Tips for Starting Your Own Consulting Business
If you have expertise you want to share, and be paid for, you’ll want to present yourself as the organized professional you want to be. Your clients and customers will feel they can trust you and what you’re bringing to their lives if you take these simple steps. Everything you do and say needs to be clear so that your potential clients feel like you are experienced, trustworthy, and care.
1) Do have a website that people can visit after they meet you; have a business card with your name, website address and phone number? You can design a simple logo for yourself that you’ll have on your website, business card and other materials, or you can also use a website like www.99designs.com to find a designer who can create your visuals for you.
The website can be as simple as a one-page site, including a professional photo of you, a short bio about you, a list of services, a few photos of the work you do if appropriate, and a few testimonials from previous clients who have been satisfied with your work (these can be anonymous or with much more detailed information or even photos of the recommenders). You may also choose to include blog posts. Be sure to include a live link to your phone and/or email contact information, or even a contact form for potential clients to fill out, if that’s helpful for you. You don’t have to spend a great deal of money on a website. There are several plug ‘n play website development sites that are affordable online like Wix or Squarespace.
2) Know your fees and get comfortable telling people what they are. This can be difficult for some new business owners but it’s essential that you get over your hesitation to discuss your fees! If you aren’t clear with potential clients about your fees and what they can count on you for, you can run into a variety of issues: you’ll have to deal with confused clients who will have on-going questions about your work and fees. You may also experience your own resentment because you’ve undersold yourself, or didn’t set the right expectations with your clients. Be sure to get prepared! Know your fees thoroughly.
- Prepare a rate sheet that is either yours to keep for yourself, or that you provide to clients. You don’t have to include your fees on your website!
- Be prepared with an hourly rate; a project rate that will include other sub-contractors; a discounted ‘friends and family’ rate; and have clarity about your willingness to negotiate or even do pro-bono work. Know what sort of payments you will accept.
- Some consultants will have two rates for different kinds of organizations: corporate and non- profit organizations will have different budgets to offer.
3) Have your process in place and share it with your clients so they know what to expect.
You might have an intake form or questionnaire for clients to answer before you get started working together. You might want to have clients sign off on a proposal or have a contract that spells out the work to be done. You might require clients to provide you with a certain number of inspiration pictures or websites for your project. Giving your client this pre-work to do helps you learn about them and includes them in the process. If they don’t complete this pre-work, you are learning something about them; you can insist they complete the pre-work prior to start of work or risk having issues down the road. Your clarity about your process can help them to feel confident they are in good, experienced hands.
4) Don’t be afraid to take your time to provide your fees. If someone asks what your fee will be for a project, take your time to determine the fee so that you’re sure you get it right. You can simply say you need to assess the scope of the project and say you’ll get back to the client with a proposal. The proposal can be a simple write up of what you propose to do, in how much time, with a fee. It’s up to you, and possibly the client, how much detail will be needed. You can offer a project fee based on any additional time or resources you’ll need to include to do the project; you don’t necessarily need to share all of this information with the client but once you decide on the project budget you’ll have to meet that.
Obviously, if you have trouble meeting the budget that’s been accepted by the client you’ll need to live with that. You must not go back to the client at a later time and tell them any of your issues with meeting this budget…it’s not their issue to deal with unless they have changed the scope of the project, in which case you will be updating the proposed work and fees.
- If you meet a prospective client and feel rushed and not ready to give your hourly rate or fees, simply say you’ll need to get back to the potential client later that day or during the week with your proposed fee. Follow through and get back to the potential client as soon as possible or risk losing the job
- If you have a bad feeling about the client or the project you can come back to them later and say you realized that your calendar is full for now and that you can circle back at a later date. Or, you might refer them to another professional who might be a better fit for them. If you don’t think you have the skill set or interest in the job you can gracefully let the client know, so that you don’t get into a job you don’t want.
5) Questions you may get about rates: If you’ve given someone a discounted rate and they, then, refer someone else who now wants the same discounted rate, you’ll have a decision to make. Is it worth it to give this same discounted rate? Or do you need to explain the circumstances of the previous discount that was given? You will need to be ready to know how you want to establish yourself as a professional in this case.
- Some questions to think through: Are you still trying to build your reputation as a professional so that you’ll benefit from giving discounts? Are you willing to offer a discount for a limited time only? Maybe you’ll set only a certain number of clients you’ll work with at a discounted rate during any given month, or perhaps you offer a discount to people from an organization you’re affiliated with, etc.
- Some people love to negotiate. It’s just sport for them. It may be worth it to you to negotiate a small percentage off so the client feels they’re getting a deal. If you feel any resentment about doing this, don’t do it. Remember that it’s up to you. You can’t come back later and complain about giving this to the client. If this isn’t comfortable to you, stick to your guns.
6) Know when you plan to complete your project. Set and share a schedule with your client so that they can relax knowing you have a plan and they can expect their results by a certain date. This schedule may change due to any number of variables, but you will have set the tone, and helped them to trust you. They will only continue to trust you if you keep them apprised of any changes in schedule. If you run behind or face any set-backs be sure to notify them as quickly as possible. Good communication is essential to continuing to build and establish trust.
7) Keep records of your expenses and time on projects organized and separate from any other records. Set up a business checking account and credit card specifically for your business. You’ll need a business license, so check local resources on how to process this. This may feel like a big deal, but it’s not. Just a few hoops to jump through. A bookkeeper or accountant will need to be up-to-date on your finances; you want to be sure to learn about quarterly tax reporting and if you’ll need to pay these.
There’s so much to learn about running, marketing and managing your business, but these guidelines can help you get off to a good start with your clients.
I’m here to help you get up and running in your new business. Or perhaps it’s time for a different kind of change. If you have ideas you’d like to talk through, or feel ready for your next chapter and want support as you move forward let’s talk and we’ll see if working together makes sense for you.
If you have any questions or want to get started, send us an email at [email protected] or 1-877-872-3929