It's been suggested to me that I get into consulting and I am interested in the possibility of becoming an independent consultant, but I'm not sure where to start and how I would structure my rates. Most of the people I give professional and business advice to usually happen to be startups, particularly of the social enterprise and nonprofit kind, and individuals who don't have that much money to invest. Is this a valid concern or something that isn't as much of a concern as I'm making it out to be? I'm also not sure how to hone in on my expertise and make it obvious. I would love answers that even address any of those concerns, or if you see something else in my comments that I don't yet. Thanks for your help!
STOP!!! DON'T DO IT. GO GET A REAL JOB!! PLEASE!
You don't plan to be a consultant. You become a consultant because the experience and wisdom you have is so obvious that those around you are eager to pay you for your insight. It's a calling -- not a job.
Giving your "business advice" to a startup is like telling a 2-year-old to go "poo poo in th potty" -- anyone can do it. You just have to be a little bit more sophisticated than a baby.
To service people who have money (and who are serious about how they spend that money) you need to take you game to a whole new level. I suggest you intern or partner with an amazing consultant who does this already. Learn. Do the gritty work that no one else is wiling to do.
Everyone is a coach. Right? Drink a beer on game day and you supposedly know more than than the dude on the sidelines with the clipboard. But is that "really" the case? Of course not...
DON'T BE A COACH. BE A LEADER.
I agree with Laura's recommendations.
I've been involved in ECommerce for over 13+ years and only recently, I decided to start consulting part-time to test the waters. I must say that it's a learning process (but it's fun!). I had the same questions you have currently. The way I started is pretty simple: for my rates, I simply charged close enough to what I'm currently getting paid at my job. From there, I targeted clients whom I feel I can truly help within my industry. But in regards to focusing on a specific expertise, I'm still playing with that. I recommend you start helping all sorts of clients and from there you will be able to know which type of clientele you want to work with and the type of skill you excel at.
I've joined many blogs that talk about consulting, joined many Facebook groups/forums where potential clients are interacting and started helping them. I reached out to many conferences and offered myself as a speaker. I am getting my name out and I can truly say it's actually working (I'm still learning too). It's not easy but all u can tell you is just start and you will adjust when needed. I keep changing my rates & services every month.
Hope this helps. We can certainly talk more about the details within my consulting journey :)
It's a great question, for sure. (My background: was a software consultant then a marketing consultant, total of 5 years of consulting. Now inhouse, never was a fulltime freelance consultant).
If you're not sure what your expertise is, I'd say FT freelance consulting might not be the right gig for you right now. Instead, maybe try working for an agency for a bit to find what you are really good at. Then start putting yourself out there on the Internet to start attracting those clients (through blogging, relevant online forums, etc). I've never been fulltime freelance as I said, but I still get multiple freelance inquiries a week even though I've not done freelance work in over a year.
The business stuff - ie how much to charge, how to structure projects, etc - can be learned. But you need to learn how to drive demand and show your expertise first. Honestly I'd recommend doing a lot of reading on inbound marketing, conversion rate optimization (which gets into psychology), and how to generate traffic online.
Hope all this helps. Happy to hop on a quick call to hash through ideas if you'd like!
It's rarely spoken but always true - that which comes easiest to you is your power place, and the place from which you can best assist others. Taking the time to get deep clarity on your power place and the core values which would form the foundation of your consultant work is the first step. It's also the step most skip as they dive right into the framework, the target market, the ROI and pricing questions.
In my experience mentoring coaches and consultants, that cart before the horse process is common and sets you up for future struggles. All your questions can and will be answered if you first go through the business development process starting with your foundational exploration.
(And yes, keep your job while you explore, create your foundation and framework and then ramp up to a full-time income. You don't have to shadow another in your field, though it could be enlightening).
