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Take the first steps into your career as a consultant

The first steps into becoming a consultant can seem steep and challenging. We want to provide you with pieces of advice about how to set your goal, how to approach the job market, and some skills to cultivate for an optimal profile. 


 min read
Take the first steps into your career as a consultant

Consultants are essential players in the business scene, especially nowadays. Even if they are critical in business transformation and company development, there is not just a single way to become a consultant but many paths which in turn branch out. A consultant is someone with in-depth knowledge about a specific field or topic who aids businesses in reaching their goals by several means. If you wonder how you can apply your knowledge to a job that will provide innumerable opportunities for challenging your limits, keep on reading to let us navigate you through the considerations of becoming a consultant.

Which path to walk?

When we talk about consultancies, it is almost impossible to cover every base if we keep talking generally. Here at Ekkiden, we are a business transformation consulting firm, and just like us, other companies are focused on specific services while having nothing to do with others. Following the example, you will have to choose what kind of consultant you want to be.

We can classify consultants according to two different sets of criteria, the first being the topic in which they specialise and the second the type of support they offer.

We have already discussed branching out paths and here comes the first one. The topics are as varied as they can be, but they are divided into two: business consultants and specialty consultants.

  • Business consultants

These are specialists in the structural operation of the company. They help to boost or reorganise the company's teams (finance, marketing, human resources…). Usually, their help is needed when a firm is ongoing a transformation process like widening its influence area, incorporating a new team, or wanting to incorporate a specific tool or a new working system, changes that directly impact the internal functioning of the company.

  • Specialty consultants

These professionals provide advice in specific areas of the production process, the service-providing process, the implementation of a new technology or other services that are focused on how the company provides a service rather than how it works at an internal level. These types of consultants are much more varied and will adapt to the specific needs of the company.

If we take the type of support they offer, the categories widen. This list comprises some examples:

  • Training teams or employees in a new skill or the usage of a new tool
  • Advising better practices of improvement methods to the existing functioning of the company
  • Building a strategy to reach a goal that wasn’t being reached or to pursue a new one
  • In-house consulting, less common because there might not be a constant workflow for them, but the positions can still be found


Study, work, engage: prove your knowledge your way

You are on an interview for a consultant position. They ask you, what makes you an expert in this field? The possible answers are endless.

Typically, consultants possess a bachelor’s degree in said field or a related one. Knowing the field backwards and forwards is extremely valuable to have the bigger picture when boarding a project. It happens to be one of the most accepted certifications worldwide for proving any kind of knowledge, but not the only one.

If you want to stand out among other candidates for a specific field, tool, or discipline, you can always look for certificates issued by knowledgeable institutions or even the creators of your subject of interest. Some resources you can consider in case you are interested in obtaining a certificate are Hubspot, topic-focused associations or institutions acknowledged and with a respectable reputation in the geographic area you intend to work.

The third option is that you already have some experience in the field. It can be extensive or tangent but try and make the most of the experience you may already have even if it was not under the name of “consultant”. There are some positions or life experiences that show good organization, leadership, dedication, or other values equally interesting for a consultant position.


Not only official qualifications are gold

Although it is true that certificates and official qualifications have a lot of weight in the decision of a recruiter, they are not the only looked-for qualities. A consultant is someone who needs to show their client that they understand them, understand what they want and will be reassuring through the process. No matter whether you want to be a freelance consultant or if you want to be part of a consultancy, it is crucial that your social skills are as sharp as your knowledge of the topic.

This side of consulting is sometimes neglected but, in the end, is the one that will aid you in gaining and retaining clients, besides being recommended for other potential projects. Therefore, a consultant needs a large social tool kit. They need to be good listeners; it is necessary to understand the bigger picture for an optimal strategy choice. To provide such a solution, a consultant also needs excellent analysis and diagnosis abilities.

Once the project is already understood, the solution-providing part will demand great organization, planning, and communication skills. The solution usually asks for a multi-perspective approach that shows empathy with all the included parties. In communicating the proposal, a consultant should deliver the message in a clear way, inspiring confidence in the project and showing the case step by step until the process is clear. It should be a comprehensive exposition in which you can let your motivation shine but considering that some sides of it will not be necessary for the client, as they most likely won’t understand the ins and outs. Of course, the plan should be realistic and doable.

Throughout the development of the process, it would be smart to show those organization skills tracking the action taken and communicating for confirmation as well as for keeping everyone informed. As with every plan, you must contemplate contingencies which means being flexible and thinking about possible backup plans.

The consulting process requires such a wide spectrum of abilities due to its activity being developed along several steps in which different actors are involved.


Shoot for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground

After dissecting all the essential information needed to be a consultant, let’s see how you can get down to work, literally.

