Being a consultant in any field has always been a point of curiosity for many professionals interested in being their own boss. A Google search of “How to be a consultant” yields a 1.64 million search volume. The term “safety consultant” yields just under 0.5 million in Google search volume. If you are one of those thinking about making the transition, here are 7 tips that I have learned along the way as I developed Utility Compliance Inc. and OSHA Compliance Help.
Tip 1: What’s in a name?!
Choosing the name of your consulting firm can be a step that stumps you for weeks. Sure you can make it as simple as “Mary Smith Consulting Services”. However, that type of name leaves out a lot of information such as:
Who is Mary Smith?
What type of consulting services does she provide?
Is it only Mary or does she have a team?
In choosing a name you should consider a few things:
What is a name that describes my target audience?
Is this name memorable to potential clients?
Does this name give the impression of a larger company?
Tip #2: Secure your domain name
As soon as you have a business name, you should get it registered and own it quickly. Try to match your domain name to the business name as a dotcom. It may not be possible, so think of an abbreviation or acronym as an alternative.
If you’re going to use a 2 (LL.com) or 3 letter (LLL.com) dotcom domain, then you will have to pay several thousands of dollars. Actually, LL.com are not available anymore, or at a price over $275,000 on the open market. However, LLL.com would most likely cost over $25,000. Though dotcom is still the king of domain extensions, there are many other Top-Level Domain names (TLD), such as:
I have used unique TLDs for other services and products because the dotcom were taken or it made more sense to use one of the new TLDs. Here are some of the unique domain names that I have used to build a brand:
SafetyCulture.Online-Membership site to help safety professionals move from compliance to culture in their safety programs.
OSHA.Courses-Online OSHA compliance and safety training company
SafetyConsultant.xyz-An online resource for safety consultants (In development)
Tip #3: Start your business before you quit your job
It means a lot to have a consulting business to have some age to it in order to gain perceived expertise. For instance, would you hire a consultant with a business less than a year old or one that even has a 2 year existence. The time in business is a selling point to many companies, but as a consulting firm it is even more important.
To age a company, start it now even if you aren’t ready to go full time or take on clients. The company will gain years as you gain experience and build the business. Take on clients from your existing circle of influence (that isn’t a conflict of interest to your current employment). Therefore, the business will become established and you will gain experience as a consultant.
Another benefit to starting your business before you quit your job is having the opportunity to use you current job to fund your passion. Many consultants are unemployed until their next job. When this happens the income stream is up and down and it becomes hard to keep in business.
Tip #4: Write articles for trade journals and other publications
Technical writing can be hard to accomplish for many people that are used to non-fiction writing. However, if you have written a report to justify a product or service you have already done technical writing. In many cases, technical writing is a second nature to upper and middle management.
Pick a topic that you’re passionate about and submit it to a journal for consideration. Editors for trade journals and blogs are often looking for content to help fill pages. As your writing gets more regular and popular, you will be a regular contributing author for publications. I am a guest author for Water Online and Treatment Plant Operator (TPO) magazines. These writing opportunities position you as a trusted authority in your space.
Tip #5: Get a safety designation
In the world of occupational safety and health, a safety designation is imperative to adding value to your consulting business. The letters behind your name is a clear sign as to what you have accomplished in your career and education. My signature block reads: Sheldon Primus, MPA, PO, COSS; the translation is:
Masters of Public Administration-MPA
Professional Operator-Wastewater Class I
Certified Occupational Safety Specialist-COSS
There are many safety designations out there to earn as a safety professional. Here are a few:
Alliance Safety Council
Certified Occupational Safety Specialist (COSS) *I am an instructor for this program*
Certified Occupational Safety Managers (COSM)
Board of Certified Safety Professionals (9 Certifications, but only 5 are listed here)
Certified Safety Professional (CSP)
Associate Safety Professional (ASP)
Graduate Safety Practitioner (GSP)
Safety Management Specialist (SMS)
Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST)
Institute for Safety and Health Management (5 Certifications, but only 3 are listed here)
Certified Safety and Health Manager (CSHM)
Certified Safety Management Practitioner (CSMP)
Associate Safety and Health Manager (ASHM)
National Association of Safety Professionals
Licensed Safety Professional (LSP)
Certified Safety Director (CSD)
Certified Safety Manager (CSM)
There are many other certification bodies outside of the US where you can earn safety designations as well.
Tip #6: Become an authorized OSHA trainer
In the US, OSHA is the regulatory compliance agency that is the basis of many safety programs. Some companies only focus on OSHA compliance, so as an authorized OSHA instructor you can provide that training. OSHA has the OTIEC (OSHA Training Institute Education Centers).
The path to becoming a general industry or construction instructor is through the OSHA outreach numbered course 510, 511, 500 and 501. With these courses completed, you will be able to conduct 10 and 30 hour OSHA Outreach classes.
Tip #7: Partner with an association or safety and health organization
It’s tough to start a brand on a budget, so you must leverage all options. One such option is partnering with an established organization. When you partner with a business organization, safety council, or other group, you can gain exposure with only one event. Your place as the trusted authority gets a boost, because you leverage the associations’ mailing list and members. As you branch out to different groups, you will gain momentum and possible clients from the events. Instead of building the rails, trains, and route to your target customer, you can hitch a ride to a super train that already serves the community that you’re targeting.
Overall, the tips that I shared in this article will give you a great beginning understanding of how to get started in the safety consulting field. I will be conducting a webinar Saturday April 8, 2017 at 2 pm EST (on your own time, so you don’t have to hide in the office from your boss). This webinar will expound on the items mentioned in this article and give you an opportunity to get some questions answered live. I look forward to seeing you then.