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Friday, 5 July 2019

How to Start and Manage an Education Consulting Business (Step-By-Step Guide)

GUIDE TO STARTING AND RUNNING AN EDUCATION CONSULTANCY BUSINESS (A NIGERIA PERSPECTIVE)

In my recent article on business ideas for a Nigerian graduate, I suggested an education consultancy as one of the opened fields you can do well at if you're just coming out of service. If you start an education consult, it may not take time before you succeed. The reason is not farfetched – you’re once in the shoes of your prospective clients. You knew how you passed through things; you could guide them through the same hurdles you’d crossed.

Though it’s not that simple. Yet, your success will come from dedication to serve and to learn more. If you’re not naturally interested in education, you can learn to be or develop such interest with time. Trust me, you don’t have to be so passionate about education before you can specialize in this field.

Why You Should Trust Me on this

Briefly, you may want to know why I should be your teacher. I’m an education consultant too. Though, I consult for Nigerian students, parents and schools; who want to study here at home. I’m yet to move into foreign education services. My reluctance to go abroad might be due to the fact that; we have more market for education services in Nigeria than I can possibly cover.

Hence, this piece will be a quick guide on how to start, run and manage an education consulting business after you’re done with school or NYSC. An undergraduate can equally follow this guide to start and run this profession. In fact, the earlier you can go into this field, the better.

But before anything, can just take a moment to check if this world of owning and running a business is for you or should wait for jobs? That post is a complete outlook of what your life is going to be like in the business world compared to a job or career.

I don’t aim to give a comprehensive guide to a large scale education consultancy rather a small or medium size set-up. Hence, I think you should understand that before riding on with me.

Learning to Become an Education Consultant

Truth be said, you must learn to become a go-to man in education if you will succeed all through. In my last ten years in this field, I’d seen a few young graduates who started this profession but closed off in just one or two years.

Do you know why?

They never learnt beyond having common ideas.

Having basic ideas on how to run an education consulting business doesn’t guarantee your success in the long run. You have to learn. Just like learning barbing, tailoring, catering and so on, you must dedicate time to acquiring knowledge of becoming a consultant.

Education and Experience Expected of a Consultant

Flexjobs gives the following as the basic requirements for managing a successful education consultancy.
  1. A minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, but in many cases, a master’s or Ph.D
  2. Education and/or experience in a specific subject or area of study
  3. Experience working in the educational setting in which you want to consult
  4. Knowledge of state and federal education regulations and policy
  5. Experience working with students, teachers, and other educators

What if I tell you that, the number one (1) above is not so important especially the need to have Msc or Ph.D. may just be an exaggeration in this part of the world.

When we say an education consultant, we know them around us. A majority are just BSC, HND, NCE, even SSCE holders. But having lower qualifications can be limiting indeed. Parents will prefer to entrust the future of their wards to a graduate than someone, who, himself, needs a qualified consultant.
In other words, if you’re a graduate, you already have an edge over less educated competitors.

I was a graduate before I started my business and I enjoyed the differences this gives.

Then, No. 2 to 5 in the requirements above are more important.

Even if you’re not a graduate but people are aware of your stock of experiences in education, and they know you’ve been a success all through your own educational journey, you will even win more hearts than a graduate with no experiences.

What Will You Be Doing For Clients as a Consultant?

As an education consultant, people will contact you for any of the following services. So get ready!
  1. Information: People call me “the minister of information”. You know why? First, I seem to have a bit of knowledge of almost everything in education here in Nigeria. Two, before you ask me if an application is out or that you want clarification on something, I’d already got the information at hand. And third, where I don’t have your answers, I know where to find them or someone who can help. This is how you can win the hearts of very many people. They want someone who has answers to their concerns.
  2. Online Registrations: Giving people the right information is the bait. Ability to do their work when they finally show up is the real deal. Do you have what it takes to do that? If no, learn. Having computer basic knowledge is what is important here. Here, I don’t mean theoretical knowledge. I mean your ability to fill forms for people online without making stupid mistakes. Making mistakes filling forms for clients will kill your business in just one or two years. I guarantee that. That’s why I had encouraged you should learn elsewhere first. As an education consultant, I see myself as a doctor. You’re dealing with the lives of people. If you make a mistake that costs someone a year at home, that may lead to unwanted pregnancy, loss of lives (do you remember people committing suicide for exams failure?) If you know you haven’t got enough practical experiences, please don’t wash your dirty linen in public.

