2020 has been quite arguably the most trying year in recent decades.
The entire world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic and tens of millions of people become unemployed or underemployed as businesses were forced to shut down and close.
Some temporarily, some forever. You yourself may have been an employee at one of those businesses, or even ran a business that was forced to shut its doors.
If so, then you may be looking towards 2021 as a year of new opportunities.
This upcoming year can be the year where you strike out on your own and use your experiences to assist others. A new year where you don’t rely on someone else to keep you employed but rather take your future in your own hands.
Or, maybe you’re continuing your existing job but are looking for a steady supply of work on the side.
In either case, one great avenue to explore is business consulting as a freelancer.
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Business Consulting as a Freelancer 101
A business consultant is someone who works with entrepreneurs, business owners and managers, and investors to help them plan, strategize, and guide them through various business aspects.
A business consultant might help a business hit the ground running or they might offer specialized services like helping find a manufacturing partner.
In return for their services, a freelance business consultant makes a fantastic living, with a national average salary being around $80,000.
Plus, when you choose to freelance, you get a ton of other great lifestyle benefits like the ability to work wherever you want and the ability to set your own hours.
However, in order to take full advantage of those lifestyle and financial benefits, one must first get into the game. This means setting yourself up with the right tools and keeping updated on things like the best freelance websites in general as well as the best freelance consulting websites.
The following is a quick look at the necessary steps one should follow in their journey to business consulting as a freelancer:
Steps to Follow to Become Successful at Business Consulting as a Freelancer
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1. Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses & Use Them to Inform Your Niche
First, before you look to be any kind of freelancer, you should understand both your strengths and your weaknesses in the field you are considering. Understanding your weaknesses will help you to either avoid a line of work or inform where you should improve before entering.
For example, if you are horrible at grammar and stringing two sentences together and this isn’t an area you feel you can improve upon, then you should not be a copy writer or try to provide copy writing skills to your clients.
If however, you understand that you are weak at drafting the written part of your plans but you are willing to work on it, then invest in training now so you are ready when jobs require it. And they will require it.
Business consultants are expected to be something of a jack-of-all-trades, or at least be semi-literate in all arenas of business.
But while understanding your weaknesses is important, knowing your strengths is doubly so. To really bring in a high salary in business consulting, one should specialize. Consider both your inherent skills and the types of industries and business niches in which you have the most experience.
For example, maybe you have a long history of working with real estate companies or you were previously employed at a technology firm.
Whatever the case, highlight what about your experience and skills make you unique and capitalize it. Business consultants will land higher-paying clients when they can offer unique skills and niche industry experience.
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2. Choose How You Will Offer Your Services
The next step of taking on business consulting as a freelancer is to determine how you want to work with your clients. Business consultants for independent entrepreneurs and small businesses have three primary ways in which they can deliver their knowledge and skillset.
Understanding how you are going provide your services will guide you in how you are going to price yourself and your service.
The three ways of being a freelance business consultant are:
- Teaching. You can offer your business consulting skills primarily as a teacher. In this format, you will want to create a class format through which you will deliver your materials, such as a series of booklets or Powerpoint presentations, and then market yourself as a teacher in your areas of strengths.
While some business consultants choose only to be teachers, making teaching materials and offer training courses can also be a greater side revenue for all business consultants.
- One-on-one guidance and coaching. This is a more popular method of providing business consulting services. Here, you are hired by the business client in order to provide them a plan and offer guidance as they follow your plan.
Here, you might ask for an upfront fee and then an hourly rate as you go forth with coaching. You can also offer a packaged deal, such as six consulting sessions plus an outlined, personalized plan for the business and their desired concerns for a one-time fee
- Specific services. If you are looking to be much more hands-on with your business clients, then you might set yourself up as providing specific services in which you serve as more of a contractor. This is an ideal type of work format for those business consultants who are highly specialized.
For example, if you have significant experience in something niche like setting up accounting software and drafting an incorporative business finance plan, then you should absolutely establish yourself as a person who can offer those specific services.
The more specialized the service you can offer, the higher the pay rate you can command, both when obtaining clients via your own references and marketing leads and when using the best online freelance jobs websites and the best freelance consulting websites.
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3. Get Certified and Insured
This is America; people love to sue. According to one study, as many as 43% of small business owners have stated that they have either had to contend with a lawsuit or were threatened by one — and those small businesses include sole entrepreneurs and freelancers.
