For some OS&H professionals consulting might be the next logical step in your career and for others, it is scary move. Perhaps you have been downsized, rightsized, or simply laid off. It may be because you dislike for working in situations where you think you have limited control over how you spend your workday. Finally, it may be a transitional option between jobs.
Venturing out as a consultant means venturing into a business, no matter why you do it or how you get started. Many OS&H professionals possess exceptional technical expertise and knowledge, but running a business, even doing consulting part-time, requires additional skill sets. Some people have or develop those skills (marketing, sales, bookkeeping, management, and so forth), and some find running a business is not what they want to do.
In consulting, aside from providing training or program development or audits (the technical side), you need to be able to sell your services. You need to have a vision of what you want to do. You need to be able to network and market, and ask people to pay for your services. You need to know what to charge to make a living, or at least cover your basic business expenses. You need to pay taxes and payroll, even if it is paying yourself. In addition, you need to invoice for your services, so you can pay those taxes and the payroll. You need insurance: health, general liability, professional liability, and maybe worker's compensation. That's the business side.
Although overwhelming to think about, it is manageable. This paper and the conference session that accompanies it are devoted to providing that kind of information that we, as successful consultants wish we knew when we started. Although we would have still made some mistakes along the way, we know we could have benefited from the wisdom of those who were successfully doing what we were just diving headlong into. Many who have been in the consulting business for numerous years have also wished for a resource that would help us evaluate our business. We wanted something that could help us refresh and revise our current business to help it grow and flourish.
The process of becoming a successful OS&H consultant isn't easy, in part because while we may all be technically proficient, we may not be business savvy or, at the very least, are limited in our ability to actually run a business, even though we may understand parts of the process. It's the lack of understanding of basic business concepts and the inability to develop those skills and abilities that are more likely to derail the best dreams and plans for a successful consulting practice. Even if you have had a significant role in your organization's management team, running a business on your own requires a different skill set that has to be learned, practiced and mastered.