February 3rd, 2012 // 12:00 pm @ Matt Bacak
Let’s say you have more than 20 years experience in your chosen field. For the sake of this article, let’s say you have been in the nonprofit field for 25 years and are at the very top of your game. And let’s say you’re a bit bored with the hum-drum day-to-day routine of being an executive director. You love nonprofit sector, but you need more of a challenge and you yearn to help people grow and achieve success in their nonprofit careers. Plus, you’d like to earn a little bit more money and are a bit tired of the board of directors overseeing everything you do.
Perhaps it’s time to go into business for yourself. Perhaps it’s time to become a consultant, a coach, a speaker and trainer. The thought is exciting, albeit a little frightening. You’re current salary is certainly respectable for a person with your skills and experience, and the health insurance and retirement plan are comforting benefits that you don’t want to relinquish. But none of these factors have been able to sufficiently scratch that darned itch that keeps telling you it’s time to start your own nonprofit consulting business.
Going into business for yourself as a consultant, coach, or speaker (or all of the above) requires determination, a little self-sacrifice (in the beginning), and a lot of experience. People hire consultants because they need the expertise of someone who has been there and done that…hundreds of times. There are consultants in literally every career field, and once they become accustomed to the process of generating clientele, they can make over double what they were earning as employees. In fact, recent statistics show that successful and established consultants can make anywhere from $1,200 to $5,000 per day.
There is power and prestige in consulting that can rarely be found in management positions, even executive positions. The power comes from calling the shots as a business owner and making sure people know they need you; the prestige comes from being the very best in your field…and making sure people know it.
But there’s a not so subtle difference in owning your own business and owning your own consulting firm. Lots of people own businesses. My fiancé owns a deli, my father owns a small publishing business, and my mother owns a bakery. But owning your own consulting firm lets people know that you’re the crème de la crème in your field – and if they want to rise to the top like you have, they’ll hire you to help them.
Consulting firms, like the one you will soon own, can be anything from a one man show to a large agency boasting senior and junior associates. Most consultants make their day to day income from coaching and mentoring individuals in the field – charging anywhere from $300 (for junior level staffers) to $500 (for senior executives) per hour. They also assist clients with organizational development, strategic and financial planning, and a host of other services including workshop facilitation and board and staff retreats. And if they like to speak in front of audiences, many consultants make thousands of dollars simply talking to a crowd for a few hours about their experiences and knowledge.
While it’s not as easy as 1-2-3 to quit your job and start making $5,000 a day as a consultant, it’s certainly not as difficult as it looks – especially if you’re very very good at what you do and have expertise that few can match. Start off as a moonlighter, which is the term used when someone has a “day job” but works on their own business in the evenings. Make a simple business card for yourself and during your lunch hour at work, go to chamber of commerce or rotary meetings where you can network and talk to people about your new consulting practice.
It’s not too difficult to pick up a small client or two this way, and once you do a good job for them and build confidence in yourself you’ll begin to branch out and up. People will hear about you, your phone will start ringing, those simple business cards you handed out at the rotary meetings will change hands and generate bigger clients, and you’ll begin to realize that maybe you really can quit that hum-drum job and make it big on your very own.
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