First of all, you should define your goals. Your area of expertise is the most important decision: make it clear and obvious for those who might be looking for someone like you. There are two ways of presenting yourself: general knowledge or specific knowledge. If you show your expertise in a whole field, you will attract more clients, statistically speaking, as you can reach a wider audience. Nevertheless, if you specialize and show yourself as a specialist, your audience might shrink but the hiring probability will improve, as you will have the upper hand over your competitor.

In this stage, you should also decide what kind of consulting style you want to offer. Defining your preferences will also be recommendable before looking for clients. For example, will you work remotely? In an office? Mixed? Are you only looking for in-house consulting? Where is important but for who is too. Make a profile of your ideal client: geographic area, type of company, needs and everything you can think of to define your ideal client. Create your strategy around that ideal client, as they are the type you want to attract.

Before you can contact any clients, we recommend you benchmark consultants who are in the position you would like to be in and study their activity and how they present themselves. You can follow their lead or come up with a differentiating strategy. The same investigating process can be used with consultancy firms in which you might be interested. The first steps are the hardest in a career and maybe taking them by the hand of experienced professionals can ease the uncertainty until you learn everything there is to know to navigate this world on your own (or maybe you find out you love it, and you stay!). The benchmarking stage will also be helpful for establishing your rates, something that you don’t want to be fiddling with when you have a client waiting for an answer. Fix the tasks you will perform and how will you charge (by project, by day, by hour…) and of course, how much.

Keep a SMART goal, as planning will be essential for monitoring your success and your progresses while you take your first steps. Keeping it SMART means to keep it:


❌I want to be a consultant!

✅I want to start looking for IT consulting-related projects in local start-ups


❌I want to have a lot of clients and earn a good salary

✅I want to have at least 5 clients and see if I can earn x % of my current annual salary


❌I will quit my job tomorrow to be a consultant and I will succeed

✅I will stay in my job and save money while I shape my project, benchmark and start reaching some potential clients


❌I want to become an important consultant at a top company tomorrow

✅I want to become a consultant at a top company, so I will start with smaller clients to gain experience and be ready for the top company


❌I want to be a successful consultant with 10 clients

✅I want to gain 10 clients in the space of a year


Put yourself out there

As we mentioned before, there is not only a single way to get hired as a consultant. The first and most obvious way to look professional, and reachable, and to showcase your offering is to make yourself visible. Hence, creating a website and working on your social media presence is a smart idea.

Everyone can make a LinkedIn profile in a few minutes but building a professional-looking website takes longer and shows your clients that you are a serious candidate. If you are not confident enough to start a website yet, try to polish your LinkedIn as much as possible and stay active in it. Look for consultants just as you along with potential clients and recruiter profiles. Activate alerts for the positions you are interested in and even reach the human resources department of companies that you are interested in. Even if they say no, there is a possibility they keep your CV in case they need you later.

Networking will be vital for your career as a consultant as sometimes the need is born from opportunity. Companies define their needs and look for people who can fulfil them, but it can also work the other way around: you propose a project to a company or you are recommended by someone in a similar position for improving their functioning. Let your circle know that you are a consultant in need of work, and attend job fairs or events related to your subject of work. Flying solo can look overwhelming so you can always try to partner with someone, reach an old mentor or look for one on the field that might help you improve.

In case you receive clients who don’t line up with your expertise or whose needs you cannot respond to properly at the moment, you can always refer them to a colleague who can tend to them. Camaraderie is preferable among professionals and maybe this same colleague sends a client your way one day if they find themselves in the same situation. This is another way of networking that can prove very useful.

Let’s go back and place ourselves in the same situation again. If you are contacted by a client that you can’t respond to properly at the moment, what are the options?

      a) Accept even if that means putting yourself in a difficult position and the quality              of your work is probably affected

      b) Refer the client to a colleague who can fulfil their need in hopes that they return             the favour one day

      c) Politely turning down a project

Of course, it will never be option c), right? Well, it can be! With this, we want to remind you that, even if it is not the ideal scenario, you can say no to a project without guilt if you consider that you are not ready for the job, you have too much workload already or are just not comfortable with the client.


Starting a new career path is a challenge no matter what the situation is, but becoming a consultant entails a lot of planning and the goals are set to be reached in a longer term than in other positions. Whether you choose to start the trip solo or if you decide to be guided by a consulting firm, we recommend you draft a detailed plan before you jump into the pool. Patience and perseverance are two of the pillars that will sustain your career, so fasten your seatbelt for an interesting ride.

In case you choose the second option, at Ekkiden we would be delighted to help you and support you with our experience, so don’t hesitate to check our job offers page.