There’s no question, a layoff can hinder the best laid plans. But for those with years of experience in a particular field or sector, being jobless can bring you one step closer to entrepreneurship. If you’re looking to generate income during financial difficulties (or just to make a little cash on the side that will allow you to save for a rainy day) you may want to become a consultant.
“Think about small business owners who are looking for reasonable rates and how you can come in and help with certain aspects of a business,” says Dorethia Conner, a personal finance coach. “Many small business owners don’t want to pay the big prices for a major marketing firm.”
But, how do you begin to establish yourself as a consultant?
Four Ways to Become a Consultant
Build your portfolio. To establish credibility as an expert, it’s important to show your track record by creating a portfolio, Conner says. “Talk about results you had while on the job,” she adds. Showing a measurable impact of your work will allow businesses to see the potential for a return.
Part of building your portfolio includes creating a list of references and possibly reference letters that also speak to your skill and expertise. “Testimonials are crucial,” Conner says. Don’t hesitate to ask previous clients or bosses for reference letters that speak to your accomplishments.
Network, socially and beyond. Along with building a portfolio, leverage social networks to build your brand and online network. Creating a personal Website is easier than ever with services by free sites, such as WebHero.com. Once you sign up, Web Hero provides easy-to-use templates that allow you to upload your portfolio, content or other information. “If you don’t want to do a full-fledged Web site, at least set up a blog and write about your expertise, Conner suggests. WordPress and Blogger also offer free blog setup.
Also, spruce up your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking profiles, says Moser. Include a branded summary, your headshot and experience. Use other social-networking sites like Ziggs, Naymz and Ziki to increase your visibility by posting versions of your biography and headshot. Create a personal “branding kit” that includes business cards, resume, cover letters and portfolio. Also, create a “social media resume” which is a multi-media dossier that will give the potential hiring manager a layered and dimensional perspective on who you are and what you know. The networking method typically takes up to two months to get a bite, so don’t get discouraged, Moser says.
Set your price points. Part of the competitive advantage of being a private consultant is your years of experience and your creativity. Another part is the competitive cost. When consulting, decide on how much to charge for your services. “You’re not going to charge top dollar and you’re not going to charge bottom basement; but you’re going to meet [clients] in the middle,â€ Conner says. Research the industry to find out how much other consultants in your geographic location and with your background usually charge. Don’t forget, you can customize packages to better fit your client’s business and financial needs.
Become your own PR agent. “There are more small businesses than large corporations in the United States,â€ Conner says. Since small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy, these companies should be your primary target–initially. To find local small businesses that may need your service, join local young professional organizations. Become a regular at events held by your local chamber of commerce. To get the word out about your services, consider marketing yourself as a public speaker as well to these trade and professional organizations. Speaking at industry events can boost networking opportunities and allow you face time with a slew of potential clients.
Remember, 60% of job seekers are hired via their networks, not online job boards, says Moser says. So, don’t spend all your time online. “Make a record of the people you worked and dealt with,” he says. Let your network know that you are a consultant and let them know what your area of specialization. Moser recommends setting up breakfast meetings, sending holiday cards, your current resume, or an email “just saying, hi.”