Friday, July 6, 2007

10 Tips When Choosing Consulting as a Career Change

The Boise area may soon be faced with the real possibility of one of it's largest employers laying off many of its workers as part of a restructuring plan. Micron Technology (NYSE:MU) announced on June 28th that it would begin laying off an undisclosed number of workers in the wake of a $225 million third-quarter loss it blamed on stagnant prices for its memory chips.

The Idaho Statesman recently discussed what laid off workers should do if they find themselves unemployed. The State of Idaho intends to do all it can for these displaced workers. Some may choose to find employment elsewhere. Some may choose early retirement. Some may choose to go in entirely different career paths. I wouldn't be surprised if some went into business for themselves and choose to become a consultant.

Choosing to become a consultant shouldn't be taken lightly. Allow me to be so bold as to offer some advice through the following 10 tips based on my own personal experience becoming a consultant.

  1. If you choose to become a consultant, you will be in business for yourself. Act like one.
  2. Your image and your reputation precedes you. Guard it with your life!
  3. Establish your credibility as an expert. Start writing about what you know and demonstrate your knowledge and skills through presentations. Write articles. Create a blog. Do anything you can to get your content in front of the people who have the power to hire you. Make sure it holds real value.
  4. In order to gain business, people must like, know and trust you.
  5. Network, network, network! Get out and meet people. Learn about what other people do and give them the opportunity to learn about you.
  6. Don't be a "jack of all trades". Select an industry and a target audience for your services. Be specific. When it comes to the services you provide think narrow and deep, not far and wide. It's about who you serve and what you do for them.
  7. Be firm on your fee. Don't low ball your pricing just so you can get the job. Only you knows what it costs for your knowledge and expertise. You have to be confident when you tell someone that your fee is $100 per hour or that it will cost $10,000 to do the project. Anything less weakens your leverage to demonstrate the true value of your services, which in the mind of the customer far exceeds your fee.
  8. Be patient. You will not get your first client on the first day or even the first month you open for business.
  9. Always have a plan - for everything! Whether it is how you operate your business or how you intend to market your services always know what you are doing now, where you intend to go and what you plan to do next.
  10. If you have financial obligations that require you to have a steady stream of income, consulting may not be right for you. If it is still your dream to be a consultant, make sure you meet your financial obligations first by either finding temporary or part-time work and develop your consulting practice during your downtime.


Patrick Lee said...

Excellent advice Justin. And for the Micron folks reading this post, remember that you can start your consulting on the side before you get downsized. Many of the consultants out there got their start while working day jobs. Judging from the current state of things at Micron, now might be a great time to start ramping up.

Anonymous said...

I feel terrible for our Micron friends who are facing the layoffs, and I don't know anything to say that can do justice to the situation.

However, two decades ago I walked away from a career in Air Traffic Control (after 15 years)...I could have never made the money (!) I make on my own, nor could I have enjoyed the successes and the lessons, nor could I have pretended to be so autonymous. I trust that the anguish, which is really birthing pain, will be short lived and productive. Have faith in yourself, get networked (starting at the TVCN is a good start), and never look back!

Justin Beller said...

It appears the layoffs are coming sooner than expected. KTVB has started reporting workers are leaving with boxes of personal items today: