Creating a Successful Consulting Business From the Ground Up
If you’re one of the many people who dream of owning their own business, starting a consulting firm is a great way to leverage your career experience while enjoying the freedom and independence of working for yourself. However, like any startup, the majority of consulting businesses don’t last. Competition can be fierce in many sectors and, perhaps more importantly, many people underestimate the amount of work involved in running and marketing a business.
That’s not to say even a modest consulting startup can’t be a success. Before you branch out on your own, it’s important to know what to expect and make strategic choices that will position you for success.
Creating a Niche for Yourself
Consultants work in all fields and provide everything from accounting, marketing, and general business advice to industry-specific support. If you are offering a more general service, be aware that you will be competing with a larger pool of consulting firms. Instead, think about narrowing your focus to something you know intimately.
If your expertise is IT, consider positioning yourself as an IT specialist for a single industry — automotive, real estate or retail, for example. While it may seem restrictive to specialize in this manner, if you distinguish yourself in one type of service, you will become the go-to person for all businesses that require it. Let your experience and understanding of your field guide you.
Building Up Your Network of Customers
The work of starting a consulting business should begin well before you leave your current job. Build up relationships with people you can reach out to when you go out on your own. While you may not be able to take your current clients with you, people you’ve worked with in the past may be able to refer others who can use your services. Be sure not to burn any bridges when you leave your job — if you remain on good terms, your coworkers and managers can serve as valuable references in the future.
Sites like LinkedIn are a great way to network electronically. Spending a little time maintaining your online presence and staying active in your professional community can establish you as a thought leader and authority in your field.
Setting Clear Prices and Sticking to Them
Many new consultants make the mistake of undercutting their prices to build their client base quickly. While possibly beneficial in the short run, this strategy can severely limit the future of your business. As your reputation grows, you want to have the resources available to take on prestigious, lucrative projects — something you can’t do if you’re busy with low-paying clients.
Establish a pricing structure you are comfortable with and stick to it. Your time is valuable. If you believe that and take yourself seriously, your clients will too.
Creating a Professional Image
Consulting is all about gaining the trust of your clients. Your business needs to look professional. That means having a well-designed website, business cards, and marketing materials. But one area consultants frequently overlook is their phone presence.
As a busy consultant, a large portion of the initial conversations you have with clients will take place over the phone. For a startup, virtual phone services are a cost-effective way to put your best face forward when people call in. They allow consultants to appear more established by creating the impression of a formal office with a virtual receptionist directing calls to you even when you’re on your cell phone.
Making the Leap
Running a successful consulting startup requires well-defined expertise, networking skills, sound financial planning, and a professional phone presence. To learn about AccessDirect’s phone system offerings for consultants, please keep browsing our website or contact our office to speak with a team member directly.