The dream of working in the immigration consulting field can look different to each person depending upon their overall view and career goals. For some, the ultimate vision is to establish their own immigration consulting firm. It’s a great time to consider this opportunity with the federal immigration numbers at significant highs and no signs of the flow of people wanting to come to Canada slowing soon.
Before rushing out to secure an office and have a sign made with your business name on it, you’ll want to consider the basics that will help make you successful in the industry. We’ve looked at the process of setting up an immigration business and have come up with 5 steps to help ensure a positive outcome.
- Perhaps the most important, and possibly obvious, step is to take an immigration consultant program. You’ll want to be sure that the immigration consultant program you choose is accredited by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) and that it is proven to help students understand immigration’s law and practice. It’s also important that the program has been around for a while so that there is a track record of instructor, school and student success when it comes to the immigration consultant program offered.
Education is the first part of becoming a regulated Canadian immigration consultant. You will also need to prove your legal residency status, take a language proficiency exam, apply to write the regulated consultants exam (approval is granted based on your completion of an immigration consultant program and your other information) and then write and pass the exam. Once you successfully complete the exam, there are other steps to follow with the ICCRC in order to achieve regulation (these steps are laid out for you at https://www.canada.ca/en.html).
- Consider how you want your business to look and develop a business plan around that overall vision. There are many sources for business plans and following a template is one of the easiest ways to proceed. This will allow you to consider various aspects of your business such as who will be involved in running it, who you want your primary customers to be, your expected revenues and expenses and how you plan to attract business.
The step of creating a business plan can be daunting and many people don’t bother with it, but don’t overlook its significance to the outcome of your business! Think of it as a recipe. This is something new that you’ve never done before. If you had never baked a pie before, would you try to do it without a recipe? Probably not. Developing your business is the same. You want to create the recipe for a successful business. However, like a recipe, you have the ability to make changes as you go. What you want for your business plan is an outline of how you see the business right now. As things proceed and potentially change from that vision you can update the plan to work with those changes.
- Make use of the information, materials and events put on by ICCRC which you are entitled to as a member. Remember that being in business on your own doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. There may be things you’ve included in your business plan that you have no idea how to do or how to start. This is part of creating something brand new. Take advantage of the things others have done before, what they learned when they set up their business and look to the ICCRC. Because this organization is the registration body for all registered immigration consultants in Canada, there is a wealth of knowledge available to you.
Reach out to other members and ask for advice. Attend networking events and find others who are at the same point of creating a business as you and work together to support each other in your growth. Read the information included on the ICCRC site. There are many ways to make use of the education and experience of those who are also part of the organization.
- Build up your communication skills and get good at succinctly explaining what you do and who you do it for. Chances are, when you did your business plan, you decided you’d like to help a certain group of people immigrate to Canada. Maybe these are people in the healthcare industry; perhaps these are individuals with family who are coming from Asia; or they might be potential immigrants from India who want to establish a business in Canada. Whoever your target market is, you’ll want to be able to explain that.
Some people will call this your “elevator pitch.” You can create this by filling in the blanks of this statement:
“I help <the type of people you want to assist> with the process of immigrating to Canada so that they <the benefit you want your clients to have from immigrating>. I do this by <your strongest skill – perhaps it’s simplifying the process of immigration or it may be that you get to know them and understand their unique needs>.”
Other communication skills are as just as important. You need to be able to communicate directly with your clients and get to know how to ask the questions to obtain the information you need to complete their applications. You’ll also need to learn ways to communicate with others in the immigration process.
Most importantly, you want to communicate that you care to your potential clients. Show empathy for their situation and desires and your genuine willingness to help.
- Ask for help along the way. The first two years of a business are the hardest and many potentially successful immigration consultants give up when they face challenges they aren’t sure of how to handle. Take the time to build up a network of others who are self-employed (not necessarily only in immigration). By having a group of supporters, who you in return support, you can share challenges and ask for help with the problems you face. As mentioned above, being in business on your own doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. It’s always a better idea to ask for help when you need it.
You have the ability to create a successful immigration consultant business if you take a well-established immigration consultant program and create a plan. Get to know what your dreams are for your business and ask for help as your pursue them.