When you're considering possible side hustles, don't forget one experts say is often overlooked: consulting. It can mean one-on-one conversations with specific company employees, small trainings with a full team, and/or workshops with a whole company.
It's "something that I think a lot of folks overlook because they think, 'But I don't know how to be a consultant,'" says Angelique Rewers, founder of The Corporate Agent, a consulting firm that helps small businesses land corporate clients. But "anyone who's leaving their professional role can be a consultant on the exact thing that they were just doing as a professional."
New York Times bestselling author Mateo Askaripour, for example, worked in sales in a start-up for four years. After deciding to leave to focus on writing, he began consulting companies on sales as a way to pay his bills. Askaripour would charge as much as $150 per hour and pull in a six-figure salary working 25 to 30 hours per week, leaving him plenty of time to write.
That kind of consulting income isn't unusual, Rewers says: "You can charge $2,500 to $5,000 for a half-day workshop on something that you know. And you build it once and you sell it over and over and over again."
Here are some of Rewers' top tips to start a consulting side business.
Building a consulting business is easiest if you're leaving one field for another.
"Starting a consulting company right now on doing what you were doing as an employee follows the rule of 'grow where you're planting,'" says Rewers. "Take the relationships that you have built, take the knowledge of the kinds of industries you've worked in, where you've spent all of your time honing your skills and knowing how things work," and turn it into that consulting side hustle.
If you were a barista, for example, you might consider what tricks you learned to make coffee faster, to serve more customers, or to deepen the community's connection with that coffee shop. If you worked in HR, consider what you learned about hiring the best talent, how you helped your company retain that talent, and how you helped solve conflicts.
The experience, knowledge, relationships, and skills you have accrued in your career so far can be the basis for your consulting hustle.
"Another expression that we have, especially for side hustles, is that a $5 calculator is your best friend," says Rewers. That's because to make your new side hustle work, short term and long term, you'll need to do some math. You have to know "what your expenses are to actually run your business or side hustle so that you're not underwater."
Those expenses may include some up-front investments. Google around and check LinkedIn to see what kinds of credentials similar consultants have. If there are certifications they have that could help you learn more, for example, see how much those would cost. If there are other investments successful consultants recommend making, like a separate work phone, consider those as well. Use that calculator to add up all your potential expenses and see which ones are doable or worth it for the moment.
Video by Stephan Parkhurst
Next step: Decide how much you'll charge. Salary.com is one good place to check the average hourly pay of various jobs. You can also look at "the cost of a problem to an organization" that you'll help solve. A good rule of thumb is to charge 10% of the cost of that problem, Rewers says.
Take the example of helping a company retain its employees in the long term. "For a lot of positions, [the cost of turnover] is anywhere from 1 to 2 times an employee's salary," she says. If hiring an entirely new employee would cost around $150,000, she says, your package to help solve that problem could be $15,000.
Then you can use that calculator to see how many hours you'll need to work to pay off those expenses.
"One of the pieces of advice I always have for folks," says Rewers, "is treat it like a business from the get-go." This can mean putting "certain boundaries in place" to help separate your side hustle from the rest of your life. She gives the following as examples of how to do that:
- Set up a separate bank account. This will help you follow "the money that you're earning and watch your expenses," she says.
- Create a separate email account "so you don't have a customer or a client angry with you buried in all of the updates from your aunt and uncle halfway across the country," she says.
- "Give yourself a dedicated workspace" so when you've finished working, you can walk away, clear your head, and truly disconnect.
As the economy continues to grow, companies will need "to be able to take on side projects that are urgent," and hiring freelancers takes far less time than hiring staff. As a result, consulting is "going to be a huge side hustle area," says Rewers.
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