Is the grind of a corporate career starting to wear you down? One of the best ways to increase your personal freedom and improve your career is by going from being an employee to operating your own independent consultancy business.
While becoming a consultant introduces new challenges, it also introduces a huge range of new opportunities. In this guide, we’ll share nine tips to show you how to become a consultant and succeed as an independent professional.
Do you want to break out from your current career and become an independent consultant? Learn how to change your professional life and enjoy more freedom with our Redesign Your Career course.
Leverage your skills and professional experience
What are you good at? More importantly, what are you great at? Corporate clients look for two things in a consultant: a skill set that will help their business grow, and the professional experience to work well as part of a large team.
If you’re transitioning into a consulting career from the professional world, you’ve already got both of these qualities. When you market your services to clients, focus on the experience you have working within a professional, corporate environment.
Connect with your prospects and show them the value you can offer. Be proactive and locate the influencers within your target business. Leverage your professional skills and don’t be afraid to network to find good opportunities for growth.
Networking is one of the best ways to grow your clients base as a consultant. If you have a professional network from your previous career, use it! If you need to start from scratch, use the networking secrets with Leveraging Links.
Ask your existing or previous clients for testimonials
In order to market yourself as a consultant, you need to be able to prove to target clients that you’re a reliable choice. The best marketing tool for persuading clients to choose you is a testimonial from someone similar to them.
Reach out to your previous employers and past clients to ask for a testimonial that you can use to market your consulting services. Try and acquire a range of different testimonials from small and mid-sized businesses as well as large companies.
This way, you’ll have a perfect testimonial ready whenever you send out a proposal to a business you’re interested in working with. If you don’t have any former clients to reach out to, consider doing small projects to build a new client base.
Not sure how to ask your existing clients for testimonials? Learn How to Interview Your Customers to survey your clients and learn how they feel about your skills, knowledge and abilities.
Focus on acquiring a ‘base’ of dependable clients
When you’re an independent consultant, you don’t have the income security of full time employment to fall back on. Because of this, it’s important to build a ‘base’ of clients that you can depend on to work with you for the long term.
Before you focus on maximizing your consultancy’s revenue and landing big clients, create a monthly income goal and focus on acquiring small but reliable clients that can help you achieve it.
As an independent consultant, it’s best not to rely too much on one client for your base income. Focus on building a ‘base’ client roster of at least five different clients so that you’re insulated from the consequences of losing a major source of income.
Do you need help building your ‘base’ of clients? Learn how to market yourself and find consulting clients that work with you over the long term in our course, How to Create an Online Brand That Gets You Clients and Jobs.
Work out how much your time is really worth
Not so, and for two reasons. Firstly, you’re going to be spending significantly more of your time marketing your services, most of which will be unpaid. Secondly, the type of clients you want to attract can afford much more than you think they can.
Instead of pricing your consulting services based on your target hourly income, use the value that you can offer your clients as a guide to how much you’re worth. Think of how much you can give them, not how much they can afford to pay you.
Are you still stuck in the salary mentality? Learn how to calculate the value of your skills, knowledge and time like a product and maximize your consulting earnings with How to Price Your Product or Service With Confidence.
Partner with businesses that complement yours
As an independent consultant, your business challenge will be acquiring clients that can afford to work with you on a long-term basis. One of the best ways to locate new clients in very little time is by partnering with a business that complements yours.
Reach out to businesses that complement yours and offer them a referral fee for any clients they can send your way. Make sure to target businesses that complement you, not businesses that compete with you.
For example, if you’re a digital marketing consultant, your target client is a business that wants to improve their online sales. A good complementary business for you is a web design agency, since they offer a different service to the same type of client.
Think about the type of businesses your target market is already working with, and develop a system that benefits you and them. In return for their help, you can refer clients you source on your own that could benefit from the services they offer.
Have you never partnered with another business before? Learn the best techniques for locating and connecting with businesses that complement yours to build referral partnerships in our course, How to Gain Joint Venture Partners.
Focus on a small but lucrative niche market
Is your consultancy part of a highly competitive industry? If you’re trying to break into an industry where there’s entrenched competition, focus on dominating a tiny niche before you expand into new niches.
