Starting a Business Consultancy
Consulting can be a very rewarding field, especially if you love the industry you work in. You get to choose the work you want to do within the career you want, and your clients view you as a trustworthy expert. If you have proven expertise in a subject area and want to be a consultant who guides others, you’re on the right track to being in business for yourself, doing what you love.
See Where You Stand
Before you start any business, it’s important to evaluate yourself so you know where you stand. This is especially true when you’re a consultant because your clients pay for your expertise. So take a few minutes to answer the questions below honestly:
- What kind of consulting do you plan on doing?
- What makes you an expert on the subject?
- What skills do you need to be successful?
- What degrees, certifications, job experience or other training do you have?
- Do people call to ask you important questions related to your field?
- Are you good at collecting unpaid bills?
- How do you feel about working long hours?
- How do you feel about being on call 24/7?
If you don’t have qualifications that make you an expert, you need to make plans to obtain the training you need to become a consultant in the future. However, if you have expertise, training and experience in the field in which you plan to do consulting and people call upon you on a regular basis to ask you for advice, there’s a good chance you would make an excellent consultant.
Develop a Consulting Business Plan
Regardless of where you are on your path to becoming a consultant, you need a business plan that outlines everything you need to start your business and manage it successfully. Anytime you start a business, it’s important to carefully think about whether you want people to pay you personally or if you want to file an LLC with the secretary of state to protect yourself and your credit by starting a limited liability company.
Make Your Business Official
If you are going to file an LLC, you can usually file online with the secretary of state in your state. Once you file your articles of incorporation, you can take your business documents to the bank and open a business bank account. This helps you keep your business and personal funds separate. Keeping funds separate is essential to retaining limited liability protection.
Check with your secretary of state and any agencies that govern your industry to see if there are any additional licenses you need to lawfully operate your business. If not, you’re ready to start developing your marketing plan, deciding rates, developing best practices for workflow, creating customer contract and developing develop an easy-to-use filing system.
Decide on Rates and Billing Method
Choosing your rates is extremely important. If you set your rates too high, people will not even call, but if you set your rates too low, people will not take you seriously. Ideally, you want to be somewhere between competitors, but you want to let your client know exactly what you will provide for the rate you have set.
You will likely need to be flexible with your billing methods. For example, some companies may want to pay you per hour, while others will want to pay you per project. If you’re not good at collecting outstanding payments, hire someone to do it for you, even if you just hire the person part-time to follow up on payments you have not received. This is extremely important. You need your money to cover business expenses and to pay other contractors you hire, as well as yourself.
Creating Your Brand
Creating your brand starts as soon as you start your brand, so, you really want to give this some consideration before you start your business. Your website, business vehicles and marketing materials should go together. Often, a customer will have your business card out when he or she looks up your website. When all of your materials flow together, they create a polished presentation and clients want to work with you.
Marketing Materials You Need
Marketing is crucial for any company, especially one that’s virtually unknown. This can be a relatively inexpensive way of getting the word out and keeping it out there.
Website, Social Media, Apps
Depending on what industry you’re working in, using creative web design, or even developing an app for your business, may be an important part of your businesses success. Also, you have to think about your social media accounts. It’s a good idea to carefully plan the content you’re sharing.
Business cards are extremely important. Your cards should be clean and easy to read. Your name, company name, contact information and a simple tagline that describes what services you offer should all be on the card. Do not put too much information on the card.
A Clever Brochure or Infographic
Brochures are a great way to give potential clients more information about the services you provide. They also give you the opportunity to provide more details information on your services and show clients why they need you. You can use a brochure or an infographic, depending on what you’re comfortable with and what you think your potential clients will relate to. However, this piece needs to be clever, well-executed, easy to explain and easy to understand.
Consider this your elevator pitch. It should answer all the client’s key questions. After all, successful consultants should be able to anticipate a client’s needs before the client knows he or she needs something. Some of the key things your “cheat sheet” needs to answer are:
- What makes you an expert?
- Why do we need you?
- What can you do for us that we cannot do for ourselves?
- Do you have special connections in the industry or anything else that could benefit your client?
Building Your Portfolio
When you’re first starting your consulting business, you won’t have a lot of work samples to put in your portfolio. However, you likely have personal projects you can include. Additionally, anyone who calls you on a regular basis to ask compliance and legal questions should not have a problem giving you a testimonial.
