Consulting is a dream for many entrepreneurs. It offers the flexibility of being your own boss as well as being in charge of some big changes within a business setting. You can help businesses grow to their full potential and flourish. There’s a lot of satisfaction that comes from such a job. However, starting a consulting business is difficult to say the least. Networking and finding great clients is one of the hardest parts, not to mention the challenge of maintaining a powerful reputation.
Most people looking to build a consulting business do so under the assumption that they need several years of experience to do the job right. Though this is true most of the time, there are some consultants who get their starts early on.
Sam Ovens is a great example. He built a $10 million consulting business with an emphasis on startups by the time he was just 26 years old. He only had his degree and a few years of experience to back him, but people put their faith in his profound knowledge and confidence, and he continues to help hundreds grow their businesses and find success just like him.
Age, inexperience, lack of confidence and other obstacles will always try to get in the way of building a profitable and flexible consulting business, but you shouldn’t let that happen. With a little grunt work and a dedication to achieve your dream no matter what, you can build a very rewarding business. Here are some key tips for doing just that.
1. Create a Strategy for Your Deliverable
Every business has a deliverable that clients or customers purchase. As a consultant, your deliverable is knowledge, but that’s not something you can exactly bottle and sell to the highest bidder. You need an organized strategy for sharing that knowledge. Usually, this comes in the form of a plan you’ll show to clients. The plan can be altered at any time to meet the needs of specific customers, but it will be the means by which you make your money and show clients you can handle whatever they throw at you.
2. Learn How to Sell Yourself
You are the business and product that you’re marketing. You have to make yourself look good, even if it’s a little uncomfortable to talk yourself up. Be trustworthy, show that you’re worth every penny, and turn yourself into an iconic brand to attract more clients and build your business.
3. Be a People Person
You’ll be working with people directly, every single day. This isn’t a job where you can sit at home and work on your computer without talking to anyone. You’ll spend a lot of time talking to people face-to-face, over the phone, through email, and through other forms of communication. Your personality should be pleasant and accommodating to win the respect of your clients and potentials.
4. Always Try to Win Over Clients
According to marketer and ecommerce consultant Neil Patel, “The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them.” There’s a very high churn rate for consulting companies, and it will take a constant effort to keep your clients in your court. Keep trying to offer the right support and advice, even after the initial deal is closed. This is most often achieved with weekly calls, monthly surveys, reports, clearly stated expectations, and other methods of good branding that keep clients content with your services.
5. Be Confident in Yourself as a Brand
Oftentimes this principle involves an attitude of “fake it till you make it.” Confidence is the key to building a brand that will stand the test of time. If you show confidence in your own skills, your clients will follow you and tell their friends.
6. Look the Part
No one will be interested in a business consultant whose dress and grooming is sloppy and lazy. They don’t want to hire someone to fix a disorganized business if the consultant is disheveled and lacks polish. Clients are leaving their businesses in a consultant’s hand, and poor dress and grooming doesn’t exactly engender confidence.
Shop for a wardrobe that’s tailored and professional. A haircut, polished hairstyle, and light makeup (if applicable) are also recommended. If you’re not sure how to tackle this change in your appearance, consider hiring an appearance consultant.
7. Be Flexible
You have the ability to set flexible hours and work wherever you want for most of your job. Use some of that flexibility to help your customers. Clients appreciate your ability to work with them, and when you’re just starting out, offering a little bend in your time and policies (within reason) can increase brand awareness and improve the reputation of your brand as you get your start.
8. Make Relationships the Focus
Too many consultants focus more on revenues rather than relationships, but your entire business is based on people who crave individualized attention. Always approach a new client meeting with a discussion of specific needs and problem solving rather than jumping straight to costs.
9. Get Used to Picky Clients
Your clients will often be picky and cranky, which is fairly understandable if their business is in need of your consultancy services. You’ll often go back and forth with clients as you try to figure out the best solution for both parties. Be prepared for disappointment and recognize that it’s not always a reflection on you. Some people have a hard time being happy in any situation.
10. Get Back Up
You’ll fall and fail, but you have to get up again. Like any startup, the failures are what teach you how to run a more successful business. You’ll learn from those failures and use that knowledge to make your consultant startup a rousing success.