How to Gain Required Experiences for Education Consulting

There are three ways I’ve acquired enough to talk to anybody about.
  1. The School System You Passed through: With your personal experiences, while seeking admission, in school or out of school, you’re almost a qualified education go-to man. At least, you should be able to guide a brother or sister on how to gain admission into any school of interest (especially your former schools), following the same steps you took yourself. This is the first benchmark required for you to succeed here.
  2. Practical and Vast Knowledge: Things do change and there are more schools to consult about than your former school. Because of the dynamic nature of activities in this field, you will need to acquire practical experiences.  To achieve this, I suggest you work for a respected education consult in your city or town for about a year if not more. Make sure you participate in all their yearly registrations and other activities in your year of training. If you must give it more time, don’t hesitate to. You’ll appreciate learning enough before embarking on this journey. I had to work with a business in education for about 4 years before I started mine. It paid back bountifully. Instead of using my business to experiment, I’d known how, when, why and what of this profession before starting mine.
  3. Online Research and Learning: Internet has been the best invention ever happened to mankind. It’s your turn to tap from it. Kindly start learning with the basics. Do findings on the questions your clients will need answers to. Try to know the list of federal, state and private schools in Nigeria. Have a record for their websites and admission portals. Have ideas of their academic programmes, undergraduates, postgraduates, pre-degree, JUPEB, IJMB, Sandwich, Part-Time etc and their tuitions. Follow twitter handles, Facebook pages of all these schools and other education bodies including JAMB, WAEC, NECO, NABTEB etc

Materials Needed for Consulting Services

Depending on your financial ability, education consulting service is not that demanding. You may need to spend much if you aim for something more flamboyant. Below are the basic things to put in place if you must start now.
  1. A laptop or two
  2. Printers (black and colour)
  3. Internet Service (Modem)
  4. Stapler, Papers (white and conqueror) and Laminating Machine
  5. Generator
  6. An office space

Well, without doubts, you already know what you will need each of the above-listed items for.

I don’t want to take your time explaining why you will need each of the items. But for the purpose of key information here, I will briefly say some things to open your mind further.

1. Laptops

Why not desktop? I think you should know by now that things are changing and you must change too. Don’t be tempted by your saving money mentality. You won’t need a desktop computer for this job.

A laptop will make your office look decent and won’t take up more space. It’s more professional - handling your clients’ works on a laptop than a desktop. I’d bought a desktop too from the start. The last time I used it was the third month of my operations.

Especially where power is a problem, like here, you will need a machine that once charged, can sustain you for a couple of hours. You will only need to on your generator when you need to print. This will save you money, time and other resources.

Having said that, don’t buy fairly used laptops. Yes, you heard me. Don’t go for tokunbo either. You know why? They’ve been used and are weaker – at least weaker than new ones. If you buy a new laptop, it should sustain you for about three years before developing any kind of hardware faults. This is from my experience.

I tried to save some bucks by buying tokunbo in recent years. I regretted doing that. Your battery is down in months, you have to replace a CD/DVD drive, charging point or a series of other issues. You don’t want to start a business with these kinds of headaches. Go for the new.

2. Printers

You’re to fill online forms for people and print completed registration slips, acknowledgment forms, printouts etc. Hence, you need a good printer to handle this job well.

