Aside from your core expertise like environmental or sales consulting, which will form the basis of your business, you will need to cultivate a broad range of skills to complement and reinforce that expertise when dealing with clients and running your business consultancy.
Top consulting companies and freelancers will need to handle a large amount of oral and written communication with clients, before, during and after projects.
Not only do you need to be able to communicate effectively, you also need to provide polished advertising and marketing materials, and present yourself professionally when speaking to clients.
If you are concerned that you lack practice in either of these areas, enroll yourself in a short course to brush up on skills before you get started!
Another large part of the consultants’ role, in any field, is that of observer. You will need to be constantly attuned to whatever part of your client’s organization you are involved with, and be able to notice, analyze and provide feedback on any items of concern or interest.
At the very heart of consulting, this is what you ultimately do for a living – apply your superior skills and experience to a particular problem your clients may have, and create a solution.
As an unbiased outsider, with a high level of skill and experience in a particular field, the consultant’s task is to apply an objective, analytical and knowledgeable mind to a particular need or problem.
A large measure of the success of a project depends on creating and sustaining good working relationships with your client, his employees and other role players.
Solid people skills will certainly assist in this area, and it would be worthwhile to remember, at all times, that those relationships can be the difference between the success or failure of a project.
Organization and Time Management
Particularly as a freelance consultant, you will need a high level of organization and time management skills. When you are going solo, there are sometimes seemingly mountains of tasks to accomplish, and very little time to do them in.
By being organized, and practicing good time management, you should be able to systematically and methodically work through them.
Plan well, be punctual and stick to timeframes and methodology, unless otherwise discussed with your client.
Objectivity and Independence
As a third party observer, often, you have been brought in as much for your unbiased and objective outlook, as for your skills and experience. Maintain that objectivity at all times.
Do not become personally invested in your projects. Nothing is ever personal. All that matters, at the end of the day, as a consultant, is providing your client with the right solution to their problem.
Its clear from this laundry list of associated skills that being a consultant requires much more than simply a high level of knowledge in a narrow field. Consulting professionals need to have marketing, sales, interpersonal, communication and business skills, along with personal management abilities.
If for any reason you are unsure of your abilities in a particular area, make sure you brush up on them before you venture on your own. The delay may be frustrating, but the results will definitely be worthwhile.