“Take my advice, I’m not using it” has always been one of my favorite lines. Why? Because it describes in a comical way how I started my consulting practice as a Career Coach and Training Consultant over 20 years ago. I didn’t have a business plan, didn’t have a website for many years, have never had an office outside of my home, didn’t have fancy marketing materials or even a cell phone! But what I did have was a passion for helping people find jobs and performing better in their careers. I had a belief that because I knew what I loved doing and was good at, there would be a market for what I was offering…….and it turns out, I was right.
My experience should give hope to anyone thinking about taking the entrepreneurial plunge. Who would have thought that starting an independent consulting practice and starting a job search would require many of the same considerations? So based on my 20+ years of surprisingly successful experience as a Career and Training Consultant, here is some advice to aspiring consultants and job hunters alike!
- Follow your bliss – What have you’ve always longed to do? To me, there is no more important question to answer when considering becoming a consultant or job hunter: Is there a way to do work that I am passionate about, find meaningful and will support me and my family? A new job or consulting opportunity that is a perfect match for your passions and expertise may well be out there. So figure out what your passions are, what you’re good at and what you have to offer the marketplace. Most people tend to undervalue their talents, skills, and experience, so it may take an outsider to help you identify your most marketable skills and expertise and that could be a wise investment before starting either endeavor.
- Test the marketplace – Can you really get paid for your expertise and passions? Where is the need in the marketplace for what you uniquely offer? Find out byinvestigating the marketplace and researching organizations that may need or are looking for your skills and expertise. Find out what’s going on right under your nose – in your neighborhood, local businesses, community, and non-profit organizations. Just this week, one of my job search clients walked into a company a mile from his house to apply for a job in person (yes, people still do this and should!), left his resume with the receptionist and got a call back from the hiring manager that afternoon! I encourage my clients and aspiring consultants to read local newspapers, business journals, organization websites, and talk to professional and personal contacts about current company needs, initiatives, and problems that might require their unique talents and skills. I encourage them to meet decision makers through information interviewing or through a referral. This is crucial in determining if there is indeed a need and market for what you are offering.
- Watch your expenses and keep your overhead low – Many of my colleagues have made the mistake of signing expensive lease agreements for office space that their practice simply couldn’t support. Many of my job search clients do the same: setting up elaborate home offices, or buying new computers and phones – spending money they need to live on while looking for a new job. Make a coffee shop your office! My best guess would be about 75% of coffee shop regulars are consultants or job hunters who are meeting with potential clients, having interviews, writing resumes and cover letters. I should know, I’m one of them!
- Network, network, network – Do you have to network? The unequivocal answer is Yes – that’s if you want to be successful! 99.5% of my consulting business has come from networking and 80% of all jobs come through networking. Networking who you know, and who knows you, is the most effective way to find a job or consulting gig.
- Develop marketing materials – A consulting brochure, a website, or resumes and cover letters, need to sell your expertise, skills, and your “value proposition” to potential customers and hiring managers in a high impact way. Engaging the services of a professional web designer and resume writer can be extremely beneficial. In fact, I just bartered my career coaching services with a web designer and I now have an attractive new website that cost me nothing more than sharing my expertise.
- Blow your own horn – Whether you are selling your consulting services to potential customers or selling yourself to potential employers, you must have well prepared “verbal commercials” that promote who you are and what you have to offer. In coaching hundreds of clients looking for new careers, I have learned that this is one of the hardest things for people to do. And you can and must learn to promote your “brand” as a job hunter or consultant, because your competition is doing it loud and strong!
Starting a consulting practice requires confidence, determination, and self-motivation – and so does an effective job search. But the satisfaction and rewards are worth the effort! I encourage aspiring consultants to contact the Center for Women and the SC Women’s Business Center for help getting started on the right track.
Jan Moorman is President of Jan Moorman & Associates, a Career Coaching and Training Consulting Firm located in Charleston, SC. She can be reached at www.janmoormanandassociates.com or 843-410-3526.