By Alan Collins
Everyone at some point in their HR career thinks about becoming an independent consultant or coach.
Are you currently in that boat?
Are you an HR pro, tired of your day job and want to make a full-time switch into consulting or coaching?
Or do you want to keep the comfort and security of your current HR gig…but start consulting on a part-time basis?
In this article, I’ll walk you through ONE approach that will enable you to become a consultant (or coach) for hire in about one day. Okay, it may take you two or three days at most. But it can happen at warp speed, if you want it to.
Here are the 5 steps to make it happen…
1. Figure out what you have to offer in HR that’s valuable, unique or marketable.
Ask yourself: What problems do clients most often ask for my help with? What issues do other people tell me I’m good at resolving?
Once you’ve done that…
Then position or brand yourself as the SOLUTION to this issue or problem.
Here are a couple of examples…
Example 1: Let’s say for the last year you’ve been recruiting engineers and you’ve used social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to recruit them. Clients rave about your abilities in this area. Guess what? You could position or brand yourself as an “HR consultant that specializes in using social media to recruit find engineering talent faster and cheaper.” This is the SOLUTION you’re providing. Lots of hiring managers, recruiters, headhunters and HR professionals struggle with this issue. And many would be very interested in tapping into what you’ve learned if that can enhance their own success in attracting engineering talent. You could easily make yourself available as a resource to these individuals to teach them your social media techniques for locating job candidates. Imagine the impact you’d have on their personal success…and yours.
Example 2: Suppose you are an HR generalist who also happens to be a skilled group facilitator. You’ve had success facilitating team-building meetings. You could easily cash in on this experience by branding yourself as an “HR consultant who specializes in improving teamwork and creating higher performing teams.” Small business leaders who are frustrated in trying to bring people together and enhancing their own teams would be prime candidates for this service.
Obviously, these two examples are just the tip of the iceberg. There are an unlimited number of ways of branding yourself and your HR solutions for a consulting practice.
But here’s a caution. You must be specific. Avoid generic concepts. Don’t be just an “executive coach” or a “small business consultant.” These are all entirely too fuzzy and mean different things to different people.
You want to be able to CLEARLY explain what you offer that makes you unique and different…so that others know what they are paying for.
2. Create a basic, one to three page website.
Your site doesn’t need to be a masterpiece or stunningly beautiful. You can worry about winning SHRM awards later. You just want to create something quickly that is basic and that works.
The website is your online brochure. Its purpose is to tell your clients who you are, the problems you solve and the solutions you provide. It should succinctly describe your special skills and accomplishments. You should plan to update the site every quarter, swapping out old achievements for more current ones.
You can get a website quickly by creating one for free yourself on WordPress.org. Or if you aren’t web savvy, you can outsource this to a freelance webmaster at elance.com (expect to pay $150-200.) Or you can also check out my e-book on creating your own awesome website or blog by clicking HERE.
Again, the website you set up is your online brochure. You should also have an actual print version of your brochure as well that you can hand out in person to prospective clients.
3. Determine how you will get paid.
You need a way to accept payment for your consulting services. You can certainly invoice your clients and receive payments that way. This is what most consultants do. However, it’s slow and often clients take their time in paying for consulting services as you may well know if you’ve personally worked with HR vendors. But invoicing does work.
Another alternative, especially if you’re doing one-on-one coaching, is PayPal. It’s free and works in works in almost every country on the planet (currently close to 200). PayPal is a brilliant tool for helping people exchange money for services.
For speed, all you need to do is just have your clients to go to your PayPal account and pay you that way.
4. Create a sales message for your “solution.”
A sales message is a simple statement that describes “here’s-what-you-are-hiring-me-for.”
Your sales message can be summarized by the following formula:
Dear Prospective Client,
You have a problem.
And I have the solution.
My fee is [x].
You can hire me by clicking here.
Let’s use Example 1, discussed above to illustrate this formula in action:
The problem is “you’re having a rough time attracting and recruiting the engineers you need.”
The solution is “my proven approach for using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for recruiting them faster…which I can teach you.”
My fee is $XXXX.
And to hire me, simply click the PayPal button on my website.
It can be that simple.
Which leads us to…
5. Make it as easy as possible to hire you.
A lot of HR consultants don’t post their fees. Instead they require prospective clients to inquire first. This only makes sense if you’re truly booked up most of the time and are not actively seeking new business.
If you really want new business, be sure you post your price to make it easier to get hired.
Don’t screw around trying to be cute with pricing.
So, in summary the 5 steps for becoming an instant HR consultant are:
1. Define your solution.
2. Put up a basic website.
3. Set up a PayPal Account.
4. Get out your sales message.
5. Get hired.
You may want to to ask a few colleagues to carefully review your website for errors or suggestions for easy-to-make improvements.
But otherwise…congratulate yourself! You are now an HR consultant for hire.
You may wonder what comes next.
That’s easy…it’s now time to start attracting clients and generating business.
A surefire way to get clients is to simply start helping people. Becoming an HR consultant is a way for you to help people and get paid for it. This requires building real relationships and sharing your expertise, often for free.
An approach for doing this is by giving presentations at a local SHRM meetings, teaching evening courses at a local college or providing free webinars or one-on-coaching.
However, many consultants often worry that, if they do these things they’ll be “giving away the store.”
But that’s not how it works.
My experience as a consultant is that if you give away free and valuable information, people will pay to get MORE of it.
Of course, be sure your audience members have your website, brochure, e-mail address and contact information along with whatever other materials you hand out.
And as you begin serving your clients, ask them for referrals. This is where most of your new business will come from.
Over time, you can improve your website and your consulting skills, learn about increasing income, consider expansion opportunities, blah, blah, blah.
But if you’re serious about consulting, mostly you need to get off your butt, get started and attract your first client.
There is no need to make this more complicated. There is no “consulting school” or HR consulting degree you need. Yes, it’s true many HR consultants learn from more experienced consultants. It’s also true that some who do personal coaching feel the need to boost their confidence by getting certified through Coach University and the like.
There’s nothing wrong with any of these options.
However, most HR consultants just jump out there, hang out their shingle and add “consultant” to their list of services. This is what I recommend.
Don’t be imprisoned by the need for perfection.
With the information in this article, you can START your consulting or coaching practice tomorrow…and you can learn the rest as you go.
Oh, and one more thing: don’t actually call yourself a consultant, because that sounds boring. Pick something better: strategist, solution-provider or magician.
I hope these tips are helpful .
And, if you do decide to become an HR magician, come back and let me know.