Try sharing your talent, experience as a consultant

Created date

February 15th, 2019

The idea of “retirement” has changed a lot in recent decades. Today’s retirees often choose to forgo the golf course and unstructured days in favor of working longer, often in the form of an encore career that fulfills a dream or passion. One of the increasingly popular ways for older adults to put their professional experience to good use is to start a consulting business after they retire from their full-time jobs.

“Someone with 10 to 20 years of experience in their field makes the best consultant. This is why retirement is an ideal time to get started,” says Amy Rasdal, a consultant and founder of Billable with Baby (billablewithbaby.com), which helps mothers start consulting businesses. “You get to be a superhero in your field of expertise. Every industry needs superheroes and nearly every field can be appropriate for consulting.”

Obviously, the amount of money you can make as a consultant in your former industry will vary based on the time and effort you put into it. But Rasdal says many people are able to match their previous corporate salaries (minus benefits) while working half the number of hours.

“Surprising, but true,” she says.

Focus on this first

Rasdal encourages would-be consultants not to get bogged down in the details of launching a business and instead focus first on winning a client. All you really need to offer consulting services is “a phone, a computer, brainpower, and experience,” according to Rasdal.

“I encourage people to think about making money first—land a project and put a check in the bank,” she says. “There is no need to get overwhelmed by the thought of starting and launching a business. Once you land a project, all of the other business pieces can be put in place.”

So, how can you land that first client?

An obvious place to start is your former employer, says Kathy Kristoff, editor of SideHusl.com, a site that researches and rates freelance gigs.

“After all, if they need some part-time help, they already know you and what you can do. A lot of retirees ‘semi-retire’ by maintaining a former employer as a part-time client—or remaining a part-time employee, coming in a few days a week to help out with special projects.”

Kristoff says consultants can also connect with prospective clients by joining industry trade groups. Or, you can search on sites like OnwardSearch, FlexProfessionals, FreeeUp, and SkipTheDrive to identify companies that may need your services.

Of course, becoming successful as a consultant requires work and certainly won’t be easy. Before diving in, Liz Steblay, founder of Professionaln Independent Consultants of America Inc. (PICAnetwork.org), recommends getting a “feel for the market” by sending what she calls a “trial balloon email” to trusted colleagues.

“Say something like, ‘Hey, Sue, I really value your perspective. I’m thinking of starting my own consulting practice to do XYZ. What do you think of this idea?’” Steblay says. “Like sticking your wet finger in the wind, this is likely to give you an indication of which way the wind is blowing.”

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