How to Start a
How to Start a Consulting Business has the strategies, systems, and tools to help anyone start a consulting business or build their existing consulting business into a thriving six- and seven-figure business.
As someone new to consulting this is your map to starting and building a thriving consulting business. As an experienced consultant, this guide will show you how to accelerate your consulting business and create more independence.
Consulting is one of the most profitable and satisfying careers available when you build your business correctly. This guide and resources will help you build a thriving consulting business that is satisfying and profitable.
Almost all experts find it takes much longer than they thought to build their consulting business. Even experienced, practicing consultant gets trapped in a loop of feast-or-famine that drives them to work too hard, then face periods of no clients. This guide shows you the systems, strategies, and tools to keep your consulting business from those problems.
Starting Your Consulting Business
Starting and building a successful consulting business takes years of work. This guide and blogs can save you years in building a successful six-or seven-figure consulting business. If you are a practicing consultant, this guide will help you build proven systems that keep your prospect pipeline full. It shows you how to build the recurring revenue you need for a stable income and greater independence.
The consulting business ideas, strategies, and tips in this guide and the course come from 30+ years experience consulting with Global 1000 and Fortune 1000 companies, two years researching the difference between high-income and average independent consultants, and the proven business systems in use by Silicon Valley startups.
What is Consulting?
The business of consulting is straightforward – as a consultant, you use your expertise and experience to help others make decisions, solve problems, and sometimes execute the plan.
Having been an independent consultant for 30+ years, I can say that in “most cases,” consulting is a lot of fun. It’s intellectually exciting and challenging, and when done right, it produces a great sense of contribution combined with high income and personal independence.
Average consultants earn more than their peers in industry and boast a higher job satisfaction rate as well. High earning consultants are off the charts in earnings and in job satisfaction rates.
The purpose of this guide and the Starting and Building a Thriving Consulting Business course is to show you how to be a high earning, high satisfaction independent consultant.
The Stages in Starting and Building a Successful Consulting Business
There are many great reasons to become a consultant. There are few business opportunities with such high potential and low risk for someone who has prepared well. And, it provides a great independent lifestyle.
There are few business opportunities with such
high potential and low risk.
A consulting business’ growth usually occurs in stages that build upon each other. Some consultants skip a stage but later find their business stalls or fails, and they have to rebuild their foundation to create the stage they missed.
This guide and the course help you through each stage of building a thriving consulting business.
Click to jump ahead to a stage,
Starting a consulting business is far easier and far more profitable when you find a niche where you can make a valuable impact and can become known.
Working in your best type of consulting and in the right niche are critical to personal
and business success!
You want to select one or more niches where,
While you can guess about which niche is best, the wrong guess could waste years of your life and lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost opportunities.
During the pandemic, recessions and recovery it is critical you target niches that where you can give high value solutions, regardless of the business situation. In the detailed chapter on niches and the blog and LinkedIn post series, you will learn there are opportunities for consulting in most well selected niches, whether they are growing or declining.
Be sure to follow the links for help on building a thriving consulting and independent professional business during the COVID-19 pandemic, recession and recovery.
Finding the right niche may sound daunting, but there are proven steps you can take to find a niche that gives you great income and independence.
Using a little research and a grid to match your skills and impact to niches is a much better approach. It also enables you to validate the niche before spending too much time and map how you can expand once you are in a niche.
2. Finding Your Ideal Consulting Clients and their Pain Points
To build a thriving consulting business, you must know how to find your ideal prospect and be able to talk with them about their pain and its impact. If you are going to do that effectively, you need to know exactly how to identify perfect prospects and where to find them. As a solo-consultant, you can’t waste time on leads that will never become clients.
To Connect with Your Ideal Client You Must Know
How to Identify Them and Their
Most Important Pain Points
Some of the criteria we use to identify and find a perfect prospect are their industry, seniority, job title, years of experience, geographic area, and size of business. With key criteria like that and the right search techniques, it’s easy to build a list of prospects by networking or database searches.
Knowing who your prospects are is only the first part of knowing your clients. Once you find them, you must also know their important problems, how those problems impact their organization and how you can talk about those problems.
3. Promoting Your Consulting Services
To turn consulting prospects into clients you must give prospects two things. The first is a vivid image of life after you have solved their problem. The second is confidence that you can solve their problem. Talking about tools and methods won’t win clients. Building a vision of future success will.
Great Consultants Give Their Clients an
Image of a Better Life and
Show Them How to Get There
When you promote your consulting services, you need a personal and professional brand that quickly gives prospects the confidence you can solve their problems. Your brand represents this trust and authority.
Your Brand is Not a Slogan or Logo
Your Brand is the Trust and Authority You Build
Your brand precedes you. It should create an aura, so people quickly know the types of clients you help and how you help them.
Memorable brands have a clear message and support from many elements. As a consultant, there are a few key branding elements you must have to start.
4. Getting Consulting Clients Quickly
“Filling the Pipeline” is arguably the most important thing a consultant can do next to delivering successful consulting services.
If you start your consulting business with just referrals you will soon face the dreaded “Feast-or-Famine” cycle that most new consultants face in their first year. This cycle has you jumping back and forth between working with clients and making money to working on marketing and prospecting and not making money. It can become a vicious and exhausting cycle if you don't learn how to create a "client getting system."
