Could you be a successful AI consultant?

With artificial intelligence rapidly transforming business, there is a high demand for guidance on implementing AI solutions, especially for small businesses without dedicated resources. So could you provide that guidance? This article discusses the demand for an AI consulting service and the skills you would need to make a successful consultant.

Firstly, the demand is certainly there. A December 2023 report from the US Small Business and Entrepreneur Council (SBEC) shows that nearly half of small businesses started using AI tools in the past year and 29% have been using them for one to two years, saving hundreds of billions of dollars annually in the process. So small businesses are a key target audience for an AI consultant, since they often lack the expertise and resources to navigate the AI landscape effectively by themselves.

But the rapid surge of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT has left many businesses uncertain about how or even whether to adopt such technologies. This immediately creates a need for guidance on their potential applications and impact.

As an AI consultant, you could help them identify suitable solutions, develop implementation strategies aligned with their goals and budgets and ensure best practise is followed. For example, a food processing factory might seek automation to streamline processes and develop new products and marketing departments across all sectors might explore AI for content creation, while maintaining brand tone and audience connection.

Will you be seen as credible? Having a relevant background, such as a degree in IT, computer science, maths or statistics can give you an advantage. Certifications such as Certified Artificial Intelligence Consultant from companies including IBM and Amazon can further enhance your qualifications. However, many businesses will pay more attention to the ideas you present and your track record, than your paper qualifications. Technical skills are essential but effective communication, storytelling abilities and project management skills are equally valuable if you want to be taken seriously as a consultant.

The global Artificial Intelligence (AI) Consulting 2023 report projected the global AI consulting market to grow from US $93.5 billion in 2022 to US $630.6 billion by 2029, driven by increasing AI adoption across industries. Industry-specific AI implementation, such as network optimisation in communications and the convergence of AI with technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain present additional opportunities.

A good general guideline is to absolutely prioritise your understanding of clients' specific problems, focusing on a particular industry or use case and offering personalised, affordable AI solutions to that target market. Remember that AI consulting cannot offer off the shelf solutions to every business. For example, the three examples of sector-specific services below would need relevant expertise from any consultant wanting to service such a market.

  • Business AI consulting: Advising companies on AI implementation, platform selection, budgeting, copyright, representation and other ethical considerations. This model is suitable for solo entrepreneurs building a client base and reputation.
  • Healthcare AI consulting: Provision of expertise in healthcare AI to guide businesses in exploring new medical treatments, patient care, mental health, fitness, data and health records and medical insurance.
  • AI marketing consulting for small businesses: Helping businesses use AI for marketing while maintaining a human and personable approach to all communications.
In conclusion, people are certainly providing services such as generative AI, data science consulting, AI prototyping and AI solution architecture across various industries, right now. So could you be one of them? If you can truthfully answer Yes to questions about whether you understand the importance of listening to clients, understanding their unique situations and developing tailored solutions rather than following standard blueprints, then you already have the core qualities you need to be a successful AI consultant. Once you start, concentrate on building trust, delivering results and staying up to date in an extremely rapidly developing ecosystem. If you can do all this, you have a decent chance of a rewarding career path in AI consulting.

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