AnnaMarie Houlis
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What does it mean to be a business consultant? Here's everything you need to know about what a business consultant does, how to become a business consultant and what to expect from a career as a business consultant.

What does a business consultant do?

What does it mean to be a business consultant? A business consultant is typically someone who is self-employed and offers business advice to other entrepreneurs, small businesses and large companies alike. 

"A small business consultant works with clients on strategy, planning and problem solving, and helps clients develop business skills and knowledge," according to Passion for Business. "These topics range from designing a business model or marketing plan, to determining which marketing techniques to use and how to use them. You'll often help clients learn how to plan and implement projects. A small business consultant gives advice, teaches skills, and brainstorms with the client to produce practical results and enhance strategic thinking."

A business consultant may also work with larger companies, coming to speak with different departments or the human resources department about the flow of work.

10 things to consider before becoming a business consultant

Before becoming a business consultant, ask yourself these 10 questions:

  1. What experience do I have to consultant other businesses?
  2. What skills do I have that I can share with other business owners?
  3. Why do I want to be a business consultant?
  4. What kinds of businesses do I want to consult?
  5. What kinds of businesses am I equipped to consult?
  6. What credibility do I have to consult businesses?
  7. Do I need more experience, skills or education to consult other businesses?
  8. What kinds of clients do I want to help?
  9. What are my long-term plans and goals as a business consultant?
  10. Do I truly understand business models (and do I have my own)?

If you can answer all of these questions positively, you may be ready to go on to become a business consultant. If, however, you can't answer all of these questions or if these questions have you thinking twice, it may be wise to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan to become a business consultant down the line. You may need to garner more experience, go back to school or obtain more credibility before you make any moves to start your own business as a business consultant.

How do I become a business consultant?

Here's how to become a business consultant in three steps.

1. Build up your experience.

First things first, make sure that you have experience on your resume to become a business consultant. While any experience in the working world that shows that you know how to do business, you will also want to have specific experience that ties to a career as a business consultant. This means that you may want to spend some time working for other small businesses, understanding business models and studying up on organizational functions.

At least a few years of experience is typically preferred to become a business consultant.

2. Get certified.

Get certified to become a business consultant. You can do this through the Association of Accredited Small Business Consultants® (AASBC®), which is the only global association where you can turn for training and certification of small business and SME consultants.

"Our proprietary educational materials and practice aides are explicitly designed to develop proficiency in this specialized area of consulting," according to the AASBC. "Accredited Small Business Consultants® and Accredited SME Consultants™ have both the knowledge and credibility to assist clients in improving operational efficiency leading to increased profitability... while at the same time growing their own consulting practices and creating business value for themselves."

You may not need a certification, but it will help you to appear credible to prospective clients.

"The Association of Accredited Small Business Consultants has a program like no other I have been a part of," according to one testimonial. "The self-paced learning style allowed me to work during the day, attend college classes at night, and work on the Accreditation program on my own time. The reading material, videos and open communication with the AASBC staff members was phenomenal. As a younger consultant in a typical older industry, obtaining the credential of a Master Accredited Small Business Consultant has launched my career to new heights and boosted my confidence as I counsel clients and advance in the workplace. I'm always looking for something to allow myself to stand out, and the AASBC is a great place to start."

3. Apply for jobs

Apply for jobs to become a business consultant. You can search for jobs on job boards like Fairygodboss, for one example. You might also apply for jobs you learn of through networking opportunities or through groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. You may also want to work with a recruiter to help you find a job as a business consultant.

Another great way to find opportunities to help you become a business consultant is to find a mentor. Talk to someone who is already working in the field as a business consultant who can share their experiences and business-building advice — and who can give you a clearer idea of what you might expect in trying to build your own business to help other businesses.

How much can you earn as a business consultant?

A business consultant can be a very lucrative career, though your salary will depend on your employer and whether or not you are self-employed.

That said, the average yearly salary for a business consultant is about $48k to $112k, according to Payscale. Bonuses may equal $1k to $20k, profit sharing may equal $460k to $15k. The commission may equal $4k to $81k. So the total salary may add up to even $129k, according to Payscale.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.