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The dictionary defines a consultant as
“an expert in a particular field who works as an advisor either to a
company or to another individual.” Sounds pretty vague, doesn’t it? But
unless you’ve been in a coma for the past decade, you probably have a good idea
what a consultant is.

Businesses certainly understand what consultants are. In 1997
U.S. businesses spent just over $12 billion on consulting. According to Anna
Flowers, spokesperson for the Association of Professional Consultants in
Irvine, California, the association has recently noticed an increase in calls
for information from people who want to get into the business. “The market
is opening up for [the consulting-for-businesses] arena,” Flowers says.

Melinda P., an independent consultant in Arlington, Virginia,
thinks more people are getting into the consulting field because technology has
made it easier to do so. “The same technology that has helped me to be
successful as a consultant has made it easier for others to do the same,”
she says.

A consultant’s job is to consult. Nothing more, nothing less.
It’s that simple. There’s no magic formula or secret that makes one consultant
more successful than another one.

But what separates a good consultant from a bad consultant is a
passion and drive for excellence. And–oh yes–a good consultant should be
knowledgeable about the subject he or she is consulting in. That does make
a difference.

You see, in this day and age, anyone can be a consultant. All
you need to discover is what your particular gift is. For example, are you very
comfortable working around computers? Do you keep up with the latest software
and hardware information, which seems to be changing almost daily? And are you
able to take that knowledge you have gained and turn it into a resource that
someone would be willing to pay money for? Then you would have no trouble
working as a computer consultant.

Or are you an expert in the fund-raising field? Maybe you have
worked for nonprofit agencies in the field of fund-raising, marketing, public
relations or sales, and over the years you have discovered how to raise money.
As someone who has turned a decade of fund-raising successes into a lucrative
consulting business, I can tell you that fund-raising consulting is indeed a
growing industry.

to Consider Before You Become a Consultant

  • What certifications and special licensing will I need? Depending upon your profession, you may need special certification or a special license before you can begin operating as a consultant. For example, fund-raising consultants don’t need special certification, although you can become certified through the National Society of Fund Raising Executives. And in some states, you may need to register as a professional fund-raising consultant before starting your business.
  • Am I qualified to become a consultant? Before you hang out your shingle and hope that clients begin beating your door down to hire you, make sure you have the qualifications necessary to get the job done. If you want to be a computer consultant, for example, make sure you are up to date in the knowledge department with all the trends and changes in the computer industry.
  • Am I organized enough to become a consultant? Do I like to plan my day? Am I an expert when it comes to time management? You should have answered “yes” to all three of those questions!
  • Do I like to network? Networking is critical to the success of any type of consultant today. Begin building your network of contacts immediately.
  • Have I set long-term and short-term goals? And do they allow for me to become a consultant? If your goals do not match up with the time and energy it takes to open and successfully build a consulting business, then reconsider before making any move in this direction!

Why an
Organization Wants to Hire You

According to a recent survey, here are the top 10 reasons
organizations hire consultants:

1. A
consultant may be hired because of his or her expertise.
is where it pays to not only be really good in the field you have chosen to
consult in, but to have some type of track record that speaks for itself. For
example, when I mentioned earlier that I had become an expert as a fund-raising
consultant, I knew that every client who hired me was doing so partly on the
basis of my track record alone. After all, if you are a nonprofit organization
that needs to raise $1 million, it makes sense to hire someone who has already
raised millions for other organizations.

2. A
consultant may be hired to identify problems.
 Sometimes employees
are too close to a problem inside an organization to identify it. That’s when a
consultant rides in on his or her white horse to save the day.

3. A
consultant may be hired to supplement the staff.
a business discovers that it can save thousands of dollars a week by hiring
consultants when they are needed, rather than hiring full-time employees.
Businesses realize they save additional money by not having to pay benefits for
consultants they hire. Even though a consultant’s fees are generally higher
than an employee’s salary, over the long haul, it simply makes good economic
sense to hire a consultant.

4. A consultant may be hired to act as a catalyst. Let’s
face it. No one likes change, especially corporate America. But sometimes
change is needed, and a consultant may be brought in to “get the ball
rolling.” In other words, the consultant can do things without worrying
about the corporate culture, employee morale or other issues that get in the
way when an organization is trying to institute change.

5. A
consultant may be hired to provide much-needed objectivity.
else is more qualified to identify a problem than a consultant? A good
consultant provides an objective, fresh viewpoint–without worrying about what
people in the organization might think about the results and how they were

6. A
consultant may be hired to teach.
 These days if you are a
computer consultant who can show employees how to master a new program, then
your telephone probably hasn’t stopped ringing for a while. A consultant may be
asked to teach employees any number of different skills. However, a consultant
must be willing to keep up with new discoveries in their field of expertise–and
be ready to teach new clients what they need to stay competitive.

7. A
consultant may be hired to do the “dirty work.”
face it: No one wants to be the person who has to make cuts in the staff or to
eliminate an entire division.

8. A consultant
may be hired to bring new life to an organization.
you are good at coming up with new ideas that work, then you won’t have any
trouble finding clients. At one time or another, most businesses need someone
to administer “first aid” to get things rolling again.

9. A
consultant may be hired to create a new business.
are consultants who have become experts in this field. Not everyone, though,
has the ability to conceive an idea and develop a game plan.

10. A consultant may be hired to influence other people. Do you like to hang out with the rich and famous in your town? If so, you may be hired to do a consulting job simply based on who you know. Although most consultants in this field are working as lobbyists, there has been an increase in the number of people entering the entertainment consulting business.