Are you yearning to be your own boss? To work on your own terms, using your best strengths to earn a paycheck?
Striking out on your own as a consultant or a coach are two ways you can go into business for yourself while putting your accumulated skills and talents to work for you. According to Forbes magazine, 25 million 44- to 70-year-olds have expressed interest in starting businesses or nonprofit ventures within the next ten years—that’s one in four baby boomers looking to start new companies!
Clearly, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in America today, even with the economic difficulties the past decade has thrown at us, or maybe because of them. In a tight job market, it makes a lot of sense to create our own opportunities, including the ability to work beyond the traditional age of retirement.
Happily, going into business for yourself does not necessarily mean you need to learn an entirely new set of skills. Striking out on your own as a consultant or a coach allows you to leverage the expertise you already have into a new career, although each takes a different approach. In either case, some degree of education to enhance your business and management skills can ultimately be the key to your success.
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To determine the path that’s best for you, take a look at what each of these fields requires.
Consultants share their experience with others by offering their expert advice in a given field or subject. According to a 2011 report on consulting careers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consulting employment in the management, scientific, and technical service industries is expected to grow by 83 percent through 2018, a gain of more than 800,000 jobs, giving consultants in these fields “the fastest projected rate of growth and the largest expected job gain of all detailed industries.”
Although you need to have expertise in the field you advise, you may or not need to have specific educational credentials to be a consultant. A consultant who helps people organize their closets does not need a degree, but a consultant in business management will be expected to have the appropriate degrees and certificates to support her value. Individual states may also have rules governing consulting businesses and credentials, so be sure to research them before you begin any new venture.
In addition to advising clients, consultants can also expect to do market research to learn the needs of their target clientele, advertise their services, grow their business through networking, and keep their own books, among other business-related requirements. You may find it helpful to take a free online courses in subjects such as entrepreneurship, business management, accounting, and marketing.
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Becoming a coach also involves helping others achieve their personal or professional goals, but unlike consultants, coaches do not tell their clients what they should or shouldn’t do. Instead, coaches learn to question their clients in ways that help them make their own decisions.
Having expertise in a particular area will help you find a niche in which to work as a coach. You can find business coaches, relationship coaches, financial coaches, career coaches, and so on. There can also be as many subcategories within each specialty as a creative person can come up with. A business coach, for instance, could focus solely on female executives, or a relationship coach could work in the area of dating for single people over the age of 50.
As a trained coach, you will obtain your own clients and run your own business just as a consultant does. Since coaching is often accomplished over the phone or Internet, coaches can easily reach out on a national level to expand their businesses. Before you invest in a training program, however, try checking out a free online coaching course to see if this is a career you might enjoy.
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Finding ways to make your expertise pay can help you to develop your passion career, or make your retirement years fulfilling. Consider your strengths and weaknesses before deciding on a path to take. For instance, would you like to work within corporations or with individuals? Would you prefer a broad focus, or is there a niche in which you will have less competition? What kinds of clients would your business network allow you to reach?
Taking the time to answer questions like these while you fill in any holes you may have in your business skill set can put you on track for a successful transition into your own consulting or coaching business.