Understanding your value is the cornerstone of your future consulting practice. The who and why are people going to hire you has to be obvious. Once you've figured out your value then you need to assign a price that is consistent with that value. Here is my example: http://catapultgrp.ca/engagements/
World has expanded and so has business, which now encompasses countries big and small. International business involves those business transactions that involve the crossing of national boundaries. International business is characterized by product presence in different markets, production base across the globe and investment in international services like banking, advertising, tourism, retailing and construction. There are human resource challenges associated with international business operations resulting due high diversity of work force and cross-cultural influences. International Trade is the branch of economics concerned with the exchange of goods and services with foreign countries. As economies across the globe strive to attract foreign direct investment to boost their economy, international business operations have assumed greater significance. There has been a drastic transformation in the global business ecosystem now. Earlier, innovations were confined to Western nations. Now, companies in the West are looking at emerging economies for innovations due to the cost advantages. Emerging economies like India offer benefits like a skilled and competent workforce who can be hired at a much lesser cost than similar workforce in the West. Developed economies are now aspiring to penetrate the markets of emerging economies like Brazil, China, India, and South Africa. As multi-national corporations expand their footprint across the globe, environmental issues, and challenges of making peace with communities in developing nations is also shooting in prominence. As world markets integrate and geographical barriers diminish, businesses across the globe are compelled to explore markets outside the home country to scale up the business. Investment policies of nations have become more supportive and trade barriers have diminished. International business comprises all the commercial activities intended to promote the transfer of goods, services, resources, people, ideas and technologies across national boundaries. The study of international business involves understanding the effects of these activities on domestic and foreign markets, countries, governments, companies, and individuals.
International businesses need to recognize the diversity of the global marketplace. They must be adept in handling the risks of doing business in a global market that is characterized by uncertainties and risks. This is where a consultant comes in the scene. A consultant is a person who is an expert in a particular field who gives professional advice to individuals and businesses in their area of expertise.
To become a Consultant, you must follow these steps:
1. Identify your area of expertise: Be honest about where your strengths and expertise lie and consider strengths outside your nine-to-five focus. Maybe you have a landscaping side hustle with enough client demand to take it full time. Or perhaps you are good at closing difficult deals in the medical sales industry so good that your colleagues are always asking for help.
Ask yourself three questions to identify your niche:
1. "Do I have a unique point of view?"
2. "Do I have the experience necessary to be authoritative in this field?"
3. "Is there demand for this service?"
Being a consultant requires you to be organized, self-motivated, and good at boundary setting. Before launching your website and accepting your first client, consider your ability to meet these demands. You might identify the perfect niche, but if you cannot meet independent deadlines or manage a billing cycle, you might not be ready to become a consultant. To find your consulting specialty, consider areas you excel in at work, projects you have gotten high marks on in performance reviews, or hobbies you have mastered outside the office. You should also factor in what you enjoy -- if you are doing this full-time, it needs to be an activity you are passionate about.
2. Set goals: Setting goals helps you know what you are working towards. Do you want this to stay a nights-and-weekends project? Do you hope to turn it into a full-time business? Do you want to hire employees someday? Answer these questions and plan accordingly.
Once you have identified broad goals for your business, narrow your focus to more immediate needs. To do this, make sure your goals are SMART:
1) Specific: Clearly define what you want to accomplish
2) Measurable: Identify targets and milestones to track progress
3) Attainable: Keep goals realistic and manageable
4) Relevant: Set goals that fit with your business model
5) Time-Based: Identify deadlines for your goals
Here is an example of SMART goals for a consultant who coaches sales teams to be better at cold outreach:
1) Specific: I will coach SMB sales teams on how to make better calls, send higher quality emails, and follow up in an effective manner. The result will be more qualified opportunities for reps resulting in more closed business and higher revenue for the organization.
2) Measurable: Success will be measured by increased client pipeline and percentage of client deals closed as well as referrals for my business.
3) Attainable: I have three clients already and bring in an average of one new referral every month. I know there is demand for my service, and this cadence is manageable for my workload and operating budget right now.
4) Relevant: This business model fits my skill set and allows me to benefit from my success with sales outreach as identified by myself, my co-workers, and my supervisors.
a) November 15: Website goes live
b) December 1: Review previous month's work and ask for at least one referral
c) December 5: Send client bills for the previous month's work
d) December 15: Have all coaching sessions scheduled before this date in anticipation for holiday schedules
As your consultancy grows, so will your plans. Revisit your SMART goals on a monthly or quarterly basis and adjust them as needed.
