Editor’s Note: Know how to write well and pitch an idea? Then check out this next story from a professional grant writer consultant. You need to be a little picky about clients, but this field offers an opportunity earn a good living while helping the community.
I became a Grant Services Consultant because I wanted to work from home and earn a few extra thousand dollars per month. Although I did not know much about writing grants, I knew that the industry is very lucrative for freelancers. My personal experience with many local businesses from another line of work showed me that virtually any organization, corporation, and even government agencies can benefit from grant funding.
To get started, I took a free online course through the Enoch Prat Free Library. These courses are taught by actual professors and mimic a mini semester at a local and fully accredited university. This course demonstrated practical considerations and tips to create a legitimate and successful grant consulting business. I do not think a formal course is necessary to learn how to become a grant writer or consultant, but newcomers should find some way to become familiar with the industry.
Becoming a Grant Writer
The metropolitan area where I live is full of medical centers and universities, so grant writers are in high demand. Since grant writers can work remotely, you do not have to live in any specific region to become successful in the business. To get started, learn what a finished grant looks like. There are several sites that offer examples of grant writing proposals. I became familiar with the finished product for a few different areas.
Because I am an experienced writer, it was easy for me to pick up the specific skills and techniques necessary for grant language preferences. Technical writing is not my area of expertise and interest, so these projects take longer for me to complete. Research, medical, new business, and reentry grants are the easiest for me to write because I have extensive experience in these areas. The most important thing to remember when producing a grant proposal or completing a grant application request is being able to follow directions. Each grant application has very specific and detailed instructions. Failing to follow even one guidance point can result in the rejection of a grant proposal.
Know Who Needs Grant Consulting Services
The answer is really simple – everyone can benefit from free money. Think of organizational grants as the business equivalent to college scholarships. There truly is something for everyone. Start up companies need capital to get established or expand into new territories. Healthcare companies and medical centers always need funding for new equipment, recruitment efforts, and technology upgrades. Even local and state agencies can apply for grant opportunities.
Smaller municipalities are great candidates for grant funding because they are often not able to raise funding through bond issues. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency offers open grant funding for any town, village, or city that wants to upgrade underground water pipes. There are literally customers all around, you just have to look through the grant writer’s lens and start seeing them as potential clients.
It would be impossible to create a comprehensive list of all the available grant writing resources available. Multiple online platforms such as groups like IntoBiz! offer like minded people a place to exchange dialogue and best practices. This site specializes in grant writing services and frequently hosts interactive lectures from experienced industry professionals. The National Science Foundation is a great site for any grant writer who wants to find out who has money available for science, natural resources, and various research opportunities.
There are several other publishers that offer annual subscriptions for a fee. My recommendation for someone just testing the waters as a grant consulting services would be to focus on the free resources first. I partnered with a mutual acquaintance who offered grant services specific to the technology industry. We refer clients to each other and trade off subscription services by sharing login information. It is very easy to build relationships in this arena and there is no need to be ultra competitive. There are more than enough opportunities for everyone to get paid.
Specialize in a Relevant Industry
Make things easy for your self in this business and do what you know. Consider which businesses and industries you know the most about and go after those clients. Wasting time on learning everything there is to know about an oil refinery to write one grant application for a few hundred dollars is not conducive to make money quickly. If you want to focus on a specific industry, definitely take the time to learn the terminology and produce a marketing plan to win new clients. Otherwise, focus on what you already know and offer your services to those businesses and organizations. Along with time management, this practice is probably the best way to ensure you make money quickly, consistently, and without undue effort.
Offer a Menus of Services
Aside from simply writing grant proposals, there are many ways to get paid as a grant writing consultant. These opportunities, as well as the amount you can charge per hour, will increase as your build your reputation as a successful grant services consultant.
One of my highest paying gigs is offering workshops and seminars on grant writing tips. These can be in person or online. I charge $150 an hour for eMeetings and video seminars, which is very low for the industry. Most people charge upwards from $300. Great writers and organizers will probably make the most money actually writing the proposals, while innovators and relational consultants will make more money teaching and marketing the tools of the industry.
I choose to offer this service at a steep discount because it’s been a successful marketing tool for my business. Potential clients watch the video or invite me to their business or organization for a personal seminar and almost inevitably want to learn more.
When I speak at trade shows or conferences, I generally charge $1500 for up to four hours of service. This rate may increase if I have to travel a distance greater than 500 miles, on short notice, or during a busy time of year. You can easily command these prices after just a few successful grant application submissions. As you have proposals turn into grant awards, be sure to update your website. Your earnings will correlate closely to the percentage of wins you achieve.
One of the most important lesson I learned – the hard way of course – was that I cannot accept every opportunity that comes my way. I did not think about breaking the fees I charged per service down into an hourly rate until I was working on an emergency submission that had a three day turnaround time. This meant I had to put existing projects on hold and refocus my efforts. After working through the night and well into the next afternoon, I decided to see how much I earned per hour on this particular job. It was a sobering reality check – all that effort amounted to about $15 per hour.
From then on, I learned to carefully evaluate my incoming workload. I simply refer or refuse items that will net less than $75 per hour. I may make an exception for projects that are for an existing client or that are of particular interest to me on a personal level. The point is, I will not spend more than a few hours researching for a project unless I know the end result is going to be a substantial yield.