Now, that is not to say there is a big risk of a potential lawsuit when business consulting, but the risk does get bigger the more involved or more one-on-one you get with a client.
If you do choose to offer more specialized services and aim to be hired on as more of an involved role, then you do face the potential of a business client being upset or unsatisfied with your work and choosing to pursue that dissatisfaction in a lawsuit.
For example, maybe your business consulting specialty is marketing and you have developed a mix of guidance and direct services as your method of employing your skills.
So you create a certain high-profile client a detailed and thought-out communication plan specific for their business.
Only, after they execute the plan, the client ends up losing revenue and that client then blames you and the plan for that lost revenue.
Unfortunately, if you do not have the right type of insurance then they do have a case against you and that can result in you paying for both their (and yours) legal fees and damages incurred by the plan.
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The good news is all of that ugliness can be avoid and you can be secured in your work by simply purchasing the right type of insurance policies ahead of time.
These policies include having general liability and professional liability coverage that will cover the associated costs of a potential lawsuit.
If you are not ready to invest in a comprehensive business insurance package, then we recommend starting out in the teaching and light guidance services only — avoid giving any specific business advice until you are properly protected.
In addition to having business insurance, you should also consider getting some professional certifications that will lend credibility to your name and help you prepare for the world of freelance business consulting.
Check out the Institue of Certified Business Consultants and the Associated of Accredited Small Business Consultants for more information.
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4. Start Marketing Yourself & Start Learning How to Market Yourself
The hardest part of freelance business consulting is going to be landing your first forty to fifty jobs.
The first fifty jobs are going to be the hardest because this is where you are going to fail the most as you learn what you aren’t good at and where you mess up with delivery because you aren’t yet sure about what you’re good at or what you’re not so good at.
Additionally, while you may have some previous work to showcase, you won’t have a solid profile of business consulting freelance references or previous work profiles to showcase in order to land new jobs.
The good news is that you do not have to go door-to-door trying to sell your services as a freelance business consultant. You just need to know the best freelance websites to go to. The top three best online freelance jobs websites you should get started with are:
Toptal isn’t just among the best online freelance job websites, it might just be the best one for white-collar freelancers like business consultants.
This is because they have earned a reputation as being a sort of jobs board for the top 3% of white-collar freelancers and so many of the best high-paying clients go to Toptal when they need quality work they are willing to pay high professional prices for.
Every freelance business consultant should strive to apply and be prolific here.
However, there is a catch, because this is a top talent website, you are going to prove your worth before applying.
SolidGigs is a good choice for those that are just starting to do business consulting as a freelancer. The drawback to this website is that you will have to pay a higher fee to gain access to it, but in exchange, they offer some pretty great things.
First, once you have an account, they will send you a vetted list of relevant job postings that you can then apply for.
Additionally, they offer key resources and tools that will help newcomers to the field close deals and land jobs — which can be particularly helpful when you are trying to get those first fifty jobs completed in order to build a wider portfolio.
FlexJobs is a mid-range job board-type of the website that is a great resource to round out your best freelance consulting websites to subscribe to.
Here, you can easily find both professional remote and flexible contracting jobs located throughout the United States and even beyond. This is a great resource to use if you are offering in-person business consulting services but are struggling to find clients. It also is simply a great website to have in your collection.
In the end, it is a good idea to be subscribed to at least three to five of the best freelance websites and to have a rounded out profile on each of them.
That’s because, as they say, the more eggs you have in your basket, the better off you will be at ensuring you have a steady stream of available jobs and then, of course, the paychecks that come with them.
Additionally, different job websites will pay out differently and so having multiple sources of income or consulting websites to rely upon, the more secure you will be financially should one suddenly lose prospects or similar situation.
It is also a good idea to keep an eye out for other rising best online freelance jobs websites to ensure you’re always at the forefront.
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Good Luck and Now, Go Out and Get Those Jobs
Now that you have finished reading this basic 101 guide to how to begin business consulting as a freelancer, it is time to take action.
Remember, even if you have professional experience, those first fifty jobs as a freelancer or as a contractor are going to be the hardest. But they will also be the most informative and really help you shape your future in this new career path.
Always be ready to critique yourself and accept critiques from clients. Be prepared to change course, maybe finding that you are better working one-on-one with clients than teaching, and always, always get reviews and keep past clients’ information as references.
PayPal for freelance works is your freelance helping tool; once you get a client for it is one of the valuable platforms where commissions and payments from clients were sent.
You will really rely on these early jobs to boost your later successes. Good luck and go out and consult!