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Top Tips for Starting a Booming Consulting Business

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August 31, 2021
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5 minutes
Gizela has almost two decades of experience within the Digital sphere and eagerly awaits the day she can be cloned so she can finally get everything on her daily to-do list done

When it comes to starting a business, consulting can seem like one of the simplest roads to venture down. Presumably, you have the knowledge and skills. Couple that with a few good contacts and you have a recipe for success… Or do you?

And that might be true for the most part, but most good things in life don’t come by that easily.

Don’t fear though, we’re here to help!

Let’s start by breaking down what exactly independent consulting entails and then discuss about starting a consulting business.

What is consulting?

The textbook definition of consulting refers to the business of giving expert advice to other professionals. In plain language, this simply means that a consultant undertakes various tasks and is hired, essentially, to solve problems for both businesses and individuals.

Consultants usually possess a wealth of knowledge in their field of interest and tend to be very up-to-date when it comes to market developments that affect their industry. And what better way is there to utilize knowledge than by monetizing expertise?

“Delivering a project isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is delivering a project without first taking the time to plan properly.” - James Leal

Points to consider

Now that you know what a consultant does, here are some questions you should consider before you start a consulting firm business:

  • Are you qualified to be a consultant?
  • Are you organised enough?
  • Do you like to network?
  • What is your endgame?

Our top tips

So, you’ve made your mind up and you're ready to make your consulting dreams a reality? Well, this is where most get stuck because they’re not quite sure where to begin. Follow these top tips to navigate your way to independent consulting success:

Look for specific knowledge gaps in your field

Let’s be honest - your prospective clients probably aren’t lacking when it comes to informed opinions and smart talent. If they were, they would be more likely to hire a full-time employee instead of enlisting the services of a consultant.

Independent consulting services are valuable because:

  • consultants can offer expertise that differs from the day-to-day running of a company.
  • consultants offer unique solutions to problems.
  • they have industry insight
  • they are more objective in their approach than in-house talent is.

Gain a competitive advantage by exploring where gaps in knowledge exist and then offer to fill those gaps with your own knowledge, thereby offering value to prospective clients.

Don’t sell services, sell results

Most clients loathe having to pay consultants by the hour. This is where it helps to shift focus. By continually keeping clients focused on the overall value that you bring them, you will show them that their money is being spent on something worthwhile.

Instead of discussing whether your consulting firm business will have many projects, focus on how it will be used by providing value-adds and a range of cost options to prospective client

Underpromise and overdeliver

The key to success in any independent endeavour is repeat business. Always keep this in mind when discussing deliverables. Under-promising inevitably sets you up for success so naturally, it’s a strategy worth employing.

A word of caution, however - there is a fine line between under-promising and appearing lazy in your approach, so make sure you’re leaving the right impression.

Focus on building relationships

Consulting is a business that is built on good relationships. Always keep this at the forefront of communication with clients:

Listen to your client’s specific needs and objectives carefully before telling them what you can do for them. Stick to deadlines, deliver quality work and maintain a good rapport with everyone you come across.

A good reputation is crucial when running a consulting firm business. Make sure that you cultivate good professional relationships for the best chance at success.

Start small

New clients don’t have prior experience with you and this is where quick wins become essential. Look for small, quick jobs that demonstrate your skill in order to build trust with new clients:

Remember, it’s easier to sell an idea that starts with a small step, than to sell a dream that requires 10,000 steps. It may mean less of a commitment for now but it also means that you have more time to sell yourself and build a good relationship with that specific client in the long run.

Get everything in writing

As is human nature, you are bound to encounter clients who ask for more than what the scope of work requires. This is one of the toughest problems to tackle as a consultant and unfortunately, there are no easy solutions.

By ensuring that all agreements, deadlines and deliverables are detailed and written down, you will avoid unnecessary arguments with unscrupulous clients. This will also empower you to handle the situation calmly, while suggesting that extra work requires extra fees.

Be flexible

Some independent consulting businesses earn millions in ongoing monthly retainers. This is not the case for most consultants, especially when they’re just starting out. It’s important to keep in mind that if you’ve done the job right (which is the goal), you’ve solved the problem - and your services probably won’t be needed after that point.

When it comes to business, there are peaks and troughs. Sometimes you will be super busy, while you might be looking for work to do at other times. Remain flexible by cultivating a freelance support network. Lean on the expertise of contractors in other industries to boost your service offering. This will often lead to a decrease in overhead costs and a minimised risk when taking on new clients.

Reinvest your time into business development

Consultants spend as much time performing assigned tasks as they do acquiring new business. This is the approach you need to adopt when you embark on this journey. Downtime should be reinvested into the development of your independent consulting business.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still underway, thousands of established home businesses are currently on the market, vying for visibility and attention. Stand out from the crowd by presenting evidence of your work, such as testimonials, case studies and client show-cases. Your skills and expertise are the bread and butter of your business. Show them off!

Becoming a consultant can be both rewarding and challenging. We hope that these tips will help you on your way to running a successful consulting business.