Calling to ask for a testimonial is an excellent way to introduce your new business and to talk about the services you are providing. It also does not hurt to ask the person if he or she knows anyone who would benefit from your services.
Check Craigslist and Forums
Craigslist jobs and gigs can provide you with work and potential clients, and discussion forums like Reddit and LinkedIn Groups give you opportunities to locate and start conversations with people talking about the services you provide.
Call Your Business Contacts
Call your business contacts to ask them what they’re doing now. This is another great way to tap into relationships you already have. Even if you’re working in a different industry, you can ask for professional references.
Send Emails to Friends and Family
Send a quick email to your friends and family letting them know what you’re doing now. Attach your brochure or infographic and contact information. Ask them to please forward the email to anyone they know who would benefit from your services.
New Client — Now What?
Selling a client on your services is a huge step. Make the most out of every experience by communicating with your clients regularly. Actually, you want to call them on the same day, at the same time, each week if possible. It shows them you’re on top of things and gives them an idea of when you’ll contact them. This is important because a client may have an issue but may not have had the opportunity to call you. However, they will make sure they answer when you call.
Additionally, sending a new client orientation email is a good idea. You can thank the client and let him or her know you look forward to working together to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Send a recap of the services you will provide. Also, send the following questions to gain insight into what they expect from you:
- What goals would you like me to help you reach?
- Have you worked with a professional consultant in the past?
- If yes, what was the most beneficial part of working with a consultant?
- What were you disappointed with?
Let them know when you will be calling each week, and make sure the time and day work for them.
Project Completed — Now What?
As soon as you finish a project, send an email recapping the project, along with reports showing preliminary results. Ask the client if he or she has any questions, requests or concerns at this time. And, of course, thank him or her for working with you.
Always Stay Organized
Develop best practices as you go along to help you keep things organized. Create lists of weekly, semimonthly and monthly tasks to stay on top of marketing and compliance issues. Complete tasks on a specific schedule. Use your phone calendar, and set alarms for important tasks.
Tasks to Complete Monthly
- Address compliance issues
- Complete continuing education and training classes
- Follow up with potential clients
- Call on past-due accounts
Tools to Keep Everything Straight
- Trello — app to organize lists.
- Slack — collaboration app that allows users to collaborate in real time.
- Smartphone calendar — use to set reminders and schedule events
- Mailtracks — shows when your email is opened
New consultants need to be vigilant about developing easy-to-follow instructions and best practices for all work. This can be difficult at first. However, if you make the effort, in the long run, your hard work will pay off. Furthermore, the consulting sector of the employment market continues to grow, and experts project further growth as well.
Growing Consulting Positions
Business consulting is a growing industry, and there are many types of consultants. Some consulting roles are more traditional, while others are innovative and dynamic. Consulting is definitely becoming a totally different field today. Technology is playing a huge part in the industry changes. Plus, more companies are hiring consultants to assist with technology, workflow and employee management. Below are some of the new roles consultants have taken on and consulting roles that are becoming increasingly popular.
Today’s companies are looking to outside consultants more to help them organize their critical business processes. Below is a list of things an organizational consultant might help their customers with:
- Streamline workflow
- Incorporate technology to save resources and lower overhead cost
- Restructure job roles to benefit each department within the company
Product Development Consultants
Product development consultants have been assisting businesses with the development of projects for decades. Some of the key roles of product consultants are:
- Assisting with the development of new products
- Developing plans for marketing products
- Conducting market research and study groups for new product feedback
- Helping with or overseeing the development of packaging
Today, branding is a huge part of a successful business. Therefore, many companies are hiring branding consultants to assist with:
- Helping companies develop their brand
- Overseeing web design themes
- Assisting with creating a brand story people relate to
Public and private schools across the United States are using educational consultants to:
- Evaluate teachers in their classrooms
- Assist teachers by helping them become more effective educators
These are just a handful of the many ways consultants are helping businesses become better companies. A great consultant sees things before the client does. Everyone benefits from the assistance of an expert, and as a consultant, you must take your ongoing education seriously within the fields you represent. By continuing your education, staying at the forefront of trends, networking and connecting with the right people and managing your consulting business diligently, you are an asset to everyone you work with.
If you need some assistance getting your consulting business off the ground, you may want to consider an online lender. There are excellent resources, business loan solutions and competitive rates to help you take your consulting business to the next level.