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Small Business Consultant Business Idea

Learning to become a certified small business consultant can be a great small business idea if you have specialized knowledge that can help other small businesses grow and prosper. Businesses both large and small continue to rely heavily on consultants for specialized services and guidance.

Relying on consultants is a trend that cuts across businesses of all sizes, as both multinational corporations and smaller businesses often have need of highly specialized skills on a temporary basis. It could be that a business has a project that will require your assistance every day for a number of days, weeks, or even months. Small businesses may need your assistance continually, but not have enough work to require your services on a full time basis. When you become a certified small business consultant, you may find your schedule is comprised of multiple projects that may be long or short term in nature.

Finding Clients For Your Consulting Company

As you work to become a certified small business consultant you may be more worried about how you will find clients after you are certified than you are about whether you will manage to pass your certification exams. While it may take you some time to build up a substantial client list, there are many proven techniques that you can use to jump-start your business as a certified small business consultant.

If you have previous professional experience in the area that you are becoming certified, whether it is accounting, financial planning, computer networks or any another area, then you should mine your contact list for potential engagements. Even if you are new to the geographic area or the field of discipline, you’ll need to network extensively. Attend trade shows and networking events in your area to meet potential clients and connections in person. You may also be able to partner with other consulting firms who may need your expertise for their projects.

While networking, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • Be professional and organized. First impressions really are the best and longest-lasting.
  • Perfect your elevator pitch. In a few seconds, be able to tell people whom you meet exactly what you do and what your specialties are.
  • Ask lots of questions. Engage with the people you meet. Find out what problems they have or trends they see in the industry. Networking is all about building relationships first, not immediately selling services.
  • Always ask for a business card and follow up with the people you meet.

The Internet is another excellent resource for you while looking for consulting projects. Sign up with freelance websites like Elance and Guru to connect with potential clients. Depending on the nature of your consulting expertise, you may be able to offer your services remotely to clients across the country or even the world.

The Importance of Service Agreements

When you become a certified small business consultant you should have a working knowledge of service agreements. A service agreement sets forth the terms of work that you are agreeing to perform, as well as the terms of payment. A service agreement will also likely spell out other terms and conditions such as the protection of intellectual property, no-hire clauses, insurance requirements, and liability stipulations.

Service agreements serve to legally protect both you and your client in the event of default. In a non-legal light, the statement of work included in the service agreement serves as an excellent planning tool you use with your client to agree on exactly what deliverables you will complete and when. It also helps you to specify what you expect from the client such as resources, approval timelines, and other key inputs that will help you successfully complete the project.

Many clients may be in a rush when they call you in for a project. You’ll likely be contacted to address some burning issue. While it’s important to share your client’s sense of urgency, it’s more important to have an iron-clad agreement in place before starting work.

Key Success Factors For Small Business Consultants

Being your own boss means that it is essential that you not only perform all of the work that you and your clients have agreed upon, but that you also track your own time to ensure that you are billing accurately, are on track to complete your work, and continue to fill your client and project pipeline.

Keep track of the time that you spend on each client’s project, both for billing purposes and so you can accurately quote fees for future jobs. Communicate early and often with your clients to make them aware of any issues where you need assistance. When escalating issues, whenever possible, provide your client with potential options to address the issue. This shows that you’re being proactive and is an especially valuable tactic when working with upper management.

Certification: Proving Your Value

The scope of small business is vast and there is no such thing as a formal small business consultant certification. However, there are certifications within business disciplines. Some certifications are required by law (such as a Certified Public Accountant), while other certifications help you prove your expertise and commitment to quality in your area of professional expertise.

If you’d like to become a certified small business consultant, the following list showcases some widely recognized certification options:

  • Certified Public or Management Accountant
  • Professional in Human Resources (HRCI)
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Six Sigma Certification
  • Certified Manufacturing Technologist (CMT)
  • Professional Certified Marketer

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