Here, nothing is practically wrong with saving some money by buying a secondhand or tokunbo printer for your production. However, be sure you’re not buying a faulty one. You’re just starting out a business, it can get frustrating if you pick a wrong printer.

If you can afford to spend more, going for a new printer is highly recommended. For one reason, the new one will be modern. For another, the latest printers are usually ink/tonner efficient and power consumption will be lower.

Having said that, you will need two printer types. A monochrome printer – printing in black colour only. This will be suitable for general printing of WAEC, NECO and NABTEB results and the likes. You will as well need a colour printer perfect for official printings and documents likes original JAMB, result, JAMB admission letters, school admission letters and other document instructed to be printed in colour.

In fact, don’t start operation until you have both at stock. For one reason, customers don’t like hearing “it’s not available”. For another, this will give you confidence that you can serve whoever needs printing services.

Meanwhile, I recommend 3-in-1 printers for either. The printer that can print, do photocopy and scan is right for this job. You will need the three functions on a daily basis.

A point of warning is that; avoid using your colour printer for black documents. Reserve that for documents with colour and strictly on clients’ demand. You will save money as a result. It costs more to maintain colour printers than black.

3. Internet Modem

You need an internet service provider (ISP). MTN, Glo, 9Mobile, Smiles are a few services you can opt-in for. Using two of them is recommended. You will need one as your primary provider and the second as a back-up in case of network or service issues. Don’t forget, if you tell a client “no network”, what he hears is “we’re not competent”. He won’t blame your ISP; he will see you as unprepared.

One of the mistakes you may make at an earlier time is using your internet for personal work. Avoid that; use it mostly, if not strictly for businesses. You need to save money form the start and you must be prudent to do that. Spending on data can take much out of your revenues if you don’t take this into consideration.

A related mistake is using a phone as a modem. This is possible yet not advisable. When you’re on a call, it interrupts the network. In other words, while browsing, receiving a call will cut you off the network. And if you can dedicate a phone to connect with your computer only, go ahead. However, I don’t think that is economically sensible. How much is a modem compared to a smartphone?

4. Papers, stapler and Laminating Machine

There may not be the need to explain this. We all know you’ll need this. However, there is something to add. Conqueror papers may be needed from time to time.

Conqueror papers are a hard type usually in cream or white colour. Clients may need this for something official – like printing of letterhead etc. Having a hundred of this may save you the headache from clients who may be in need of it.

5. Generating Set

This should come first, but I don’t need to scare you if I truly want to help. Without saying much, you already know that we’re still experiencing epileptic power supply in this part of the world. And in fact, there are two main important things to this work - one, experience! and two, electricity!.

Electricity is truly a problem to the extent that if anybody will start any kind of business now, he has to think first of power instead of office location.

Well, that is to me, less of a problem because there is a solution. Having a standby generator in case of a power outage is all you need. I recommend getting a generator with not less than 3.5 KV  or 2.5 KV rated output. You know why? You will need this to carry the power consumption of a 3-in-1 LaserJet printer and the laminating machine. These machines may be power tasty.

Where you can afford it, you can go for something better. A few people had commended the efficiency of solar/inverter generators. Problems come when you can’t find the right technicians who handle this without fear of running out of supports in a few weeks.

7. Office Space

Location is important to any business. However, my experience in education consulting has thought me otherwise. What people want most are your solutions, experiences, effectiveness and supports.

This doesn’t mean you can do so well if you’re providing this within your seating room.

I recommend finding an office in a busy part of your town or city. This is because you will have your business accessible to people. People will notice you while passing and when they need your services, they may likely remember they had once passed an office for such.

One thing to mention here – avoid a mobile office. People don’t trust businesses they can’t locate or visit in a fixed place. Don’t forget people want to entrust their money and future to you. You have to be where they can meet you during working hours.

Marketing your Consulting Business

If you notice, everything I’ve been sharing comes from personal experiences. I wouldn’t be writing this if it has not worked for me.