3. Make a website: A recent Local Search Association report finds that 63% of consumers use websites to find or engage with businesses, and 30% of those consumers will not consider a business without a website.
Also, if you have a site, Google gives your business more authority in local rankings. Creating a Google My Business profile is not enough. A website that is optimized with backlinks, domain authority, and views will encourage Google to display your website in relevant searches. Services like WordPress and Squarespace make it easy to build a website, and GoDaddy allows you to lock down a domain name. And if you want a tool that will help you do everything from tracking incoming leads to booking meetings and will grow with your business, try HubSpot. Your website is the first impression of your business. Invest time here and see the returns for years to come.
4. Get certified: Are there certifications that will give you an edge? For example, if you are a consultant for medical sales professionals, consider pursuing accreditation in one of HIDA's Medical Sales programs. If your specialty is coaching teams to be better at outreach, consider getting an Inbound Sales Certification from HubSpot. Whether software-, skills-, or subject matter-specific certifications, find out what is important in your industry and invest in expanding your knowledge base. As a consultant, it is crucial to remain cutting edge and competitive in your niche, and certifications are a concrete way to demonstrate your drive.
5. Choose a target market: Once you have identified your niche, be clear about who your target audience is. For example, if you help start-up sales teams navigate early-stage scaleup, home in on your target market by answering these five questions:
1. "Where is my target audience located?" (Will you serve local clients only? Will you accept national or regional clients? Will you exclude international clients?)
2. "What are their biggest pain points?" (What has driven them to search for your help? What are their daily roadblocks to suggest? What are their scaling challenges?)
3. "Who is competing for their business?" (Who are your biggest competitors and how do your services measure up? What sets you apart?)
4. "Am I targeting start-ups themselves the individual sales managers?" (Will you reach out to businesses or network to individuals through local meetups or LinkedIn outreach?)
5. "What motivates my target audience?" (What is your audience's end goal by choosing your services? What do they hope to achieve for their team and for themselves?)
Getting specific about who your customer is and what is important to them allows you to provide superior service and reach clients who are the perfect match. Once you have decided that office space will truly benefit your business, consider what kind of space is right for your needs. Coworking spaces like We Work and Galvanize are staples of many urban environments. They give you access to shared or small workspaces, as well as meeting rooms and amenities, at a lower monthly rate than traditional office spaces. They also give you another way to network and benefit from those around you.
6. Network with people: Referrals are a crucial way to grow your business, but they are not the only way. Unlike at a large company, you probably do not have a marketing team whose whole job it is to promote your business. Instead, selling the value of your consultancy often falls to you and you alone. Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups your audience frequents, write, and share blog posts highlighting your expertise, and attend meetups or conferences in your area. Be everywhere and talk to everyone who is a good fit for your offering. No one's going to sell you as well as you, so brush off that elevator pitch and get ready to sell yourself anything but short.
7. Set your rates: Deciding how much you will charge clients can be the hardest part of starting a consultancy. It is tempting to charge less than you are worth because you have not proven your results yet. Research what comparative consultants are charging in your area (sites like Glassdoor.com are great for this). And decide which of these common types of consultant pricing would most fairly compensate you for the work you are doing.
1) Double/triple your current hourly wage
2) Set a daily rate
3) Set fees by project
4) Set fees by performance
5) Set fees using data from previous client work
6) Set solution-based fees
Once you have decided what to charge, consider how you will bill clients and accept payment. There are many free and fee-based platforms -- like Invoicely, Freshbooks, and Due -- that allow you to automate billing cycles, track and manage invoices and payments, and run reports on weekly, quarterly, or yearly earnings.
8. Know when to say "no.": In the beginning, it's easy to say "yes" to every client and every request. Now more than ever, you want your work to be high quality, organized, and manageable. coming in at a manageable rate. Prospective customers will appreciate your honesty, and you will be able to maintain high-quality work at a cadence that does not threaten your sanity or existing client satisfaction. It is also difficult to turn down clients that are not a good fit. Be honest when you cannot meet a prospective client's needs and be proactive about introducing them to someone who can. They will benefit from a better match, and your business will not lose sight of what it does best.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call: https://clarity.fm/joy-brotonath