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Starting Out as a Consultant: Ethics and Professionalism


Being a consultant means paying strict attention to consultant ethics in order to build a better name for yourself and your services. A consultant is largely dependent on her reputation in the field, and that reputation is built by being professional and sticking to strict ethical guidelines. Being professional and ethical means creating fair transactions that give both parties exactly what they expect from the experience.

Attracting Clients

The first step in presenting your professional consultant ethics and professionalism is your process for finding and being hired by clients. Always tell your clients up front what you can do for them, and never promise more than you can deliver. The client-consultant relationship should be a transparent one that keeps both parties in honest communication. Promising more than you can deliver or making exaggerated claims about your skills can destroy your reputation as a consultant quickly.

Creating Professional Contracts

To be seen as a professional, you must operate as one. That means putting together a contract to outline exactly what is expected of both parties. Your contract must stipulate when your work will be completed or your services provided to the client. It should also stipulate the payment amount and when that payment must be rendered.

A professional contract can be downloaded from a contract site online and changed according to the agreements between you and the client. Make sure that you have read over every part of the agreement so that you understand exactly what is expected of you. An unprofessional consultant is one who doesn't understand what to do, and therefore can't deliver what the client expects.

Following through on Consulting Agreements

Meeting agreed-upon deadlines is one of the most important factors in staying professional as a consultant. Any business that hires a consultant does so because they need something done for them, and generally within a specific timeline. Not providing your services within that timeline can cost them money in lost revenue. Even if it is difficult to pull off a quick deadline for a client, it's worth it to preserve your reputation as a consultant. 

No matter what the agreement is, a consultant must always live up to it. If the agreement states that revisions are included, it's up to the consultant to provide those revisions. Poor contract clauses may make things difficult for a consultant, but those provisions teach consultants what not to do the next time an agreement is made. With each contract, you will learn what you do and do not want to agree to when you are hired on as a consultant.

Consultant ethics also dictate that clients should be charged a fair rate and should not be billed for work that was not done. If you take a deposit, make sure to complete the work as agreed. Any consultant ethics breech that involves money is sure to be discussed online, losing future customers who might otherwise have been interested in your services. Keep your consultant ethics, and you can count on positive word of mouth instead, bringing you more clients long term.

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