I wasted seven year of income before I starting consulting. I had one consulting class in college, but it wasn’t clear how the topics translated to being a counselor. I’ve been posting my monthly consulting income publicly for about two years. I estimate that I have lost about $84,000 in missed opportunities by not taking action sooner in learning the basics of becoming a consultant.
In the past, consultants had to be vested by the powers that gave blessing from on high. Now, there are only three things that any aspiring consultant needs to grow a consulting side of a private practice.
1. Grow a Specialty
As counselors, psychologists, social workers, and mental health professionals, we often fail to recognize how our skill set applies to almost any field. Think about all of the skills that we have as counselors, psychologists, and social workers. They apply to almost every business in the world!
We know significantly more than other professionals in many important areas. Oftentimes businesses have no idea how to do things that are basic and natural for a counselor.
Here are a few examples:
- How to listen so people will talk
- Crisis management
- How to set and achieve goals
- What are the basics for the topic area? For example, we break down goals with clients. As a consultant, when we adapt this skill we create a framework for a specialty. This might be answering the questions: How does someone get started in this field? What are problems early on in someone’s career in this field? What psychological principles can best help someone overcome these hurdles?
With an interconnected global environment, it is easier than ever to consult world-wide!
2. Grow an Audience
As you grow a consulting side to your private practice, it’s important to know: who are you serving?
For example, are you helping other people in private practice? Are you helping other businesses? Are you helping government entities?
Each audience will have specific strategies that will help you to reach them. As an example, if I wanted to start consulting with banks about how to improve crisis management and handling volatile customers I would try the following:
- Start a Facebook group with other like-minded people in the banking field. Maybe I would name it “Banking HR” because that would be a group that would train banking staff or bring in speakers for crisis training.
- Think through all of the basic questions for that field and write articles about those topics. What does an HR Manager at a bank need to know about managing staff, reducing liability, and preserving assets? Think beyond your consulting topic and become a resource for the role that would hire you.
- After some resources are developed around the topic area, start reaching out to people in that specialty. Retweet their content. Share their blog articles and let them know.
Once you frame your counseling knowledge around a specialty and grow an audience, it’s time to start monetizing it!
3. Grow an Income
When I first started my private practice consulting website, I wanted to monetize it right away. So I put Google Ads on it. For my audience this was a huge turn off. It’s better to go for a handful of high income clients that you can serve well, than make a few bucks here and there!
You can then serve them better and give more specialized attention. Further, since consulting is usually going to be on top of a private practice or full time job, you want it to be worth your time.
For me, it was difficult to understand my value and how much to charge for my services. If your skills can save someone five hours, by doing one hour of consulting, the minimum should be their hourly wage x five hours.
One example of this is how I help my consulting clients to rank higher in Google. Say a counselor charges $100 per 45 minute session. If it would take them 10 hours to learn and implement something on their own, that would be 13 sessions. If what I teach them in 90 minutes saves them 10 hours, the value of that 90 minutes is 13 x $100, or $1,300, or $866 per hour.
Since you could be seeing clients, it doesn’t make sense to just charge your clinical hourly. Also, acquiring a new consulting client will take more time, blogging, and effort. For that reason, I recommend charging at least 2x your clinical rate. If you charge 3x your clinical rate, it gives you flexibility to offer discounts when people buy a package. There are three effective ways to offer consulting:
- Retainer-based system: Clients will usually agree to a specific time period, say 6 months, that they will pay for a specific amount of consultation. For example, a bank may have you on retainer for 60 minutes per month to consult with the HR Manager. If the bank does not use the time, they lose it.
- Package-based system: A package system will usually offer items at a discount as a package. These might include paperwork, an e-book, or an e-course, in addition to a specific number of hours.
- Hourly system: An hourly consulting system charges on a per-hour basis. This is the least effective system for retaining clients and making the most money. This is because you have to keep finding new clients. I’d much rather have monthly clients at $250 per hour than a handful of hours at $450. If I have to find clients each month, I’m then not spending time on helping.
When a counselor begins to see their skills and define their specialty, they can develop an audience. When the audience grows, it is easier to monetize consulting. Anyone can become a consultant today by growing a specialty, growing an audience, and growing an income.