Have you been dreaming of becoming a consultant but haven’t let yourself take the leap because you’re afraid you won’t be successful? Are you having a difficult time imagining anyone paying you to do something for them?
Sadly, these are common roadblocks that stop people from pursuing their dream of being a consultant. But don’t let those fears and doubts squash your dream.
Embrace Your Value
This can be a tough one for many people. You indeed have to have some type of expertise that there is a demand for in some market. I am not one of those folks who is going to tell you to watch a bunch of videos or read a book to become a fast expert in something. It doesn’t work like that. You need to have knowledge, skills, and experience to get clients and help them.
But...if you have been in the work world, you likely have expertise that clients would pay for. Think about it like this: if you have accomplished something or contributed to a positive outcome at work, you have something valuable to offer as a consultant.
What if you can’t think of anything you do well?
The truth is that not being able to see or acknowledge your value likely means that you have a confidence problem, not an expertise deficit.
You may want to ask people you have worked with and who you trust will be honest with you to help you clarify what your value is. You could ask them questions like:
What do you think I do best?
What things do I do that you think adds to the success of projects?
What do you think my top skills are?
What is an example of a contribution I made that you think made an important difference?
And when they tell you, listen. Take it in. Ask a few more people until themes start to emerge. If you have a confidence problem, this is a good time to trust other people over your perception of yourself.
You could take examples that they gave you and think through the details of what you did that created or contributed to success. You may also want to think about a specific project that went well and ended with a good result. Ask yourself what you did to help produce that result. What knowledge did you use? What skills did you use? That process can start to help you embrace the fact that you do indeed have marketable consulting superpowers.
Demystify What a Consultant Is
You also need to get past any misconceptions you may be holding about what consultants are.
What if I Don’t Know How to Do Everything?
A lot of folks think that consultants have to know or do everything. I can guarantee you that that is not true. I have a zone of things that I know and do extremely well, and I have built a thriving business from working within that zone. As I said, you have to have some superpowers, but you don’t have to have all of them! You don’t have to be Captain America and the Scarlet Witch (or, for the D.C. comic folks, Wonder Woman and Superman). You have to know the zones in which you can add value to clients and build your business there. You will also augment your knowledge and skills over time, either through learning more as you work with clients and other consultants or seeking out new knowledge and skills.
What If I Am a Generalist?
Another misconception runs the other direction, and that is the belief that consultants have to be super specialized rather than generalists in order to make a living as consultants. Again, I am a testament to the exact opposite. I am a generalist, and I have found that I and other generalists are in high demand among clients. Sometimes I have to partner with a consultant who is a specialist to provide the client with the full scope of what they need, but being a generalist has never stopped me from getting business.
What if I Don’t Know How to Market or Sell?
A big misconception is that you can’t market and sell your services or can’t imagine yourself doing it. The truth is this: you have to learn new consulting business knowledge and skills to develop a successful business. Unless your previous job included marketing or sales, this can feel insurmountable.
You can learn how to market and sell your services. All successful consultants have done it and you can too. The real hurdle usually isn’t learning how to market and sell. It tends to be more about mindset than knowledge or skills. People fill their heads with “I can’ts” or fears of appearing “salesy” or manipulative. But if one of the reasons you want to be a consultant is a desire to help people, companies, and organizations, then there are ways to do it authentically and from the heart. Your focus can and should be wanting to get past any obstacles that get in the way of you helping folks who need help. Once you embrace that mindset, the rest is just learning how to do the business side of consulting. It’s not as hard as you think!
Should You Take the Leap?
Do you have some type of marketable expertise? Do you have a desire to help others? Are you willing to learn the business of consulting? And do you want more freedom and flexibility in your life? If you answered “yes” to those questions, then yes!
As with any leap, the more you learn and prepare, the better the landing will be and the less risky it will be. But there is no reason not to take your dream seriously and figure out how to make it a reality.