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

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  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

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


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.

Meet some of our academics

Bob James Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry. He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Masters Degree in Environmental Science. He has worked a Grounds Manager at a major university; and a manager in a municipal parks department. Over recent years he has been helping younger horticulturists as a writer, teacher and consultant; and in that capacity, brings a diverse and unique set of experiences to benefit our students.
Dr. Lynette Morgan Lyn has a broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. Her first job was on a mushroom farm, and at university she undertook a major project studying tomatoes. She has studied nursery production and written books on hydroponic production of herbs. Lyn has worked on horticultural projects in countries from the middle east to the Americas and New Zealand to the Phillippines. Lyn has been a tutor with ACS since 2003 and has contributed to the development of a range of hydroponic courses.
Gavin Cole Gavin started his career studying building and construction in the early 80's. Those experiences have provided a very solid foundation for his later work in landscaping. In 1988 he completed a B.Sc. and a few years later a Certificate in Garden Design. In the mid 90's he worked as a manager and garden designer with the well respected UK company -The Chelsea Gardener. A few years later he formed his own garden design business, at first in the UK, and later operating in Queensland Australia. He has since moved to, and works from Adelaide. Apart from his work in landscaping, Gavin has been a prolific garden writer and a tutor with ACS Distance Education since 2001. He is currently part of the team of garden experts that produce Home Grown magazine.
John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.


Check out our eBooks

Getting Work in HorticultureFind out what it is like to work in horticulture; how diverse the industry is, how to get a start, and how to build a sustainable, long term and diverse career that keeps your options broad, so you can move from sector to sector as demand and fashion changes across your working life.
Professional Practice for ConsultantsExplore becoming a consultant. This ebook contains chapters on how to be a consultant, packaging your services, delivering the services, building your resources, finding the work and getting the job, planning and ethics.
Professional WritingProfessional writing is any writing that you are being paid for. It can include fiction writing, a best-selling book, articles in a magazine, articles in a newspaper, blogs for companies, technical manuals or procedure manuals, copy for catalogues, newsletters, text books and other academic material and so on.
Project ManagementThis ebook is designed to help improve your capacity to manage any type of project in any type of industry. It may be read as a stand- alone book; used as something to refer to during the process of managing projects, or used as a complementary reference to help enhance the overall learning experience when studying a project management course.

 

 

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