What is an Independent Consultant? How to become one in 2023?

What is an Independent Consultant? How to become one in 2023?

What is an independent consultant? Working as a freelancer is gaining popularity across various industries, and consulting is no exception. Many professionals are choosing to leave their corporate jobs to become independent consultants. However, is it that simple to quit your job and transition into a freelance consultant? In reality, like any other career choice, freelancing has its pros and cons.

In this article, Kounselly will share what an independent consultant is, pros and cons of this career path and how to be successful. Check it out!

1. What is an Independent Consultant?

An independent consultant is a professional who provides consulting service to people and organizations in various industries. A consultant typically has wide experience in the industry they’re advising in. Before becoming independent consultants, they are intelligent, passionate, and entrepreneurial professionals who have established themselves as exceptional performers with valuable expertise in their field.

Independent consultants provide objective analysis of strategic, technical or operational issues faced by their clients and give recommendations on solving them, prevent future recurrence, and mitigate associated risks. For example, a company might want to hire a marketing consultant to identify why their marketing strategies are underperforming. The marketing consultant will thoroughly examine the company, the market landscape, its operations, and the marketing approach. They will then compile a comprehensive report with potential solutions to help the business meet its goals.

2. Pros and Cons of Becoming an Independent Consultant

What are the benefits and disadvantages of being an independent consultant? Read on to find out!

2.1. Benefits of Being an Independent Consultant

2.1.1. Flexibility

One of the biggest advantages of working as an independent consultant is the flexibility. When you work in a consulting firm, it can be chaotic sometimes with long hours working and frequent travel. However, as an independent consultant, you have the freedom to choose your own working schedules, projects, and location.

2.1.2. No hurdles to career advancement

Working as an employee in a large management consulting firm or any other consulting field often involves dealing with bureaucracy and intense competition. Not only must you excel at your work, but you also need to keep your seniors satisfied. If you become an independent consultant, you may be able to avoid all of this and concentrate only on consulting. If you want to take on greater responsibilities early in your career, you might consider freelancing.

2.1.3. New experiences

Freelancing opens up a world of many new experiences with different types of businesses. Each freelance gig and client brings exciting new opportunities. In contrast, working for the same company as an employed consultant can result in a monotonous Monday-to-Friday routine that continues for years. When working on your own terms as a freelancer, you are less likely to fall into that routine. If you seek frequent exposure to new experiences in your career, becoming an independent consultant is worth considering.

2.1.4. Higher income potential

When evaluating the possible financial advantage, the market situation and the professionalism of a consultant are important factors. Even after deducting operating expenditures, slow periods, taxes, and other costs, the income of an independent consultant is the same or better than a full-time employee. According to Eden McCallum‘s research, independent consultants mark 135 days as billable out of around 180 working days. Respondents to the survey said that they earn the same or more than they did when working full-time, while working fewer days on average.

2.2. Disadvantages of Being an Independent Consultant

2.2.1.  Challenges in Finding New Clients

As an employee, you can be certain that you will always have work to do as long as you are employed. However, as an independent consultant, you are responsible for finding new projects and maintaining relationships with clients. Constantly searching for the next project can be exciting at times, but it can also be exhausting.

How you can overcome this?

If you’re committed to advancing your freelance consulting career, you should sign up for an online consulting platform right now. These platforms are frequently visited by businesses who are actively seeking independent consultants. 

Kounselly is the first online consulting platform in Vietnam that can help skilled consultants to connect and help business leaders that are looking for consulting services. Sign-up to find your first client here!

2.2.2. Lack of employment benefits

As a consultant employed by a major consulting firm, you may enjoy benefits such as paid sick leave, insurance, provided tools, etc. However, as an independent consultant, you are responsible for all aspects of your business. Taking time off means accepting that you won’t be paid during that period. If you want to take some time off, keep in mind that you won’t get paid in that period and you have to explain this to your clients and let them know the project may be delayed.

How you can overcome this?

You should invest in your own equipment, considering it a one-time investment that will pay off over time. Also, make sure you have adequate insurance and take care of your physical and mental health – something you should do even if you are not a freelancer.

2.2.3. Unpredictability

When you work in a company, you always have tasks on your to-do list for a day and it’s likely that you will do specific types of work for 8 hours each day. However, things might not be the same when you work as an independent consultant. You may experience busy periods with a heavy workload, as well as slower periods where you might feel guilty for not being as productive. There could be months where you make substantial income and other months with no income at all.

