A job as a consultant can be a very rewarding one, both personally and financially, but the position is not right for everyone. It takes some very specific talents and skills to be a successful consultant, and in order to be successful at it you need to first assess your own skills, both in the technical arena and in the business world. You need to be an expert in your field, but you also need to be a skillful business person, an accomplished salesperson and a strategic planner as well.
One of the most important things to consider when you want to be a consultant is what type of business you are most comfortable with. In many cases you will want to start a consulting business that focuses on the area where you have been working all those years. After all, that is where you are most comfortable, and that is where most of your expertise lies. It will be much easier to be a consultant in an industry with which you are already intimately familiar than to try to learn a brand new industry from the ground up.
But if you have experience in more than one area, it can be a bit more confusing when you want to be a consultant and strike out on your own. Do you focus on the area you know best, or do you spread yourself around to more than one field of endeavor? In the end, only you can answer that question, since you are the best judge of your own experience and expertise.
The bad news is that being a consultant requires more than mere technical know how and expertise. In order to be a consultant and a successful business owner, you need to develop a level of expertise and business savvy that can be difficult to develop while you are still working for someone else. To make the transition from employee to self-employed business owner easier, you might want to schedule a few business classes when you can. Even if the business classes you choose do not specifically teach you how to be a consultant, the strategies you learn in class can help you when it is time to deal with taxes, budgeting and other business necessities.
Another thing that can really help you be a consultant is to learn the ropes from someone who has been there and done that. You might want to get started by joining your local Chamber of Commerce or other business organization and seeking out a mentor who has worked in the consulting field. Business organizations often include retired business people who are happy to take on mentors and teach them not only how to be a consultant but how to run a successful business as well.