience is Required?
Consultants usually draw from their many years of extensive experience in their chosen field or exhaustive industry-specific study. This is so they may build a complete understanding of something and be able to best identify and solve problems and offer the best possible advice to a client or business. Most anyone can and will give advice (and often do, whether solicited or not), why would anyone pay for this service? What makes a consultant’s advice so special and worth paying for? The reason people pay for good advice is that they want to get ahead in the world, whether this means getting a good grade on the SAT or MCAT or having a successful relationship with their spouse, or building a successful business through great marketing, management or savy decision making. They want to improve their performance and achieve something much greater than what they have currently and they need professional help and support to do this. The client has hit a plateau and needs help to get over “the hump”, an obstacle, or barrier whether in learning or in their career. They are dissatisfied with where they are currently and are motivated to improve their position. This is a good thing and a good student, business owner or leader will eagerly admit their faults and where they need help. At this point, they will likely have a clear vision of what they want but no idea and strategic plan on how to get from here to there. Consulting provides this vital advice, how to get from your current self or station, to your idealized self or the “top spot”.
A consultant gets you from point A to point B, or across the bridge, when there are obstacles in the road. They provide the support and guidance to bring you from where you are to where you want to be. This is the general idea and it doesn’t matter how you move your client from A to B, this is insignificant as long as you get them there. There are no rules to being a consultant and many have creative, progressive and even “off the wall”, unorthodox approaches. Obviously a good strategy is most important, the ability to be inspiring and motivating, to instill trust and a creative, attention-commanding approach is key.
Example of Consultants
We have touched on some common consulting positions:
- Life coach
- Writing coach
- Marketing and social media consultant
These are all in-demand professions and the modus operandi for each type of consulting might be completely different from another and vice versa. Every consultant’s day could be completely different, it isn’t about methodology, but about results. While some focus on building strategy, other consultants are more “hands-on” and “boots on the ground” and they work with their clients on a daily or near-daily basis. Some consultants travel while others deal with their clients exclusively online, especially in our current health situation and economic climate. Some maintain a close relationship with clients, others just do “one-off” gigs.
What Are Principles of Consulting?
Whatever the competencies and specialties of a consultant they usually offer some form of the four following core principles:
- Strategic planning
- Hands-on service
- One-stop service
- Training, managing and coaching relationships.
Offering strategic advice is the most common form of consulting and is one of the mainstays of the industry, the way consulting has been traditionally done. However there is usually a lot more than just advice on offer, it’s just part of the deal, most consultants form strong, lasting relationships with their clients. Consultants are problem solvers, mostly business-related problems but not at all limited to this realm. You can “consult” on anything really. Often business and life’s problems are complicated, intertwined, layered and require very creative solutions. Other times the problems are simple and the consultant is hired because they are trusted and because of positive “word of mouth” because they have built solid relationships with clients and businesses and helped them become much more successful.