How you can overcome this?

You should change your perspective and concentrate on your annual productivity rather than your monthly or weekly output. For instance, if you earn a year’s income by actively working for only eight months as a freelance consultant, it’s completely fine to have four months off for your guilt-free relaxation and skill enhancement.

During slow periods, consider using content marketing by sharing informative articles and videos on social media to attract potential clients.  Once again, joining an online consulting talent platform such as: Kounselly, Upwork… can be advantageous. These platforms can turn a sluggish period into a busy one with just a few clicks.

3. 5 Steps to become Independent Consultant

To become a successful independent consultant, it is important to show your expertise while still developing your own business. Here are 5 most critical steps to become  a successful independent consultant:

5 Steps to become Independent Consultant
5 Steps to become Independent Consultant

3.1. Establish your specialty

The first step to become an independent consultant is to identify your area of expertise. You should take a close look at your current experience and evaluate whether you have the necessary skills, education and training to provide expert advice on industry-related issues. If you have achieved notable milestones, contributed to huge advancements in the industry, or simply have substantial experience in your field, you are likely to succeed as a consultant.

If you want to work in a different niche or as a general consultant, you should conduct thorough research on the skills and knowledge required to excel in that area. Setting yourself apart from other competitors as a highly skilled professional consultant will help you advance in your career.

3.2. Acquire additional skill set

In today’s rapidly changing world, just-in-time learning has emerged as the favored approach among many professionals. The biggest benefit of just-in-time learning is it focuses on equipping individuals with necessary skills before applying them.

This approach makes it more efficient for independent consultants to quickly learn relevant knowledge to their work. As an independent consultant, you don’t have to be overqualified; you don’t even need a Master’s degree; you simply need the necessary knowledge and skills.

All you need to do is research the current demands of the market and adapt to the preferences and needs of your specific niche. By doing so, you can position yourself easily and meet the expectations of your target audience.

3.3. Set your rates

In this step, understanding the value you bring to your clients is fundamental. Charging too little may make you question whether you would have been better off in your corporate job. On the other hand, setting your rates too high can make it challenging to attract clients, and even if you do, they may have exceedingly high expectations.

Depending on your business model, you have the flexibility to choose between charging per hour or adopting a per-project pricing approach. Self-employment allows you to choose the most suitable way that meets your needs.

3.4. Build your online presence

When a client is evaluating your skills and expertise, an online portfolio or website serves as your resume and presence. A well-designed and functional website can significantly enhance your professionalism and persuade new clients to try your services.

Your website should showcase examples of your work, detailed service descriptions, and personal information such as education, previous job experience, and notable certifications. You can also build a blog to show your industry knowledge, which will help to validate your credentials.

3.5. Grab the attention of potential clients

Finding clients is not an easy task. You should put yourself out there and market yourself to get noticed. Here are some marketing methods you can apply: 

  • Blogging  
  • Webinars
  • Podcasting
  • Speaking and teaching
  • Social media marketing
  • Print or digital advertising
  • Referrals
  • Cold calling and emailing

Apart from social media and direct email marketing, it’s crucial to build your profile on a reliable consulting platform that your business can rely upon. Kounselly is a one-stop and community for independent consultants to easily build your website, manage your schedule and payment and marketing your business. Everything will be in one place and you don’t have to worry about unnecessary headaches.

>>> Read more: How to start a Consulting Business in 7 steps!

4. Top skills required for independent consultants

As self-employed professionals, independent consultants rely on a specific set of skills. Here are some key soft skills a freelance consultants should prepare:
  • Discipline: Independent consultants require discipline to stay committed to their schedule, achieve personal and professional objectives, and continuously enhance their skills through education and training.
  • Time management: Independent consultants work on their own schedule, so they need to learn how to manage their time productively and efficiently.
  • Customer service: Independent consultants interact personally with customers so they need to have strong customer service skills in order to effectively communicate, collaborate, and assist clients.
  • Determination: Independent consultants must be determined to strive toward their own goals and their clients’ goals, even when difficulties arise.

To Sum up:

In this article, we have given you an in-depth look at many aspects of working as an independent consultant. We hope this information will help you decide whether it is a suitable career path for you. Independent consulting offers remarkable flexibility and autonomy but it also comes with a lot of challenges. For further insights into independent consulting career, check out Kounselly for latest news and sign-up to become one!

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