For example, the legal services industry is incredibly competitive. Aside from large corporate law firms, independent lawyers also need to deal with an immense level of competition from other lawyers running businesses just like theirs.
Because of this, many lawyers offer a niche legal service. They specialize in digital intellectual property protection for musicians and filmmakers. Or they only work with restaurants, bars and other businesses in the hospitality industry.
This type of niche-based marketing isn’t just for lawyers. As a marketing consultant, you can brand your services to appeal to local businesses. You can even focus on one industry, and offer targeted marketing services just for doctors, dentists or lawyers.
It’s much easier to break into a small industry than it is to conquer a big one. Make your small size a benefit rather than a disadvantage by focusing on a niche within a larger market before you think about expanding your consultancy business.
Can you think of a niche market that could benefit from your services? Learn how to identify small markets with big opportunities and market your consultancy business to high quality clients in our Niche Marketing Made Easy course.
Create systems to make yourself more productive
As your consultancy business grows, you’ll find it harder to stay on top of every task by yourself. Because of this, it’s essential that you create easily replicable systems to manage basic tasks like invoicing, responding to emails and finding new clients.
Systems are the difference between a small business that’s completely dependent on you and a dynamic business that can grow beyond you. The best consultancies have a system for everything and run so smoothly the owner plays only a passive role.
Can’t think of what to systematize first? Ask yourself a simple question: which tasks do you sink the most time into, yet receive the fewest benefits from? From invoicing clients to responding to emails, even the simplest tasks can be systematized.
Beyond improving productivity, creating systems is important for ensuring you can continue to grow your business. If you play a managerial role in your consultancy in the future, systematizing tasks makes it easier to assign work to other employees.
Ready to start? Write down a list of the five tasks that you spend the most time on at the moment and commit to systematizing them right now. Then, use the techniques in our Productivity Booster course to automate or simplify them within minutes.
Don’t be afraid to outsource simple, repetitive tasks
Not all tasks can be automated. Some, such as verifying leads or researching growth opportunities, require human analysis and expertise. If you can’t automate a simple or repetitive business process, why not outsource it instead?
Websites like Elance, Freelancer.com and oDesk mean that you can access a massive selection of administrative assistants, researchers and data entry professionals with ease. Many of these professionals are productive, highly skilled and very affordable.
Remember the list of five repetitive tasks you wrote down in the previous tip? Enter the task you like doing the least into the search box on Elance.com and track down a freelance professional that you can outsource it to.
Then, once you’ve found a skilled and reliable freelancer to manage one task, start outsourcing other repetitive business processes. Any task that you can systematize can be outsourced and automated, often for less than $10 per hour.
Have you never outsourced work before? Learn how to separate reliable freelancers from timewasters and enjoy stress-free business process outsourcing in our course, Use Outsourcing to Become More Productive & More Profitable!
Focus on doing more business with existing clients
How much is your average client worth? If you’re trying to increase the amount of revenue your consultancy business generates, it’s often far easier to increase your average customer value than acquire new customers.
As a consultant, your value is your ability to make life easier for your clients. What else can you do to help them run their businesses more efficiently? What additional value can you offer to them?
When you acquire new clients, you also acquire a variety of repetitive tasks to take care of. Every month, you have more invoices to send out, more late-payers to call, more emails to respond to and more transactions to monitor.
When you increase the value of your existing clients, in contrast, your baseline of administrative tasks remains the same while your revenue increases. Since you’re working with people you already know, building trust is much less of a factor.
Turning small clients into valuable accounts is one of the most powerful ways to grow your consultancy business. Learn more business development tips for your consultancy business in our course, How to Market Yourself as a Consultant.
Are you ready to start your consultancy business?
Moving from the comfort and stability of a professional career into the uncertainty and risk of a consultancy business can be terrifying. However, with the tactics and techniques above, you can turn almost all of the risks into lucrative opportunities.
Would you like to learn more about building a successful consulting business? Read our blog posts on becoming an Internet marketing consultant and finding consultant jobs for detailed information on developing a successful consulting career.