HOW TO BECOME A HIGHLY SOUGHT AFTER INDEPENDENT CONSULTANT
May 20th this year (2010) will make it exactly 5 years of my graduation with a (2.1) second class upper degree in Accountancy and have never worked as an employee.
I have been an independent consultant all these while. One good thing about becoming an independent consultant is that you will enjoy life’s most precious gift (your time) and still be financially well off.
The down side of it is that you will have to struggle at the initial stage to get your first few clients. So many things contribute to this but; inexperience is the chief factor that is responsible for this.
In this article are the obstacles I faced and how I overcame them. So, sit tight and enjoy yourself while I get a cup of coffee and come back for you.
Ok! Am back from my coffee break:
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GETTING YOUR FIRST CLIENT:
This isprobably the biggest challenge that you will face is getting your first client. You might have wonderful and brilliant ideas but will lack that confidence and trust that people want before they will be willing to give out their resources (money and confidential information) to you as a consultant.
SERVICING YOUR FIRST CLIENT:
One thing is to get client(s) another thing is to service the client well in other to retain him or her. This aspect of the obstacle is responsible for the increasing number of start up consulting firms that never out lived one year. Customers/ clients demand for quality service are always on the increase.
GETTING AN OFFICE AND OFFICE EQUIPMENT:
The cost of getting an office space and equipment is usually a course of worry to many up coming independent consultants.
GETTING FINANCE/ FUND
You will agree with me that every business needs initial capital to start up with irrespective of the amount needed. And this is was a big problem to me considering the cost of finance in this part of the world (Nigeria)
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT/ GETTING EMPLOYEES AND WORKERS:
Knowledge management involves replication of knowledge so that jobs can still be done in your absence. Also, the problem of recruiting the right kind of people in the right position to help me with some routine functions and retain them was much for me then.
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS (I USED THE WORD POSSIBLE TO DEPICT THE FACT THAT WHAT WORKED FOR ME MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU)
Note that the possible solutions you are about to read below are based on my personal experience.
MAKING USE OF OLD WEAK TIES FRIENDS AND WORKED FOR FREE
Network of friends was what really helped me. After registering my business name and drawing up an operational business plan (note that operational business plan is different from financial business plan), I stayed for about two months without getting my first contract. You can imagine the frustration and the stress.
It was not as I wasn’t marketing, in fact, I employed almost all the marketing technique that I learnt in school but, all to no avail. I keep getting the usual response each time I send out my ‘mass unsolicited business proposal’ to those that I hoped will be my clients.
My first break through came the day I was rearranging my room and stumbled upon the phone number of my man friends that I lost contact with for some time. I just casually picked up my phone to call and say hi to him.
His first question after introducing my self was; what are you doing now? And I unconsciously answered ‘consulting’ and that was it. I landed my first contract through his network (connection)
The morale of this short story is that; you will find it lot easier getting your first client through the connections of your network. So, learn to make your network work for you.
I simply found out the bitter truth that I was ill prepared the day I signed the consulting agreement. I scrambled helplessly through my mini library in search of information on systems integration but, was getting more confused. I took out some time to think and finally resolved to collaborate with those that are already in the business.
I quickly grabbed Nigeria yellow page (a directory of all registered businesses in Nigeria) and penciled down some companies to contact. Though, they took significant share of the proceeds but, the lesson and experience I got from them took me far.
So, you may want to collaborate with those that are already established in the industry you choose to work in.
USED MY LIVING PREMISE AND MY PERSONAL EQUIPMENT
I was lucky that we have an empty shop in front of our house so I converted it into my office. I equally started with shared equipment like; family computer and printer
If you are not as lucky as I am (hehehe), then use your living apartment or think of squatting (sharing office space) with friends for some time.
From informal sources (using business plan and proposals)
I used personal savings and loans from friends and relatives but, that is not the best method. It is simply slow to raise fund that way. I have a blog post on Sources of Finance for small and medium sized comapny so you can check that out.
Did a lot of research and training
I was learning, researching and teaching those that will fill in some gaps for me.
USED SECONDARY SCHOOL GRADUATES
You may want to consult with your lawyer or attorney to find out the provision of your country’s labour law. These people are willing to even work for free and get the needed experience for move ahead.
The above challenges are nothing compared to the benefits that will accrue in the immediate future. Consulting is the only field (career) that you are being paid to learn. Yes! You heard me right. My clients pay me so that I will learn. Hehehe!
Oh! Sorry, I forgot some thing. Perhaps the biggest of them all YOU MUST BE A LEARNER. CONSULTING IS A KNOWLEDGE BASED ENTERPRISE AND FOR YOU TO SUCCEED IN THIS CAREER, YOU MUST ACTIVELY SEEK KNOWLEDGE.
If you have taken stock of your strengths and weaknesses and feel you are good to go, then, you are welcome aboard. But before then, consider the benefits you will get by picking up some of these books here.
To your success as an independent consultant!