How to become a management consultant

How to become a management consultant

There’s a lot of variety in the role of management consultant. No two days are the same when working for companies across different sectors of all sizes.

For many, the process of becoming a management consultant is a natural extension of their career so far, having gained in-depth experience in a specific industry, or a particular area of business operations. Their client base may be broad, or they may have just one or two large, ongoing contracts.

Almost any business can benefit from the expertise of a management consultant, from small start ups to large corporations.

What does a management consultant do?

A management consultant lends his or her skills, insight and experience to a business. They may be called upon to help with:

  • Growth
  • Streamlining of operations
  • HR
  • Marketing strategy
  • Production efficiency
  • Finance 

Their role can involve a number of specialist objectives, from boosting the bottom line to providing future business strategy.

To fulfil their remit, a management consultant will adopt several techniques. They may gather and analyse data to gain an oversight of a business’s operations or speak to staff on an informal basis to decipher where positive change might be made. Alternatively, a management consultant could research the market their client is operating within, or new markets they hope to infiltrate. Some management consultants are relied on to take a troubleshooting role, rooting out cultural or systematic problems and offering solutions to them. 

A company may work with a management consultant at any stage in its existence - when things are just beginning, when new opportunities arise, or when trouble threatens the business. Sometimes a management consultant fills a temporary need, giving the client a quick boost before moving on. Other times, the contract is ongoing, with the consultant building a relationship with their client and advising across a variety of projects.

What’s the salary for a freelance management consultant?

Depending on the type of consulting you provide, as well as where you’re based and the sector you specialise in, the salary can vary. Research by Consultancy UK reveals that a freelance business consultant earns, on average, £38,000 per annum. A marketing consultant is slightly less, with a typical annual pay of £32-33k. However, it is not unusual for experienced or specialist management consultants to earn in excess of £100,000.

Types of management consultant

There are multiple terms used to describe the role of management consultant. Sometimes they’re used interchangeably, sometimes they refer to a more specific remit.

Strategy Consultant

A strategy consultant advises on overall organisational strategy at the highest level - usually with the client's board and directors' involvement.

Management Consultant

A management consultant is an independent person who advises a company on anything from overarching strategy to growth or change.

Operations Consultant

An operations consultant focuses on improving specific operations, such as IT, supply chain or marketing by providing practical input.

Financial Consultant

A financial consultant provides financial advice and analysis on money issues facing their client such as tax, risk management, or financial restructuring.

Human Resource Consultant

A human resource consultant covers any business area concerned with recruitment, people, their organisation, and their professional development.

IT Consultant

An IT consultant works to optimise an organisation’s IT or digital potential, often focusing on standalone projects or wide-reaching systems. 

Can I work as a freelance management consultant?

Most management consultants work on a freelance or contract basis. They bring a fresh outside perspective to a business’ ways of working, productivity and profits. As a management consultant, you’re selling your insight and experience, so it’s important to have a diverse client base. Many management consultants find work with former employers or contacts from a previous job.

What does a typical day look like for freelance management consultants?

One of the things freelance management consultants most enjoy about the role is that there is no typical day. They may travel to different locations to work directly with clients or spend lots of time working from home. They may currently be focussing on a single large restructuring, while planning multiple smaller projects for the future. Two management consultants may have entirely different professional lives, and year-on-year, their experiences as individuals will vary too.  

What skills and qualifications do I need to be a management consultant?

There are no specific qualifications you need to become a management consultant, although extensive experience in a sector and the ability to demonstrate your continuous professional development will certainly help. Proven results and the ability to self-motivate are also essential for winning and retaining clients. There are also a number of skills and personal characteristics that complement the role.

Sector-specific knowledge

Although there are more rounded management consultants, the most successful are those with a niche specialism, whether that’s an operations focus or extensive experience within a specific industry. Some define their offer by delivering both – for example, you might consult only on IT systems for the retail industry, or only on finances in the hospitality industry.

Ability to analyse and problem solve

Strategic thinking is key as a management consultant. Anyone who can think both logically and creatively would have a definite head-start in this career.

Excellent communications skills

The ability to communicate well both in writing and verbally with people at every level of a business is crucial. Giving presentations, persuading management teams to follow your advice, communicating challenging news – all these are part of the job.

Quick comprehension skills

People who can understand complex ideas and process lots of information quickly have an advantage in this role. Getting up to speed with how an organisation works before you begin work to streamline and improve things is an essential part of this.

Management consulting – official bodies

Established management consultants, and those hoping to improve their credentials, can join the Institute of Consulting (IC). Membership allows management consultants to present a more professional, responsible profile to new and existing clients.The Management Consultancies Association (MCA), meanwhile, is an organisation that runs the industry’s main awards event, promotes the value of management consultancy and forges links between its members.

By becoming a member of these official bodies, you can present your professional expertise and seek out new opportunities within the business.

More information and about Markel

Having business insurance is an important element of being a freelance management consultant. At Markel, we offer specialist professional indemnity insurance cover  for management consultants, providing the peace-of-mind you need to run your business with confidence. Find out more about our specialist insurance for management consultants and business advisors.