You can become a consultant for hire in less than a day—this post will give you everything you need to get started. To start with, read through all of these responses. Many of them won’t work for you, but I’ll bet some will. And here’s another one, from me.
First, understand an important principle: most consultants aren’t actually trained as such. There is no “consulting school” or consulting degree. Instead, a successful consultant is simply someone who has learned to craft their knowledge into a marketable offer.
Therefore, your first and most important step is to identify something you can offer that other people will value so much that they will gladly exchange money for it.
Areas of expertise that people will a) be interested in, and b) pay good money for include the following:
- Dating | Wellness | Lead Generation | Data Recovery
- How to get out of traffic tickets / jury duty / other undesirable action
- How to get something for less, or make some kind of substantial improvement in a shortened period of time
Whenever possible, avoid generic concepts—don’t be a “life coach” or a “small business consultant.” Be SPECIFIC. Hone in on the skill you choose, and be able to clearly explain what you offer.
An example: while I was writing the manuscript for my next book (we’ll get to that at some point—it’s still a long ways off), I was impressed with Gary Leff’s story. Gary is a travel expert and one of the few people more experienced than me at travel hacking (he’s the guy I go to when I get stuck). Gary noticed that his friends and family kept asking for help with their reservations, so he decided to try offering it as a service.
I think this idea is fascinating, because the service is essentially something you could do on your own for free—yet there is a long line of people happily willing to pay for it. Why would you pay someone a significant fee ($250) to do something that you could do for free? It’s simple: Gary is very good at his job. He books international, premium class plane tickets for people that would ordinarily cost $5,000 or more.
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This kind of specialized service is a perfect example of crafting knowledge into a marketable offer. (He told me in a recent interview that his biggest challenge is having far more demand than he can reliably meet.)
Figuring out a clear value offering is the most important part of becoming an instant consultant, so if you get stuck at some point, it’s what you should come back to. However, it’s also true that many smart people with marketable skills never get around to doing anything about it, simply because they fail to take the NEXT steps.
Therefore, once you have a specific skill, or at least something close, you now move to these specific steps:
1. Create a basic, one-page (or less than 5-pages) website.
It doesn’t need to be beautiful or overly complicated. Your goal is not to create a masterpiece, but to create something that works—you can worry about the design awards later, because first you need a way to get paid. Go to WordPress.org to get your free site. Just need a header? Reese now does that on the cheap.
2. Get a PayPal account for free.
You may already have one, so you can safely skip this step if that’s the case. Bonus! If not, PayPal works in almost every country I’ve been to… currently 163. (They have their own count of the number of countries, which shows that they are better at helping people exchange money than they are in traveling the world.)
3. Create an offer.
An offer is where you put your skills and knowledge into a here’s-what-you-hire-me-for summary. The message you send with a good offer looks like this:
Dear Prospective Client,
You have a problem, and I have the solution. My fee is [x]. You can hire me over here.
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In Gary’s example, the problem is “we have all these miles but don’t know how to use them.” The solution is proven through Gary’s own trips and all of the happy clients he has served. His fee is clearly listed, and to hire him, you simply click a button. This leads to step 4:
4. Make sure it is very easy to hire you.
A lot of consultants (of all kinds) don’t post their fees, requiring prospective clients to inquire first. This only makes sense if the person is truly booked up most of the time and is not actively seeking new business. If you want new business, like anyone becoming an instant consultant, be sure you a) post your price, and b) make it easy to be hired.
Think of it like this:
Basic Website –> [PayPal Account] –> Offer –> Hired
These four steps are all you really need, but to be safe, make a test purchase from your very-simple-website to ensure all goes well. Ask a few friends to carefully review your basic website for errors or suggestions for easy-to-make improvements.
Congratulations! You are now a consultant for hire. You may wonder what comes next. If clients do not immediately come running, it is probably for one of two reasons:
- Your offer is poor or unclear
- You haven’t done enough hustling
If 1., refer to the earlier section. Have you really identified a clear, specific need that other people are willing to pay for? All roads lead to this question.
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If 2., read up on hustling. The not-so-hidden secret to hustling is helping people. Becoming an instant consultant is a way for you to help people and get paid for it. To learn about building real relationships, read Chris Brogan and try to keep up (he writes a lot, and it’s all good).
As you serve your clients, ask them for referrals: this is where most new business will come from. You can improve your site and your skills, learn about increasing income, consider expansion opportunities, increase the systemization of how you deliver services, blah, blah, blah. But mostly you need to get started and retain your first client.
With the information in this post, you can open your consulting practice tomorrow. Oh, and one more thing: don’t actually call yourself a consultant, because that sounds boring. Better titles: strategist, solution-provider, alchemist, magician.
I hope this plan of action is helpful for someone out there. If you become an instant magician, come back and let us know.
A version of this post appeared on Chris Guillebeau’s website, where he writes about travel, work, and living authentically.