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If you are thinking about taking, are currently enrolled in, or have graduated from, an immigration consultant program, you likely want to establish your own business once you are regulated by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). It’s an excellent business to get into given the near-unprecedented numbers of immigrants being invited to apply to immigrate to Canada.
The process of immigrating to Canada isn’t easy, in fact, it can almost be a barrier for someone who doesn’t speak English as their first language. This complexity ensures that there will always be a need for honest, reliable, knowledgeable and ethical immigration consultants who have learned how Canadian immigration works through the services of the Immigration Practitioner Centre.
Taking your program is the first step to establishing a successful immigration consulting firm, but there are other steps that are important. While some immigration consulting programs include sections on operating a business, once you are registered, you will be putting your business together on your own, which is quite different from talking about it in a classroom environment.
Here are a few steps that will help you establish an immigration consulting business that will not only help you get ahead but will help others with their dreams of coming to Canada.
Take advantage of the ideas and expertise of others.
One side benefit of taking an immigration consultant program is that you will form relationships with others. It may be the fellow students or the instructors or both and these people can be a rich source of information. While the students will be at the same level as you and won’t have any more experience than you have when it comes to establishing an immigration consulting firm, they will have ideas. Not only can you brainstorm with these new connections, but you might also find that you can share some resources in the early stages as you get your businesses going. You may be able to find shared office space, share equipment and even establish a system for client generation if you want to specialize in one area of immigration and your colleague wants to specialize in another.
Instructors and guest speakers in the Immigration Practitioner Centre can also help by guiding you to resources and other individuals in the industry who may be able to help. Plus, once you’re registered, don’t forget to make use of the information, materials and events put on by ICCRC which you are entitled to as a member. Because this organization is the registration body for all registered immigration consultants in Canada, there is a wealth of knowledge available to you. Take advantage of the things others have done before, what they learned when they set up their business and make use of the networking opportunities that will allow you to connect with others. Don’t forget to read the information included on the ICCRC site.
Create a flexible business plan.
There is nothing that creates fear in a budding entrepreneur like the phrase “make a business plan.” It sounds daunting and like a dictionary, but it should be neither painful nor boring. Actually, your business plan should be anything but boring! It should include all the passion and ideas you have for your business. Think about what you see yourself doing in a year and in five years in your business. What will it look like? Who will you serve? How will you tell people about what you do? Most people have already thought about many of the things that are included in a business plan, they simply need to commit them to a document that can change with time.
Look online for sample business plans you can follow. You’ll need to define other factors like who will be involved in the business, your expected revenues and expenses and changes you expect to make over time.
Build up a buffer.
It can take a year, two or more to get your business up, running and delivering a positive cash flow. Even though there is a strong demand for immigration consultants, that doesn’t mean running an immigration consulting firm will be easy. You’ll need to find ways to reduce your living expenses and have a source of income until the business is able to pay you the salary you need.
Practice communication skills.
Communication is essential for business success and when it comes to a job like that of an immigration consultant, it’s probably the most important skill needed. Not only will you need to be able to communicate efficiently and effectively with clients, but you’ll also need to communicate clearly with those in the government, in associated businesses and with the individuals you are trying to attract as clients.
Consider attending networking programs and local meetings with other business owners. You’ll hear about things like an “elevator pitch”, “social media strategy”, “web development” and more. All of these are important components of communication that you’ll need in order to tell others what you do, how you do it and why you’re the best choice for someone who is looking for an immigration consultant.
Get really good at helping others without an expectation of anything in return.
As an independent business owner, you’re going to need help from time to time. You’ll want to know who to use as a bookkeeper, which realtors focus on rented or leased office space or how much letterhead you should order in your first batch. You can find this information by talking to others and asking about who they worked with. In return, when someone asks you for information and advice, you want to share it freely. This doesn’t mean doing an immigration application free, but it may mean offering to have coffee with someone’s tenant who is unsure of how to bring their family to Canada from their home country.
Setting up a business is a big step, perhaps a bigger step than becoming an immigration consultant. Taking the time to think about what you want from the business beforehand will allow you to plan and envision your business more clearly to help make it successful in the future.