How to become an ISO 14001 consultant

Lots of people strive to get independence by being self-employed and becoming entrepreneurs. Becoming a consultant is a good alternative if you are stuck with your current job. Unlike other businesses, it does not require big investments in facilities and equipment – all you need is knowledge and experience, and a laptop.

What qualifications do you need?

Very often, people ask me: “What qualifications do I need to become a consultant?” It’s a funny thing, but there are no formal qualifications needed, at least not in most countries. This basically means anyone can become a consultant, with no qualifications whatsoever. This might sound strange, but it makes sense if you remember that your work will be audited by a certification body, so if you are able to implement the standard properly, no one will care about your certificates.

However, if you want to become a consultant respected by potential clients, you should have at least the following:

ISO 14001 certificates – you should at least get the Lead Auditor or Lead Implementer certificate, but it would be better if you had both.

Project Management certificate – since your work will be nothing but delivering projects, you should learn how to run them. For instance, you should get PMP, or some other similar certificate.

Experience – theoretical knowledge won’t be enough, so you should get experience through at least one of the following:

  • Work as a certification auditor – performing certification audits will give you excellent insight into the do’s and don’ts of ISO 14001 implementation, or
  • Work for another consultant – this is the best way to learn about the implementation methods and how to get new clients, or
  • Work as an environmental engineer – working in a company is an excellent way to learn the client side of the story: What are the usual pains? What is the expert help needed for?
  • Work as an EMS management representative – being responsible for the EMS in some company will help you understand the standard and see how its requirements are executed in real life, and lots of consultants have this starting point.

How to get know-how as quick as possible?

Besides getting the knowledge already mentioned above, you will also need some other tools and sources of knowledge:

Books – there are many books available on ISO 14001, and the best for future consultants are the ones about the implementation.

Documentation templates – when starting to work with your clients, you will need templates of ISO 14001 policies and procedures to speed up your work.

Templates for proposals and presentations – what you show to potential clients must be very comprehensive and professional.

Tools – besides a laptop and MS Office, you will also need some kind of customer relationship management (CRM) software or an online service, because you must track all the potential clients and in which phase you currently are with each of them.

Social media skills – you will have to learn how to communicate through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, since these will be important channels for getting new clients.

Website development skills – if you decide to publish articles, you at least will need to know how to publish a blog.

How to find the clients

This is by far the most difficult task – getting your first client. Consultancy is not a usual commodity; most of the people when hiring the consultant don’t know how the consultancy should be carried out or how the end result of the implementation should look, so they are mostly depending on the confidence they have that you will do your job properly.

There are several ways you should market your services:

Use your contacts from previous jobs – for example, arrange a deal with the client even before you start your consultancy in order to avoid a gap once you start your new job; this is probably the best way to start your career, but you must be careful to stay within the ethical limits – you should not hurt your old employer because of this.

Direct sales – you should spend at least 30% of your time dialing phone numbers and delivering presentations to potential clients – this is basically the best way to close the deal.

Speaking at conferences – this is one of the best ways to build your credibility, and to get new contacts. Just make sure to practice your presentation skills, because otherwise, you may end up with even less credibility than you had previously.

Writing expert articles – you should publish your articles in specialized magazines and on the Internet – this way, you will show your expertise to the whole world.

Delivering courses – this is an excellent way to get new contacts and prove your expertise.

Partnerships – perhaps you can find some vendors who are compatible (and not competing) with your service – in such cases, when they get a deal they may bring you a new client.

And remember – clients aren’t going to rush in on the first day you start your consultancy; on the contrary, in the beginning you will probably have fewer clients than you imagined – even in your worse-case scenario. This is because the sales cycle is very long – it usually takes a lot of time for a client to decide to go for a project.

I’m not saying that a good consultant must be more skilled in marketing than in ISO 14001– I’m just saying that marketing skills and efforts should not be neglected, because without them your main expertise will never reach the clients.

Focus on what’s the best for the client

In this article I wanted to present the prerequisites for becoming a consultant – the methods for delivering the ISO 14001 project wouldn’t fit in this article. For the implementation steps you should read this article: List of ISO 14001 implementation steps.

But, in the end, remember that reputation is what will bring you new clients. Make sure that everything you do, you do it in the best interest of the client – you shouldn’t recommend some new technology to a client only because you have a partner selling it; you shouldn’t hold back some information only to have your client use your services later on. What you should do is protect your client’s interest and exceed their expectations.

Check out our free webinar How to sell ISO consulting services to learn about the basics and start up your consulting career.

Advisera Strahinja Stojanovic
Strahinja Stojanovic

Strahinja Stojanovic is certified as a lead auditor for the ISO 13485, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18001 standards by RABQSA. He participated in the implementation of these standards in more than 100 SMEs, through the creation of documentation and performing in-house training for maintaining management systems, internal audits, and management reviews.