So You Want to Become an Independent Consultant

Jul 2nd, 2010 | By | Category: Business Start-up Strategies, Leadership Development Strategies, Paid Publlic Speaking

by Becky Regan

Frequently I’m asked by other HR professionals how they can become an independent HR Consultant, as opposed to working for a company. It certainly sounds wonderful to be your own boss, setting your own schedule and managing your own workload. And understandably, you yearn to have a better balance between your work and family lives. But in order to build a successful consulting practice, you have to possess many skills in addition to being an HR expert.

In this first article on this topic, you’ll learn key considerations in setting up your own consulting practice. I’ll cover practical tips for you, based upon my 8+ year of experience in running my own business. In this article you’ll learn what questions to ask yourself to determine whether consulting is the right path for you, and how you can establish yourself as an HR expert in the marketplace.

So how do you even begin to assess whether it’s the right choice for you?

1. First, you’ll need to answer some hard questions:

* Can I financially survive if I don’t have consistent cash flow?

* Can I get or do I have medical benefits in place once I’m on my own?

* How will I get my first contract?

* Am I knowledgeable enough in my chosen area of HR expertise to be perceived as a valuable resource by my peers and potential clients?

* Do I have enough presence in my local HR community to be called by companies for consulting assignments?

* Do I have the skills & know how to market my business?

* Am I disciplined enough to work hard to make my business succeed or do I need to report to someone else to consistently generate work?

* Can I work from home or will I need to rent office space?

* What will my “start-up” expenses be?

* Will I be able to assemble a team of independent contractors who can help me grow my business?

* Will I be able to delegate work to others to accomplish my goals?

* Do I have people to support me in this business endeavor (other professionals and your family members)?

* And finally, just how good am I at tech support (Just joking!)

Your assignment: Take out a tablet of paper and spend some quality time reviewing each question. Think about how this major change in your professional life would impact you and your family and whether it makes sense for you to pursue this professional change given your answers to these questions.

2. Develop Your Expert Status. Last August in a presentation that I gave to a group of HR Professionals, I emphasized that one of the ways I was able to grow my career over the years and eventually go into business for myself was to develop a niche. I’ve achieved expert status in compensation by working with many different industries in the field for 20+ years, plus getting my CCP from World at Work, and my M.A. in HR & OD. My niche has been in compensation, with about 70 percent of the consulting work that I do in this area of expertise.

How can you build your own skills to gain expert status and become self-employed? Evaluate your own skills where you know you excel, the performance reviews you’ve received over the years that identified your strengths, compliments or awards you’ve received from your company’s managers/employees to determine in which technical area of HR you want to become an expert. You already know which technical area of HR you enjoy the most, whether it’s recruiting, total rewards, training, strategic planning, etc.

Then set out to get an advanced degree coupled with a professional certification that demonstrates your knowledge such as certification through SHRM or World at Work. Having a master’s degree gives you more credibility as an external consultant, and coupled with many years of work experience provides the credentials you’ll need to make it as an independent consultant.

And finally, build geographic and professional connections within your community and beyond by networking and volunteering in both related (or personally chosen) non-profit organizations. Become active in your local SHRM chapter, Rotary Club, school and church organizations, and any special interests that you have (SPCA, etc.) 

Copyright 2010 Regan HR, Inc.

Becky Regan, M.A., CCP began her own consulting practice in 1995, Regan HR, Inc. to provide human resources consulting services to businesses in California. Her work as a consultant includes the full spectrum of HR technical expertise with an expertise in compensation studies. In addition to consulting with clients, in 2008 Becky expanded her practice to include online marketing of her custom HR products and established coaching programs for developing HR professionals. For more HR tips and to receive her FRE*E special report, visit http://www.ReganHR.com

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