There is a whole smorgasbord of methods for filling your prospect pipeline. Whichever style you prefer, writing, speaking, or networking, there are well-defined methods you can build into a pipeline-filling system. No matter which method you use for filling your pipeline, you must create a consistent, reproducible system you continue to use.
You Must Either Devote Constant Work to Getting New Clients or Develop a "Client Getting System" that Brings Clients to You
What may be the scariest moment for most consultants is actually “closing a client.” Asking someone to hire you feels like you are forcing them to make a judgment about your value and pushing them to spend money. It’s a terrible feeling – unless you remember the real purpose behind your consulting.
Closing a client doesn’t have to be hard, uncomfortable work. You need to remember two things. First, your purpose is to heal their pain. Second, ask them questions that lead them to knowing you can help them. Just use your natural consulting skills of questioning to lead a prospect into asking you, “When can you start?”
5. Setting Consulting Rates for Greater Income and Client Retention
You can win new clients, deliver high value, and have an impressive brand and still not create a thriving, successful consulting business. You must price your offerings, so you are profitable if you want to stay in business and grow. At the same time, you must be competitive. Your fees must be appropriate for the value you deliver and still beat your competition. Setting your consulting fees is a tough job.
Setting Consulting Rates is Not Magic
There Are Proven Ways to Set
Win-Win Consulting Rates
Many consultants start consulting by charging an hourly rate. The danger in hourly rates is that you become categorized as a freelancer and not a consultant. Unless you are very careful, hourly work puts you into a commodity business that drives everyone toward ever-smaller rates. Avoid hourly rates if you want to build higher income and independence as a consultant.
You don’t have to guess at consulting rates. Instead, use a well-designed consulting fee calculator for calculating a realistic fee range. A good calculator accounts for project estimates and business overheads and balances that against competitive rates.
6. Selling Your Consulting Services
Consultants are experts in their field of experience. They love to use their skills and knowledge to help solve clients' problems. But most consultants I've known hate the the "sales" process.
We often view selling our services as forcing someone to buy something they don't really need. If we change our mindset and realize that we are helping clients solve a pain or improve, and then we use our native consultative question and answer processes, selling our services becomes almost fun. (And, very rewarding.)
7. Writing Consulting Proposals that Win
While every consulting assignment is different, they all include important paperwork that prevents disagreements and legal problems. Proposal and retainer agreements and Statements of Work are far more than just legal issues. Done properly they can boost your income and increase productivity by reducing scope creep, and defining responsibilities, deliverables, tasks, and schedules.
Accelerate your business with templates for frequently used legal and project documents. You can save time using proven templates for proposals, retainer agreements, and Statements of Work.
8. Marketing Your Consulting Services for More Clients
When you first start building your independent consulting business you will spend a lot of time speaking, writing, and networking to fill your prospect pipeline. Although this brings in clients, you can never let up. You have to continually hustle. This is exhausting, but there is a better way.
Once your consulting business is working, you want to build a marketing machine that automatically keeps you your pipeline full. A marketing machine will automatically and continuously bring in qualified leads and prospects to fill your pipeline.
A Well-Designed Marketing Machine Creates a
Steady Stream of Clients for Your Consulting Services
A great marketing machine does three things: it attracts a lot of leads, turns leads into prospects, and builds trust and authority. What it should not do, once you have it running, is require a lot of your time.
To create a smoothly running marketing machine, use proven software, scripts, and templates. You can research and test these yourself or build your machine with the templates and guides in the Critical to Success courses.
A foundation for your branding and marketing is publishing and speaking. As an independent consultant you don’t have a lot of extra time to do this. It is critical that you create a workflow so you can leverage one asset into many forms. For example, you could create a presentation on how to solve a painful issue in your niche. That presentation can then be used for a live Zoom presentation or a recorded webinar and YouTube. The transcription can become a major part of a whitepaper you give to prospects, as well as publishing it as a LinkedIn article. You can chunk it into LinkedIn posts and weekly blogs. As an independent consultant you must always be thinking about leverage.
Build the right marketing machine with the right workflow, and your marketing power will explode!
9. Productizing Consulting Services for Multiple Streams of Income
One of the greatest benefits of independent consulting is independence and the opportunity to make high six- or seven-figure incomes through multiple streams of income. Packaging and productizing your consulting gives you a chance to work when you want, where you want, and with whom you want.
Repackaging, repricing and opening new delivery channels is incredibly important to your success during the COVID-19 pandemic, recession and recovery.
Building Multiple Streams of Income from Packaged Consulting Services Gives
You Greater Security, Independence and Income
If you build your consulting business so your clients depend solely upon your "in seat work," then you have defeated one of the advantages of independent consulting, your flexibility and independence. You also are limiting how you can scale and leverage your contribution to the world.
Older consulting business models depend upon you working in your business and at your client. You are trading personal hours for income. The old model forces you to work longer hours to make more income. It also limits your scope and outreach. This drives you to work longer hours and limits how many people and businesses you can impact.
New consulting models, especially in the age of Working from Home and virtual work, do not depend on your "butt in seat hours." As an independent you can productize your consulting offering and deliver it virtually across the world through multiple channels.