Q. Do I have to be expert in something to be a consultant?
A. I was talking to a very intelligent senior sales executive just last week, and she said she had no idea why people even used consultants. Her tone was contemptuous and dismissive, and she clearly thought that a client who used consultants was stupid. I explained to her that there were a few reasons why a client would use a consultant – only one of them was to get advice on something they didn’t know about. There is also the “pair of hands” consultant – where the client knows what to do but doesn’t have the resources to do it right now. Then there’s the “external perspective” reason for getting a consultant – even though the client knows the solution is there, they may need someone from outside to prove it to them, or to point out what was right under their nose in the first place.
So that said, you can get consulting work knowing very little, as long as you can do what the client is paying you to do, and do it well. It’s essential to have some expertise, but it’s not necessary to be an expert. Expertise builds. Start out as the photocopying and binding consultant, and you may end up a printing expert. Begin as the person who mows lawns, and complete your career as an expert in hedges and ground-cover. We all have to start somewhere, and as long as you don’t oversell your expertise, you can be a consultant too.