Want to take on some work during your retirement years? The beauty is that because you’re a seasoned professional, your options aren’t limited to sharing economy staples like delivering food or dog walking.
In fact, you can earn more than you did when you were a full-timer.
If you’re re-entering the job market, or would like to make the switch from the 9 to 5 to a more flexible arrangement, you can tap into your decades cultivating your skills and know-how to become a consultant.
We spoke with some negotiation and career experts on how you can leverage your expertise for more pay as a consultant in your field, and ways to get started:
Focus on how this arrangement benefits the client
To put your employer in a position to say “yes” to your working with them as a consultant, highlight how such an arrangement works in their favor, explains E. Lynn Price, a speaker, attorney, and author of Negotiate It! How to Crush Your Fears, Develop Your Negotiation Muscle, and Gain Power in the Workplace.
“You never want to talk about why it’s good for you,” says Price. “Instead, highlight flexibility — that the employer will only pay you when they need you.”
What’s more, they won’t be footing the bill for all the benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and sick time.
Do your homework
When putting on your negotiation hat, find that magical spot where the rate feels right for both parties. You can think of it as the overlap that leads to a consulting work. Price says you can achieve this by going by what she calls the three Rs: being Ready, Reasonable and Relatable.
Do your homework to know the market and gauge what your hourly rate should be. That way, you’ll be ready to come to your potential client with an acceptable range. And being open to finding a rate where you both feel comfortable makes you more likeable or relatable.
You’ll also want to be reasonable in your ask. While you want to ask for more than you think you can get, explains Price, be a little fluid and land on a rate that you can both agree on.
Point out your skills and expertise
As an expert in your field, make a case for why you deserve the compensation you’re asking for by highlighting all your contributions and accomplishments. Price points out that when making the connection with a potential client, speak specifically to your audience.
Another thing: Testimonials are oftentimes better than references. “References are good, but people have to go through the trouble of reaching out to them,” says Price. Whatever you can do to make things easier for your potential clients boosts your value.
Drum up different ways you can set your price
Don’t think purely in terms of an hourly rate, explains Carol Fishman Cohen, chair and co-founder of the career re-entry firm iRelaunch.
“Consultants charge based on dollars saved as a result of the work, project pricing, or replacement cost of what might be paid to an employee doing the work in house,” she says.
“Identify the metric, then research the different ways you can price,” she adds. For instance, a project rate, as long as the scope is clearly outlined, can actually break down to a higher hourly rate.
Give your resume a good polish
Beyond negotiating a rate, how can you get started as a consultant? Your resume is a good place to focus.
You’ll want to make a clear case for your subject matter expertise, explains Heidi Scott Giusto, a career consultant and founder of Career Path Writing Solutions. This could go under your summary, “highlights of experience” section, or a work history that positions you as a consultant.
“Earlier work history will oftentimes be omitted or greatly condensed to make room for showcasing a person’s subject matter expertise, along with other skills that might be valuable to the field,” says Giusto.
Been a while since you’ve been part of the workforce? Be sure to write for both the human and applicant tracking systems, says Giusto. This means using a combination of visual appeal, making sure it’s skimmable, and using keywords to help your resume show up in relevant searches.
Develop an online presence
Even if you have a strong network, being online through different platforms can boost and further expand your visibility. Put the word out there that you’re available for consulting work. Fishman Cohen suggests having a presence on social media and your own website.
You can also position yourself as an expert by creating content. Launching your own podcast may not make sense for everyone, but you could write thought leadership pieces on LinkedIn. “Publishing articles with your thinking on your specialty topic will give potential clients a sampling of your work and a convenient way for you to send them these samples,” says Fishman Cohen.
Get your foot in the door
You don’t need to get your resume in front of an HR manager to land your first consulting job. You can get your foot in the door by meeting with folks at any level of a company, says Price. After all, they all interact and work together.
When you connect with someone, ask if they can think of someone else you can meet at the company. “People are more willing to help people they have a connection with,” says Price. “It feels good to help people reach their goals. You just have to make the ask.”
By switching over as a consultant in your field, you can do meaningful work — and get well compensated for it. It just requires a bit of professional pivoting and basic negotiation tactics. Over time, you could potentially be the go-to consultant in your niche.