Should you hang out your shingle as an HR practitioner? (Part 2)

Tips and strategies for establishing an HR consulting practice

Should you hang out your shingle as an HR practitioner? (Part 2)
Brian Kreissl

By Brian Kreissl

Last week, I discussed the increasing popularity of HR consulting and just what the term means. I also mentioned some of the reasons why HR practitioners might want to hang out their shingle by establishing their own HR consulting practise.

This week, I present some tips and strategies relating to best practices surrounding independent HR consulting. While it is fairly easy to set yourself up as a consultant, there are a number of potential issues and concerns to be aware of.

While I have never actually worked as an HR consultant, I did previously manage a comprehensive online information resource and work tool for Canadian HR professionals known as Consult Carswell. In that service, we provided instructional information, best practices, sample policies, procedures, do’s and don’ts, forms and other templates, among other things.

We also established an HR Helpline in partnership with the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA), and I have done some consulting-type work for our Custom Employee Handbooks service. I am currently the author of our loose-leaf publication entitled Develop Your Own Employee Handbook, which was originally authored by Joan Bolland and Ellen Mole. I also co-authored other books including the HR Manager’s Guide to Succession Planning.

Therefore, I would say I have some personal familiarity with the concept of HR consulting. Quite a few of the authors and freelancers I work with are HR consultants.

Developing a business model and determining scope

Before establishing a consulting practise, it is important to determine what services you are going to offer. Rather than attempting to “boil the ocean,” it’s a good idea to determine your value propositions as a consultant and just what services you are going to offer to clients.

While you may end up, for example, offering comprehensive services to small businesses, it is a good idea to determine your strengths and interests and position your consulting practise accordingly. You should also target your services to appropriate prospective clients (for example, in a specific industry or companies of a certain size within a defined geographic area) and determine what types of services are out of scope.

Once you have determined what types of services you are going to offer, you need to start thinking about the size of the market and whether there is actually a demand for your services. Perhaps you already have one or two prospects in terms of clients, but it is likely you will need to do some advertising and business development to find clients and promote your services.

Fortunately, it is now quite easy to develop a web presence by building a relatively simple website and establishing social media accounts. You can build a professional-looking website with very little technical ability.

I would also recommend blogging, content marketing and being active on social media to showcase your knowledge and skills, drive traffic to your website and enhance search engine optimization. You can also invite friends and former co-workers to “like” your website or social media page.

Other tips and strategies

Some other tips and strategies for establishing an HR consulting practise are as follows:

  • Wherever possible, save enough money to cover personal expenses for at least the first six months or so while your consulting practise is still ramping up.
  • Don’t quit your current job unless you have a reasonable financial cushion and you are reasonably certain you can make a success of your consulting practise.
  • Consider having a sideline or other source of income in case you aren’t able to make a living from consulting. Check with your current employer regarding moonlighting policies if you plan to do consulting on the side.
  • Determine the ownership structure for your practise. Is it going to be a sole proprietorship, a partnership with other consultants or a corporation? You should also come up with an interesting and unique name for your business.
  • Create an office space in your home dedicated to work. Ensure you have a reliable computer, printer, phone, business cards and all of the necessary office supplies.
  • Consider transportation. In many locations, having a reliable vehicle is particularly important.
  • Obtain liability insurance. This is particularly important and is a must-have if you are an HRPA member.

While consulting isn’t for everyone, it can be a rewarding and fulfilling career. It can also be a way to stay involved in the practice of HR after a job loss.

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