PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE FOR CONSULTANTS

Course CodeBBS301
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

 

This course is a valuable guide to setting up and operating a consulting business in any profession. Experts are always in demand by business, government bodies, public organisations and private individuals.

Everyone needs help from time to time from someone who has greater expertise than themself. If you have training, and/or significant experience in just about anything;  you may have the potential to become a consultant in your field of expertise.

 

Lesson Structure

  1. Determining If a Consultancy Practice is for You
    • •Nature and Scope
    • •Pros and Cons of Being a Consultant
    • •What is Needed to be a Consultant
    • •Codes of Contact
    • •Are You Ready
    • •Getting Started
  2. Planning a Consultancy Practice: Part 1
    • •Methods of Entering Business
    • •Deciding Where to Work
    • •Equipment
    • •Start Up Finance
    • •Business Structures
    • •Insurance
    • •Set Up Costs
    • •Having Assistance Available
  3. Planning a Consultancy Practice: Part 2
    • •Preparing a Business Plan for a Consultancy
    • •Business Plan Pro Forma
  4. Knowing What to Charge
    • •Determining Costs
    • •Available Work Time
    • •Convincing Clients of Value in Your Fees
  5. Setting Up Your Consulting Practice
    • •Finding Clients
    • •Marketing a Consultancy Practice
    • •Establishing a Press Kit
    • •Using the Internet
    • •Stationary
    • •Networking
    • •Communications
  6. Keeping Accounts and Records
    • •Keeping Records
    • •Source Documents
    • •Handling Invoices
    • •Time sheets
    • •Being Organised
  7. How to Generate Business & Keep It
    • •Using Agents or Brokers
    • •Sub Contracting other Consultants and Support Services
    • •Propagating Referrals
    • •References from Clients
    • •Tenders
    • •Writing Articles
    • •Successful Client Relations
    • •Closing a Deal
    • •Keeping Clients
    • •Dealing with Clients who Say No
    • •Principles of Getting Business
  8. Maintaining Your Consultancy Practice
    • •Hiring Staff, Expanding Business
    • •Creating Passive Income
    • •Working in a Changing World

Presenting Yourself as a Consultant
...an extract from our principal's book "Professional Practice for Consultants"
 

It has already been suggested that a consultant needs to present themselves in a favourable way.  A simple strengths and weaknesses analysis can be used to identify an individual's strong points which can then be emphasised. It can also be used to reveal weaknesses and thereby identify specific areas in which a person needs to improve, such as communication, time management, and so on.

Personal skills are something which should be taken into consideration. Look at what you are good at. For instance, are you good at listening, communicating, or diplomacy? Are you enthusiastic and charismatic or do you have a more serious outlook and intense attention to detail? You will know what is required for your area of expertise for consultancy. Through evaluating the areas where you are strong as well as the areas where you are weak you can better understand yourself.  If you are not so good at communicating via email, you may need to work on your written language skills. If you are not so good on the telephone, work on this. You can enrol in workshops to address particular weaknesses you may, take training courses, or practice skills. It is important to present the right persona and types of skills if you are going to convince clients that you are the consultant that they need.

It is imperative that a consultant presents themselves in a professional and efficient way. A client is employing a consultant for advice and help - and that is exactly what the consultant needs to give, in a way that is suitable for the client.  If a consultant is a high flying expert in their field with a great deal of knowledge but poor communication skills, they may not be able to present the information in a way that is suitable for the client. Information given to the client must be coherent and useful.

The consultant should also take care of their appearance and behaviour. They should try to look professional and knowledgeable. A business consultant should dress in business attire and be well-groomed. Whilst it may seem 'cool' to dress in smart casual clothing you need to mirror the dress code of your target audience. Smart casual might be perfectly acceptable in other circumstances, for instance if you are working as a garden consultant.

A consultant should always turn up on time. You are better to allow yourself extra time to get to appointments to limit the possibility of being delayed. If you are delayed for whatever reason, then phone, text or email ahead to inform the client. You should also always be well prepared for the work which needs to be completed. A client may be paying a lot of money to a consultant for their services, so will want to be impressed with the services offered as well as the consultant themselves. If you are well prepared and have familiarised yourself with the material ahead of time, you are more likely to be perceived as competent and professional.

Consider:

  • What is appropriate dress for the profession? A financial consultant may need to wear a suit, but that might not be the same for a consultant who is inspecting the structure of a building.
  • Converse with clients. Do not lecture or interrogate them. Conversation involves speaking, listening, and body language and you need to be balanced in your use of all three.
  • Build trust in the client before you fully trust what they tell you. When a client is comfortable with you, their answers will be more truthful. Until they trust you, they may give incomplete, inaccurate or exaggerated feedback.

What Should You Charge?

There are different ways a consultant may decide what to charge. Firstly, they should consider to what extent their services are in demand. If they are the only specialist consultant in their country, they are probably in great demand and can charge higher rates because of this. If there are a lot of similar consultants in the area who offer similar services, then a competitive rate would need to be charged.

Consultants may charge by time by setting an hourly rate, or perhaps even quarter-hourly or half hourly rate. A consultant working in a health profession may decide to work on a sliding scale, charging those who can afford it the full fee and those less privileged a lower amount.

They may set an initial consultation fee and then charge by an hourly rate after a certain time period. Alternatively, they may charge an overall fee for the consultation or project they are to complete. Some consultants may charge different fee levels for different types of work. This may be more applicable to consultancy practices or agencies offering different types of consultative work.

Some consultants will ask for an upfront part payment, then a further payment upon completion of the project. For those with longer term contracts, they may ask for weekly, monthly or fortnightly payments.

What they charge and how they charge will be determined by how the consultant works and the services they offer. In setting fees a consultant should be aware of what other consultants providing similar services are charging. You also need to review your fees regularly. You may find that you are charging too much to remain competitive, or that you are not charging enough to cover your overheads and make a profit. Every time you undertake training to improve your skill set, or expand your repertoire to cater for another market sector, you should review your fees to see whether they need to be amended.

With any consultancy work, it is therefore important to decide what services you wish to offer, how you are going to present the services and yourself. There is no easy answer to any of this. This is something that the consultant as an individual will have to decide after conducting market research and applying their knowledge of their own personality and skills.

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