Marketing is one of the key powers you need at this field. I had emphasized how important your experience is. That’s true. But there is a difference between technical-know-how and managerial-know-how. Marketing and publicity come under the latter.

In order to win people’s hearts, you need to handle your services differently from those competing with you.

Take to any of the following to get your business name and services across the oceans.
  1. Complimentary cards
  2. Handbills and flyers
  3. Bulk and customized SMS

These are enough to start with.

You will need your business cards, flyers and handbills when you begin your business. Most people will visit you for the first time to get ideas of what is happening in your office. It’s your business to click on them. Don’t let off. Tell them what you do and share your cards or flyers with them.

I used business cards for the first year of my business. I designed a portfolio of services we rendered. So when customers were waiting to get their work completed, I gave them the portfolio to go through. It’s was well designed and entertaining. I had a 15 inch TV fastened to the wall of my office. Customers enjoyed their time waiting for their turns.

I didn’t forget to collect the phone numbers of people who visited to work. We loved that most that I wouldn’t miss a person. Days after, I sent 160 characters SMS to thank them for their patronage. It shook the town. We’re taking over!

Within the first years, I had people returning to ask if my business cards were still available, they wanted to give them to their friends and families.  And I’ve collected not less than 2000 phone numbers in 12 months.

I didn’t just send SMS to greet clients, I informed them of several online applications ongoing e.g Npower, school of nursing forms, admission forms, vacancies available online. Like magic, new people started coming to ask if they could drop their number for SMS updates.

This marketing approach made my services are known across my town and three other neighbouring towns. Now, we’re becoming small God in this industry.

Reading this article should let you know that my ability is getting out of my comfort zone. We work for clients anywhere in the country by now. All they have to do is, send their details for any online registrations. We complete the assignments and get back to them. I’ve written theses for clients hundreds of miles away.

Taking Your Services Outside the Office Bricks

I’ve been in this work for some years. Now, people have known me and what I could do. If you follow my course, you should achieve this position within 3 years at most.

After this, it’s time to get out for more.

1. Consult for Schools

You need to consult for schools around and outside your vicinity. Registering internal and external exams e.g WAEC, NECO, NABTEB, IJMB, JUPEB, Post UTME for those schools, will earn you big.

What this requires is meeting with a few schools. They might have someone consulting for them now. Give them time to see if you can handle things better or lesser.

You can be lucky to win a score of schools who never consider using consultants for registrations like these before.

You can win the hearts of a few politicians who wish to give scholarships in the form of applications for any of the applications above to the people in their communities. You can win big here as well.

I don’t want to bother you with details. You should get the idea of how this work by now.

2. Go Online

See, the internet is the real deal now. But if you want to succeed online, experiences matter. These you can only acquire while working offline.

Create a website/blog to share your experiences just as I’m doing with your right now.

Blogging can earn you a few dollars monthly through Google AdSense, Affiliate marketing and direct advertising. But you need readership that can only be retained with high-quality contents. Give people guides, updates and more through your posts and they will keep coming. Through this, you make more than what you’re possibly already making offline.

Most people, who eventually went into blogging from their offline businesses, later quit offline projects and moved completely online. They earned more and spend less in term of money, time, efforts and dedication.

As an education consultant, you might have written a series of academic researches which you can share online at a price. You might have a collection of schools post UTME past questions which you can sell.

Becoming a Youtuber is hot and is getting hotter. Uploading videos; guiding admission seekers, parents and students on a series of topics can give you an edge online while earning continually from views.

These can be great sources of passive income if approached professionally.

Conclusion

Starting education consulting services is not that demanding but it requires putting the right things up from the start. Having enough knowledge; acquired from personal and practical experiences, is VERY IMPORTANT.

To be successful in this field, you have to be ready to work following guidelines laid down by regulatory bodies. It may be tempting to jump the laws of education and government regulatory bodies. Resist the urge form any acts that may put your business in problems.

Best of luck!

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