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How to consult for the pharmaceutical industry

Updated on October 1, 2012

Earning a living without a job!

Of course this doesn't mean earning a living without working. Do you need a 9 to 5 job, though, to earn a living? I think not! This is not a get rich quick scheme. The question is: how can you earn enough to pay the bills without a regular job? For one thing, it means creating several opportunities for yourself. It is naturally better if you have a regular job, while you develop several sources of income.

Several sources of income? Yes. The problem with dependent employment is that if your job disappears you have no income. With several ways to earn money, the loss of one of them is inconvenient but not a disaster. Lose one and there are other ways of earning money to take up the slack. Independent employment with multiple streams of income is the antidote.

If you have a job, you can look at ways to earn more money on the side. This can and should involve what you really like doing. Some ways of earning money may be seasonal and can be hobbies that you turn into income. You may like making seasonal decorations, candles, paintings, or cookies. Perhaps you like to fix things. You may know a lot about some areas in the job you have now or had in the past.

Finding ways to turn your job experience, knowledge and interests into a source of income means that you will have to live by your wits and not just by turning up every day for a job that you don't like just to survive.

So, how do you get started. First, think about what you have really enjoyed in the past and look for opportunities to do these things. What seems like such fun that it could never be a real job? Think about how it really could be a way to earn some money. What do you know that others usually ask for your help to get done?

Can you write reports? Do you know how to research information, or produce spreadsheets, project plans, or Gantt charts? Are you a technical expert in some area? You could be a contractor or a consultant.

In the pharmaceutical industry, content and process experts are needed. If you have process skills, such as the ability to manage projects, produce or track budgets, or write certain types of reports, you could work as a contractor or consultant in the industry. If you have the content knowledge in areas such as manufacturing, regulatory affairs, or clinical development, then pharmaceutical consulting could be for you. If you decide to become an independent consultant, then it is best to decide on a business structure and establish a formal business. For more information on how to establish yourself as a consultant see the American Biopharma Corporation website and visit the New or Aspiring Consultant pages.


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    How to get started as a consultant

    The good news - there are more ways to get started than ever! For some folks the transition is triggered by the loss of a job or they don't really want to retire. For others, it is planned as a gradual move or as a career in a consulting company. Here the focus is on independent consulting.

    Many entrepreneurs have already blazed a trail for helping others to move ahead. Jennifer and Joe Remling started their own busineses after losing their jobs when the dotcom bubble burst. More recently, they travelled around the country in a recreational vehicle and interviewed entrepreneurs to look for a common thread in how they made their businesses happen, and how they feel about their way of earning a living. The Remling's have been promoting their book, "Carve Your Own Road."

    Here is an interview with Daryn Kagan about the Remling's experience. In another interview on CNN the Remling's gave tips for figuring out the right road for your independent business:

    1. Find Clarity: Take the time to ask questions and really figure out what you want to do. What do you do well?
    2. Set big goals: Write your own vision statement.
    3. Immersion: Take 10 minutes daily to set the tone for the day.
    4. A visualization board: Cut out pictures of what you want and paste them on a board.

    Tory Johnson on ABC News has taken a great interest in how people work from home and written a book on this topic. She warns about avoiding the too-good-to-be-true scams, where you can earn a large amount of money for almost no work. Also, she notes that you should beware of situations where you have to pay up front without a money back guarantee, if their service or product doesn't work for you.

    One way to start up is to register as a provider on websites, such as eLance, oDesk, or These sites allow you to post your availability for work so that buyers care hire you. You may have to start with lower charges for your services to get established. These sites generally have a feedback system where buyers and providers receive scores. As you develop your reputation, you can increase the charges. Tory Johnson has interviewed eLance and oDesk and their representatives give a perspective on their services.

    Take a look at the site StartupNation for more tips on establishing your own enterprise. Consulting is a business and should be treated as such. American Biopharma Corporation has more information about establishing a business structure for consulting with a view to consulting for the pharmaceutical industry.

    Content or process consulting?

    In any business, there is the content, such as a pharmaceutical company's drug development, a bakery's production of bread, cake and pastries, or the automotive industry's production of cars, trucks or vans. Process refers to methods of running businesses can be applied across the content of different areas or industries or fields, such as organizational development or decision-making.

    Content consulting

    To be a content consultant in the pharmaceutical industry, you need a degree of mastery of the content knowledge and expertise for which businesses will pay. For example, if you have worked in Regulatory Affairs, you could work at your level as a consultant. How you position yourself as a content consultant will depend on your level of expertise. If your experience is not extensive, you could still carry out the same kind of work that you did in the past. If you have extensive experience, you could charge more for your services and make higher order recommendations and decisions.

    Keeping up with your content area through association meetings and some form of continuing education is very important. You had better know at least as much as your clients or your counterparts in their organizations! If you are not already a member, consider joining organizations such as the Drug Information Association (DIA) or taking courses at the Pharmaceutical Education and Research Institute (PERI). They provide opportunities for online courses, too. As a content expert you will be acutely aware of the professional societies and associations that can keep you informed and educated on cutting edge of your field and which would provide valuable networking with those who might be interested in your services.

    Process consulting

    Since this form of consulting cuts across many business areas, the potential range of opportunities may, in some ways, be greater than that in content consulting. Process consulting includes coaching, conflict resolution, establishing governance structures to streamline and formalize decision-making processes, improving the morale and retention of staff, and many other areas that are important in the development and smooth-running of organizations.

    Like content consulting, it is important to learn as much about the leading edge of best practices relating to process consulting by continuing education and networking. Consider joining organizations such as the American Management Association and various trade associations.

    Find a mentor

    Look for a successful consultant, who has done exactly what you are trying to do. Someone who can advise you on the correct pathway, including what needs to be done to develop your business, the best ways to find clients, where to network, and how to stay on the leading edge.

    Consulting is a people business

    Whether you are a content or process consultant, your work will be to help people that have a problem to solve. They may simply need a content consultant with the technical know-how to do a job or that they require advice or strategy from an expert in the field. The may need a process consultant to solve organizational content.

    The people who need your services are very important in gaining consulting opportunities. Understanding their mindset and needs is a key to marketing your consulting business.


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      Marketing your consultancy

      The square in the center of the small Belgian town was filled with an extremely busy market. Orderly rows of stores had been set up and a steady stream of potential customers walked by. For many of the businesses, the would be customers walked by perhaps lingering to take a look. Often, those who could be buyers, just continued walking or even averted their eyes and kept their distance.

      Some stores were absolute hives of activity. They were giving away free goodies. Large numbers of people seemed to be drawn to the stands with free samples. The happy owners smiled as they gave out what seemed like an endless supply. Cheeses, waffles, and trinkets were just waiting to be claimed. You could see that some people took a sample or trinket not intending to buy. But after a taste of waffles or cheese, or a free sample of some sort, the customers were thinking. Some decided instantly. The businesses with giveaways had a constant stream of customers. It was an education just to watch!

      The more conservative businesses with the apparent view of "if you want my stuff, you pay" had mostly customers who just looked or avoided the store. The owners seemed more serious.  They were selling the exact same goods as some of their neighbors of the giveaway persuasion, but they were not doing nearly as well. It was clear that if you want to make money, you will do better to give something away.

      Giving away something of value can translate into more business for consultants, too. Giving away tools and tips to potential clients can be a demonstration of your wares that may have clients willing to pay for more. These may be templates or examples of how to carry out some work. It may be the articles that you publish, presentations that you give, or other giveaways that show your potential clients the potential advantages that you offer. 

      What samples can you give away?

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