Six steps to starting a consulting business
What does consulting mean to you?
Consulting in the traditional sense conjures images of well-dressed business people that spend their time in fancy offices and travel all over the world advising corporate companies on things like business strategy.
We've been conditioned to view consulting in this particular way.
But here's the actual definition of consulting:
"Engaged in the business of giving expert advice to people working in a professional or technical field."
Consultants are people who provide expertise on any given topic. For example, you could be a holistic health coach providing private consultations to clients, or a digital marketing specialist that helps small businesses generate more leads and sales online.
There are no limits to the types of consulting businesses you can create.
New types of consulting businesses have high-profit margins due to the low overheads of being internet-based. Many consultants have systematized and outsourced their business operations, freeing up precious time for them to focus on other things. This is when it transforms into a passive income business.
Why do people hire consultants?
Three main reasons.
- Speed – Getting to the goal faster.
- Lack of skill/knowledge – People/businesses don’t know how to get to their desired goal on their own.
- Proven system – People want to follow a tested system that they know works.
Let's get started!
Leveraging your existing expertise
The wonderful thing about starting a consulting business is that you can craft an offer around your existing expertise. The crazy thing is it doesn't have to be a professional skill that you've got backed up with formal qualifications.
Many people have launched wildly profitable businesses by helping people overcome things that they have themselves.
For example, Beating Binge Eating is a business owned by a woman called Brittany Brown. She provides coaching and step-by-step strategy plans to help people overcome a binge eating disorder. This is a problem that Brittany suffered with herself for a long time.
She's taken the problem and transformed it into an amazing business that helps people overcome a terrible disorder.
A perfect example of someone who took their existing knowledge and turned it into a viable business.
Defining your niche
What if you don't have any marketable skills that will help people make a transformation?
It's all good. You can become an expert in something in a relatively short space of time. Starting your own consulting business is brilliant. Why? because you don't need formal qualifications. As long as you can prove that you can exceed expectations, you won't have problems acquiring clients.
Do you know how easy it is to become an expert at something now?
The internet has made everything transparent. You can pickup a few books on a topic and really dive deep into it for a few months. Before you know it you'll know more than 99% of people on the topic you chose.
You can pickup a few books on a topic and really dive deep into it for a few months. Before you know it you'll know more than 99% of people on the topic you chose. When it comes to consulting, it's important to specialise in something. Why? Because specialists get paid more than generalists (think GP compared to brain surgeon).
Once you've selected your topic and defined your expertise, it's time to craft your offer...
Crafting your offer
Packaging your product is one of the most important steps to building a thriving business. The way you structure your product is everything.
There are three main rules for crafting your offer:
- Focus on the transformation and results that you'll get for your clients. Forget the features and benefits.
- Price your product on the value of the transformation not on the time it takes you to deliver it.
- Only offer the bare minimum required to achieve the transformation.
Once you've integrated these rules into your offer you can start thinking about pricing. There are two main ways of pricing your services.
Charging a retainer fee
As a consultant, you can charge a retainer fee for your services. This is when you charge a figure to your client every month and they keep paying you as long as you provide the service for them.
This is the best type of income because you don't need a consistent stream of new clients to generate revenue and you build a hugely profitable business with just a few clients.
Charging a one-off fee
Depending on how you craft your offer, you may have to charge a one-off fee to customers. Pretty self-explanatory. It's when you charge your client once for a specific product or end result.
Most businesses struggle when it comes to acquiring new clients. The majority have no proven system or method to generate leads and make sales, relying on traditional word of mouth marketing instead.
This is dangerous for any business. Not to mention outdated.
The internet enables us to setup data-driven systems that generate leads and consultations automatically. I'm not saying it's this push-button solution but we have fantastic opportunities to find and establish processes that get results. More often than not, these processes are almost entirely automated once they have been setup.
There are hundreds of ways you can generate leads with a consulting business and not all of them cost money! For the sake of article length, I'll only give you a couple of examples.
The first example is Facebook advertising. Facebook is the leading social media network in the world with over two billion people signed up. Every type of target market you can imagine exists on this social network.
The nature of targeting on Facebook is highly advanced, making it even more suited to niche consulting businesses. For example, you can target people that like 'Fast company magazine' with a net worth of over $500,000 that have recently moved to Orlando, Florida. Pretty crazy, right?!
The second example is email outreach. Reaching out to businesses can be a tedious task but it's a powerful organic way of generating new leads for your consulting business. It's super easy to find details of almost any type of business online now.
I'm a big believer in systematization and proven processes. In fact, most successful businesses are established on proven models and methods of business. In the case of consulting, it's important to have a process for converting your clients and completing the work that you've been paid for.
For converting clients, on consultations, you may want to use a rough script. Not a pushy, sleazy, sales script, but a series of questions that guide your prospect through their pain points and into your offering. Another thing you can do is create a CRM process for following up with people that don't sign up with you over the phone. This can help improve your conversion rate.
If you are doing sales meetings in person, make sure you memorise your script off by heart. Creating a first impression is also important, a professional outfit and well thought-out business cards will go a long way.
I hope this gave you some interesting insights and helpful tips into the consulting revolution. The skills you have are in high demand, and businesses are willing to pay good money for them. Why not start a consulting business? You have nothing to lose!
Ahmad Ben is founder of Bengu, a website that provides digital skills and entreprenership training to people looking to start an online business. Ahmad is passionate about empowering people with skills that can change lives and helping individuals foster personal growth through cutting-edge...