How To Become A Consultant (With Roles and Responsibilities)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 September 2021

Being a consultant involves providing clients with accurate advice on how to improve their businesses. It requires detailed knowledge of both the business and practical sides of the industry within which you work. Learning the tools to become a consultant can help you determine if this job is the best fit for you. In this article, we discuss how to become a consultant and what your responsibilities may be.

How to become a consultant

There is no set path to becoming a consultant and it can vary depending on the industry you pursue. Review these steps on how to become a consultant:

1. Complete a degree relevant to your chosen field of work

In some industries, you may need to have at least an undergraduate degree in your chosen field of work if you wish to become a consultant. Many entry-level positions specify you must have a BA or equivalent degree, so aim to include study within your career path. If you're unsure which degree to study to help you with your consultant career, consider a degree in Business Studies.

2. Gain practical experience through schemes or employment

Following graduation, look for roles in your chosen sector to gain experience. This could be through a work experience scheme or internship or by finding full-time employment. As a general rule, most consultants begin their career following at least three years of experience. Having ample prior experience working in a specialised field makes you an attractive choice for employers as they're confident that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to do the job.

3. Become a certified consultant within your industry

If you wish to improve your credibility and employability as a consultant, consider becoming certified. You don't need certification in industries, but in many sectors, there are plenty of accreditations and certifications available for you to gain. Similarly, you may also wish to join an association or similar professional body that demonstrates your commitment to the industry and your consulting work.

4. Build your network and begin offering consulting services

As a consultant, it is highly likely that who you know is as equally important as what you know. This is especially true if you are a consultant that works specifically with marketing or public relations. Building an expansive and reliable network of connections is therefore pivotal to your success as a consultant because you have better access to resources and services as and when you need them.

5. Continue to grow as a consultant and expand your clientele

No matter whether you choose to work as a member of a consulting agency or freelance, as a consultant, you can continue to grow your career through your consultancy work. Along with this comes gaining more experience and growing a positive reputation, which leads to winning more contracts and working with a broader range of clients. Persistence is the key to becoming a successful consultant, and dedication to your career choice can lead to further success.

Related: How To Write a Consultant Cover Letter (With Examples)

What is a consultant?

A consultant is a professional who identifies areas of improvement within a company and recommends strategies and changes to strengthen these weaker components. Often, companies hire a consultant to make the company more competitive or profitable within its field. Consultants typically work contractually, where they and the company negotiate the contracts, which may be a standard contract for the consultant or a bespoke agreement. To improve your knowledge and expertise in the field, consider building working with as many clients as you can to gain first-hand experience within your chosen industry of expertise.

What types of consultants are there?

Consultants work in almost every field and industry. Because of this, there are many types of consultants, each specialising in a particular area. These may include:

  • Marketing consultant: helps businesses develop and implement new marketing strategies, often to improve public perception of the company or to help to drive revenue.

  • Sales consultant: works with businesses to improve sales, often by identifying ways in which to appeal to target demographics and providing training to sales reps.

  • Accounting consultant: is a financial specialist that analyses a business's financial accounts and advises them on ways to reduce costs and increase profits.

  • Technology consultant: helps to improve the performance of a company by recommending new pieces of technology to invest in and adopt.

  • Business consultant: is a consultant dedicated to helping a company better its overall operational standards and work efficiency, including employees.

  • Public relations consultant: works with a company to improve their communication with the public, often through publicity campaigns.

  • Legal consultant: is a professional that advises a company regarding any legal matters they may have, including abiding by legislative frameworks and field-specific guidance.

Related: 10 Types of Consulting for a Fulfilling Career

What does a consultant do?

A consultant can perform several daily jobs, depending on their industry and job title. However, there are many competencies expected of any consultant and many tasks you can expect to complete. A consultant may provide these daily duties:

  • Expert guidance on internal affairs, such as improving working environments.

  • Advice based on external contexts, such as the latest industry news and law changes.

  • Provide unbiased opinions on a company, such as the effectiveness of their current strategies.

  • Access to niche resources, such as documents, training packs and more.

Ultimately, what you do as a consultant comes down to what the individual needs of your clients are. Whether that's training current staff or filling in a temporary position due to understaffing, you are likely to provide a range of information and services across your career. Successful consultants are agile and have a wide range of knowledge, allowing them to provide the most potential benefit to companies.

What skills do you need to be a successful consultant?

If you wish to become a consultant in a particular field of work, there are several skills you can possess to have a successful career:

Organisation

Whether you choose to work freelance or within an agency, as a consultant, you often have to handle a range of tasks at once. This means you must have good organisational skills, including the prioritisation of tasks daily. This is especially true if you're freelancing and may work for several clients at once.

Discipline

Having discipline enables you to set out realistic goals that are physically achievable for your clients. Consider your client's needs and your abilities to ensure you can perform the tasks. Also, refer to factors such as your resources and budget, as this may help you better prepare for the job.

Critical thinking

Often, a business hires a consultant because they wish to scale their services or solve a problem. This is where having refined critical thinking skills is essential for success. By providing lateral and creative solutions, you can help your clients' businesses grow.

Communication

As a consultant, you are likely to work with a team of people, including employees and directors of a company. This makes effective communication and articulation of your plans incredibly important. Being confident is also an advantage, as it encourages the company's team members to have faith in your advice.

Adaptability

Throughout your career as a consultant, you can expect to encounter a wide variety of situations. Consultants have to adapt to a number of different companies and company cultures very quickly. This is why being adaptable and flexible in your work approach is essential for any successful consultant.

Related: Consulting Skills: Definition and Examples

Tips on having a successful career as a consultant

To have a successful consulting career within your chosen field of work, you'll need to establish your goals early on, identify your target clientele and create your own unique selling points. Follow these tips:

  • Establish your goals early on. Knowing what you wish to achieve from early on in your career helps you to remain grounded and focused on the tasks ahead. This allows you to create an outline of what you need to do to get to where you want to be as a consultant.

  • Identify your target clientele. Understanding who your ideal clientele is can help you when searching for newer ones. As you begin your career, try to think about the companies you want to partner with for your next.

  • Create your unique selling points. Depending on your area of expertise, consultancy can be a competitive field. By identifying your unique selling points, such as having a postgraduate degree or conducting research on a niche topic, you can set yourself apart as a consultant.

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