Thinking about starting a home-based career service?
By Sharon Graham.
As our career development sector continues to go through changes, many practitioners are re-thinking their career path and prospects. Many government-funded contracts are winding down and organizations are restructuring their operations. Some practitioners are nervous about their future and considering entrepreneurial options.
With over 17 million Canadians working today, independent career service providers are benefiting from a positive shift in the market. Because our labour market has changed tremendously over the last decades, many proactive Canadians are seeking out résumé writers, employment consultants, career counsellors, and career coaches. For most workers, a long-term career in one organization doesn’t exist anymore. People are no longer counting on their companies to pay for professional development or give them promotions. Competition for jobs has driven a careerpreneurial approach where individuals take charge and invest in their own career development. This is why many career businesses are thriving today.
Prepare a Business Plan for Your Career Service
If you are serious about starting a home-based service, do your homework. You must acquire business knowledge and prepare a well thought out business plan before you start. According to Industry Canada’s most recent Key Small Business Statistics, about 70 percent of firms survive for two years and only 51 percent last for five years or more. Be well-prepared and informed so that you are one of the success stories.
The best career entrepreneurs know where they are going before they get there:
- Canada Business provides information on developing a detailed business plan. They also offer resources for starting a business.
- The Federal Economic Development Agency for southern Ontario provides a solid guide on how to start a consulting business in Ontario.
- The Canadian Bankers Association has a resource to help you determine the financial structure of your business.
- The Law firm OMQ (O’Neill Moon Quedado LLP) offers some information on getting started in a small business.
Before you start, you’ll also need to determine the best way to register your business with the appropriate provincial, territorial and federal governments. When you are ready, you can register online through The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Create an Effective Operating Infrastructure
Many experienced practitioners have the educational background, credentials, and experience required to provide strong career services. What separates successful entrepreneurs from those that fail is a deep dedication to excellence in all aspects of the business.
Of course, if you want to be a résumé writer or career coach, you need to be knowledgeable in your area of expertise. But, to be successful as an independent practitioner, you must also pay attention to the infrastructure of your business. At a minimum, you need to be self-sufficient in basic applications such as Microsoft Word and Outlook. In reality, you’ll need to wear many hats: receptionist, sales person, marketer, bookkeeper, customer relationship manager, project manager, technology specialist, and business visionary.
Even if you don’t intend to work face-to-face with clients, you need to build strong relationships. First off, you need to know your customers. If you market effectively, you’ll have many prospects. You don’t need a steel-trap memory if you ensure that you keep contacts listed and organized in an application such as Outlook. This way, you’ll be able to manage client calls, keep track of prospects, and maintain timelines and deadlines.
To ensure that things run smoothly, you’ll need to identify and maintain key relationships with professionals such as an accountant, lawyer, and banker. You’ll also need to set up services such as internet and phone. And, you may decide to get help with website development, marketing, and technical support.
Keep Ahead of Innovations
To prosper, you need to keep at the leading edge of the career development field. At a minimum, you should be comfortable in all the core competencies laid out in the Canadian Standards & Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners (S&Gs).
Your business will be competing with others who have solid expertise. To be a valuable commodity in your market, you need to be able to create an outstanding outcome for every client, every time. Our business world moves quickly and you need to keep up with the latest in career development, career transition, and career management practices. As an independent practitioner, it will be in your own best interest to invest in continued professional development.
To compete against other practitioners, you also need to show your qualifications. For example, if you provide coaching rather than consulting services, you should obtain a coaching credential. If you are a résumé writer, you should have your Canadian Résumé Strategist Certification. Credentials and certifications are tools that you can use to market your expertise and close sales.
Clients will pay for services only if what you offer is above and beyond what is readily available on the Internet and elsewhere. You need to be more than up-to-date with trends and changes in the industry. Career Professionals of Canada offers members regular professional development through complimentary Tele-networking Classes.
Take Good Care of Yourself
The most successful independent practitioners are fully committed to their venture. To succeed in anything, you need to enjoy what you are doing. In the early stages, you’ll find that you need to spend a great amount of time building your business. You will need to work hard in the beginning, but you must take time to refresh yourself.
Work-life balance can become an ongoing concern and some practitioners burn out. Pay particular attention to your organizational and time management skills. And, absolutely make sure to take time out for your personal, family, and social life.
Being on your own can be isolating. To start and run a successful career service, you need a solid support system. Career Professionals of Canada provides many networking and support resources to help practitioners succeed. You’ll be able to join industry-leading Mastermind Mentoring Groups. You can also connect with colleagues and get professional advice through the Private Career Club
Questions to Ask Before Starting Your Home-Based Career Service
- Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit?
- Are you self-confident?
- Do you welcome challenges?
- Do you enjoy being in control?
- Have you the energy to work long hours?
- Are your personal and business goals compatible?
- Do you have a business plan?
- What career services will you be providing?
- Have you tested your business idea with colleagues?
- Do you have expertise in the area you are servicing?
- Do you have any required or recommended credentials?
- Who is your target market?
- Have you confirmed a need and interest from your target market?
- Who are your competitors?
- Do you have a value proposition?
- What features and benefits will you offer?
- Do you have the key business skills required?
- Do you have an operational infrastructure in place?
- Do you have support resources available?
- How much will people be willing to pay for your services?
- Will you earn enough for the lifestyle you desire?
- Are you willing to take moderate risks?
- Is your pricing structure advantageous?
- What vehicles will you use to market your services?
- How will you keep up with innovations?
Not sure if you are ready to start a home-based practice? Read this: To leave or not to leave, that is the question.