Consulting can be an intense but exciting and rewarding career path. People will look to you and your expertise in starting and growing their business, but it also means a lot of late nights and a lot of travel. If you are ready to jump into the consulting business, though, we have some helpful tips to get you started.

Determine what kind of consultant you’ll be

There are many different types of consulting firms across even more types of expertise. The first step in starting a consulting career is determining what kind of consultant you want to be. There are major consulting firms, which work with Fortune 500 companies; so-called “boutique” consulting firms, which are smaller and more specialized; consulting divisions, which work for big companies like IBM or Oracle; or freelance consulting. You also have to determine your niche, and there are too many types to list here. Your niche is what you’re an expert in and what your target market is, and while it may seem more lucrative to have many fields of expertise, it’s better to focus on just one. That way you can charge more for your services.

Networking, networking, and more networking

Consulting is all about the people you work with, and so networking is critical. Your network will help you and whatever firm you work for find clients and opportunities, and it’s never too early to start building your network. You can do this by searching online, attending networking events, looking at job boards, or even cold-emailing potential clients. Your network can never be too extensive, so remember to continue growing it even after you’ve become a successful consultant.

Prepare yourself

Now that we’ve got the big things out of the way, it’s time to prepare for the nitty-gritty of everyday consulting work. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with Microsoft’s Office Suite, which has many programs vital to the modern consulting world. Even if you’re somewhat knowledgeable already, you can sign up for advanced classes online or at your local university. You’ll also want to read some books about business and consulting like “Good to Great,” “The First 90 Days,” or anything and everything by Malcolm Gladwell. Finally, if you’re going to be working for a consulting firm, ask HR what the dress code is like and what equipment you’ll need if the company does not supply it.