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Become a Home Business Consultant: Education and Career Roadmap

Jul 14, 2018

Learn how to become a home business consultant. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in consulting. View article »

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  • 0:02 Home Business Consultant
  • 1:04 Career Requirements
  • 2:09 Career Steps

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Video Transcript

Home Business Consultant

Home business consultants assist clients with improving their business structures, profits, and overall performances. They analyze a home business' operations, identify problems, and recommend strategies to resolve them. Home business consultants often specialize in a particular industry. They may work as accountants, advertising consultants, computer specialists, management analysts, or marketing specialists.

Home business consultants split their time between their personal office spaces and visiting with clients in order to evaluate their needs. Travel is required by this career because consultants may be hired by home businesses located anywhere. The job can be stressful as consultants' goals are to meet a client's demands within a particular timeframe. Those consultants who are self-employed enjoy more flexibility with their schedule, but will also need to generate their own business. Most home business consultants work at least full-time.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; MBA preferred
Degree Field Accounting, business administration and management, computer and information science, economics, engineering, human resources, marketing
Licensure/Certification Business license, Voluntary certification available
Experience Experience in human resources, management, or information technology
Key Skills Oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills; financial management, analytical, problem-solving, time-management and project-management skills; self-confidence and motivation; ability to use database and email, enterprise resource planning, and project management software; willingness to travel
Salary $68,982 (2016 median)

Sources: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Institute of Management Consultants USA, Inc., U.S. Small Business Administration, O*Net OnLine

A bachelor's degree in accounting, business administration and management, computer and information science, economics, engineering, human resources, or marketing is typically required to become a home business consultant. However, a master's in business administration may be preferred. Some employers may require a business license, and voluntary certification is available. Experience in human resources, management, or information technology is common. The key skills are analytical, oral, written and interpersonal communication abilities, financial management, problem-solving, time-management and project-management skills, self-confidence, motivation, ability to use database and email, enterprise resource planning and project management software skills, and willingness to travel. In 2016, home business consultants earned a median annual salary of $68,982, stated Payscale.com. Now let's check out the career steps for home business consultants.

Career Steps

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Individuals usually have a business education background and work experience in their field of consulting. The type of degree a potential home business consultant may pursue depends on his or her professional interests. For example, an aspiring computer consultant may pursue a degree in computer science, while a potential art consultant might major in design or the fine arts.

It's helpful to complete an internship. Internships give students the opportunity to obtain experience working in their fields. Whether a student is studying business, computer information, or marketing, completing an internship can provide foundational industry knowledge and contacts. You can also take business courses. Courses in accounting, finance, marketing, and management are important, because they can help individuals gain the knowledge they need to start and run their businesses. Even individuals who plan to work in a seemingly non-business related area, such as the arts, still need a business background.

Step 2: Gain Industry Experience

To offer consulting advice, industry knowledge is essential. Insider knowledge typically is obtained by working in the field. Some home business consultants work in a particular industry for several years before starting their businesses. The complexity of a field and an individual's demonstrable knowledge could be deciding factors in determining the precise amount of experience needed.

Step 3: Set Up Your Business

Consultants are self-employed independent contractors who often work from home. Before starting a business, a potential consultant needs to create a business plan and determine the business' name and organizational structure. They also need to decide whether to operate as a sole proprietor, a limited liability company, a partnership, or a corporation. Additionally, they may need to register with the state and obtain the appropriate type of licensure.

Success Tips

Try to utilize free resources. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a number of free resources, including articles, business publications, podcasts, and online workshops. Areas covered include federal contracting opportunities, loan-guarantee programs, interactive assessment tools, and templates. The SBA also offers tools that can assist business owners with determining the type of license and/or permit they need.

You can research business law. For consultants to be in compliance with city, state, and possibly federal regulations, it's important for them to be up-to-date on relevant laws. Even though business law is a complex area of expertise, reading informative articles may prove helpful for understanding basic requirements and issues. While each type of business may be governed by a specific set of laws, the SBA's list of articles is a resource to explore. Some of the legal topics include advertising and marketing, environmental regulations, finance, intellectual property, online business, and contracts.

Additionally, you can refer to state guidelines. If you are unsure about any legal steps required, refer to state guidelines or speak with government representatives. Sometimes, it may not be clear whether a particular regulation applies, so it's important to double-check with a well-informed representative. It is better to ask than to run into future legal difficulties.

Step 4: Develop a Client Base

There are several ways to attract new clients. Advertising, word-of-mouth, and websites are all potential methods to promote consulting services. Another effective way to develop a client base is through networking with local business groups, attending conferences, and creating focus groups. It can be helpful to ask for referrals. Home business consultants should ask satisfied clients for referrals as a way to expand their client bases. You can also work with other consultants. By working with or hiring other consultants, home business consultants may have the ability to expand their services and reach new customers. Additionally, obtain a Dun & Bradstreet number. For consultants interested in obtaining federal government contracts or grants, a Dun & Bradstreet (DUNS) number is needed. It is free to register for this number, and guidelines are available through the SBA.

Step 5: Consider Certification

Certification is one way for home business consultants to update their knowledge. The Institute of Management Consultants USA (IMC) provides the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) exam. The organization offers basic, experienced, and management certifications. While there are additional requirements for each category, a consultant needs a minimum of three to nine years of experience to qualify for the basic certification, a minimum of ten years' experience to obtain the experienced certification, and a minimum of 20 years of experience for the management certification. Recertification is required every three years.

Step 6: Build Your Professional Network

Attending industry-related conferences can be a valuable way to remain informed on various practices and updates in the field, as well as to meet and connect with likeminded consultants. Both private and public organizations, such as the SBA, SCORE, and the IMC USA, offer conferences, webinars, workshops, and other resources on a variety of relevant topics. In addition, the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is an organization comprised of retirees who provide free mentoring and business advice to prospective or established business owners. According to SCORE, they have mentors available in 62 industries.

To recap, with a bachelor's degree, experience, and possibly certification, a home business consultant can earn about $69,000 a year to assist clients with improving their business structures, profits, and overall performances.

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