I received the following question and thought it would make a good post.
I’m an Senior Cosmetic Chemist with an Bachelors Degree, with 18yrs experience in formulations, color matching and production, I’m thinking about being an consultant, how do I go about the change and what would be a good starting salary for my position?
Start Learning about Business & Marketing
Nearly all scientists coming out of college have the same problem. They spent most of their time in school learning complicated subjects like Physical Chemistry, Physics, and Molecular Biology, but little time was spent learning things that are most helpful in business, such as Entrepreneurship, Economics, and Marketing. Most scientists are smart about technical subjects but clueless about business subjects. And if you want to become a cosmetic chemist consultant, knowing business subjects are extremely important.
This problem continues in their career as it becomes more important for R&D people to improve their technical knowledge and skills than to learn about Marketing.
But to become a cosmetic chemist consultant it is not good enough to just be technically smart or a great formulator. You need to develop skills and knowledge about marketing, networking, and generally running a business. So, the first step to becoming a consultant is to study up on those subjects.
Identify your expertise
If you’ve been working in the cosmetic industry for a number of years you should have developed an expertise in some aspects of the job. You may have a good background in hair care, skin care or color cosmetics. Or maybe you’ve gotten really good at testing products or writing claims. You need to be able to clearly communicate what you are an expert in. When a big company is looking for a consultant to work with them on a specific problem, they will seek out whoever is the best well-known expert in that subject. As a consultant you want to become known as the expert in some subject.
Incidentally, many individual entrepreneurs who will be looking to hire you will just want a “cosmetic chemist.” They figure every cosmetic chemist should be able to make any kind of product. And if you are a skilled formulator this may be true. But you’ll be much more successful if you find an expertise and highlight that.
Showcase your expertise
If people don’t know that you’re an expert you might as well not be an expert. The best way to showcase your expertise is by giving talks at relevant meetings and writing articles for relevant publications. The cosmetic industry provides lots of opportunities for people seeking out an audience. There are 19 chapters of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists who are always looking for good speakers on relevant topics. And there are magazines like Cosmetics & Toiletries, GCI and Happi who seek articles. If you want to become an expert you need to get your name out there and prove it.
Create a website
The cosmetic industry has been very slow to adapt to the Internet. And the reality is most of the people who have the knowledge and expertise required to be a consultant, do not have the technical savvy or motivation to leverage the Internet. If you want to become a consultant who finds new work you need a website! Now, if you have an established network of relationships with clients then it becomes less important but if you are just starting out, creating a website and filling it with articles that showcase your expertise is the number one thing you can do to grow your consultant practice.
Start a blog and become an expert. Use a resource like Become a Blogger.
Also, participate in social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. These all provide great opportunities for you to establish your expertise and get potential clients to come to your website. Participate in our cosmetic science forum. There are lots of questions asked and potential clients to help.
Becoming a cosmetic chemist consultant
The thing that is most important to know when becoming a cosmetic chemist consultant is that you need to spend a lot of time selling yourself and getting new business / clients. If your corporate job was focused on solving technical problems 100% of the time, your consulting job will involve solving them only about 20% of the time. The other 80% of the time you need to be selling and marketing your services. Without new clients and new projects, you won’t be able to survive very long as a cosmetic chemist consultant.
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