If you possess valuable knowledge and experience, you might be able to share it – and get paid for it – as a consultant. This could be a lucrative sideline to your current business or career. Consultants are well compensated – as much as hundreds of dollars per hour.

The word “consulting” might call to mind an image of a huge multinational firm sending teams of dozens of its staffers into Fortune 500 corporations. But many consultants have solo practices. Anyone who can help companies solve problems, avoid mistakes, or increase revenues deserves the title.

Companies often need expertise that isn’t available in house. For example, to handle a project for which they don’t want to hire a full-time employee. Or to offer a fresh approach to a problem.

Executives and entrepreneurs I interviewed told me that the consultants they hire must have experience specific to the company’s needs, that they must be practitioners and not theorists, and that they must be able to supply direction and specific, useable answers.

I’m a copywriter, but I had a sideline as a consultant for 30 years. Clients who hired me said “We want you to show us how to improve our marketing.” Or “Explain to me and my direct-mail guy how we can write packages ourselves that will pull better.” Or “Spend a day with us as a coach.”

Can you diversify into consulting? Quite possibly. Are you good at what you do, and do you have the ability and the enthusiasm to communicate your knowledge and skills?

Think about what sort of information and advice and intelligence you’re capable of offering, its value, what you could charge, how to identify prospective clients and persuade them to hire you.

Whom do you know who might be interested? Your employer? Clients? Contacts? Could you write an article or give a talk that demonstrates your expertise for an audience of qualified prospects?

Establishing your reputation, networking, and marketing are the keys to building a successful consulting practice. No one would claim that it can be achieved overnight. But I did it – and so have many others.

[Ed. Note: Don Hauptman writes ETR’s Saturday column, “The Language Perfectionist.” The above article was adapted from his just-published e-book The Versatile Freelancer: How Writers and Other Creative Professionals Can Generate More Income by Seizing New Opportunities in Critiquing, Consulting, Training, and Presenting. It includes additional advice on breaking into consulting, along with details on diversifying into other rewarding sidelines. The book comes with a free bonus report and a 100 percent money-back guarantee of satisfaction. Order your copy without risk here.]

Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.