A consultant is an expert in a specific field who works with an individual or company in order to identify problems, implement solutions and help those individuals or companies reach their goals. A good business consultant brings years of business experience to the table and provides business owners with advice to improve business efficiency and performance. They might work on overall company strategy or in specific areas such as PR, accounting, fundraising, management, product development and other areas. Business consultants can answer questions for their clients and provide the experience and skills that their clients lack, they are a valuable asset to the business community.
There are several reasons organizations hire business consultants, including, but not limited to:
- For their expertise in a particular field
- To identify problems or issues within the organization
- To educate or teach employees
- To do dirty work like deciding on staff cuts
- To bring business out of a slump
- To create new business opportunities
Do you have the interest, experience and work habits required to be a freelance business consultant? If you have years of business experience and are thinking of taking your expertise out of the office and into the freelance world, here are some steps you can take in order to build your own freelance business consultant business.
Pick a Niche
Identify the area in which you are a real expert by thinking about the problems that you can help businesses solve. Once you know what problems you can solve, you need to decide how you will go about helping business solve them, will you do it by: teaching, guiding, coaching, or doing the work for them? Think about who your target customer will be: what are their qualities, habits, characteristics, demographics? Will your services be best put to use at large corporations or small businesses or nonprofits? When you know what niche to build your business in, what type of services you want to offer, and who your potential clients are; then you can draw-up your business plan and marketing strategy accordingly.
If you don’t already have certifications to go along with your experience, consider getting the relevant certification that would give your potential clients more confidence when selecting you to come in and help them with their business. You might start by looking at the Association of Accredited Small Business Consultants website or the Institute of Certified Business Consultants website.
Make a Business Plan
You have decided on your niche, your services, your target clientele and you have the certification and experience to become a freelance business consultant, but how will you take your vision and make it a reality? You need to make a business plan. Making a business plan seems daunting and complicated but it doesn't have to be. There are a few step-by-step guides available online and plenty of books written on the subject. An easy way to get started is to outline your short term, medium term, and long term goals using the S.M.A.R.T system of goal setting, in which your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
While you’re making your business plan you should check into what kind of business license you might need and what kind of insurance to get. You may want to set up a legal entity for your business to avoid personal liability. At this stage you should also decide how you are going to charge for your services: Hourly? Results based? Per project? A retainer fee? Now is a good time to write a general contract that you can adapt for each client and project, decide on an invoicing plan, and create a process for project management so that you are totally prepared to take on your first client.
All solopreneurs need to figure out how to deal with taxes and decide if they need to budget for an accountant. If you have the funds to meet with an accountant early on in your endeavors, they will be able to tell you what type of business you should set yourself up as for tax purposes and such. If you do not have the money to hire an accountant, plan to spend some time researching small business taxes.
The first thing your new business will need to attract clients is a professional website. If you aren’t confident in your website building abilities, it might be worth it to hire a fellow freelancer to do it for you. Or you can check out some online resources for advice and guidance, but whatever you do: be sure that your website is professional looking and includes an explanation of your services, experience and credentials to entice clients to hire you. Your website should make clear what type of problems you can solve and how you help clients achieve their business goals.
At this point you have already worked-out the nitty-gritty aspects of how you’re going to run your business in your business plan, such as your process for working with clients, what your fee will be and how you collect it, so you can include all the necessary information on your website. A good business website includes the following: what it is that you do, what makes you stand-out from others who also do what you do, where you are located, what your rates are, how you can be reached, as well as a few personal touches to draw people in.
When you’re just starting out as a business consult, you can add your profile to freelance marketplaces to help clients find you easily. When using these type of sites, it might be tempting to lower your rate in order to get more jobs. Once more clients can find you, you will get more jobs; the more jobs you get, the more indemand you will become and the higher you can raise your rate. However, do not get stuck in the habit of working for low pay and selling yourself short, offering services too cheaply is bad for business, feel free to say no to poorly paying jobs.
Even while your working on your business plan and building your website you can start making use of social media to create interest and buzz around your new consulting business. Let everyone from friends and family to former colleagues know what you are up to by sharing your progress across appropriate channels, it’s time to get serious about linking your social media to your business. Once your business website is up and running, be sure to include links to it on your social media platforms. Find and choose the best social media platforms to increase your exposure in your niche area: you want to be able to follow and tag relevant businesses that relate to what you do, it’s an integral part of online networking.
Aside from cultivating your online presence as a business consultant, you should make business cards to hand out in real life when you meet prospective clients or other people who can pass your information on to someone who is looking for your services. You want to be sure the look and design of your business cards match the aesthetic of your website to keep everything onbrand and professional looking. If you’re not sure where to meet people to had out your business cards to, try attending local business events, workshops, and conferences related to your niche, as well as joining local business associations.
Once you are well on your way to being a successful business consultant and are finding a few clients, you want to stay ahead of the game by showcasing exceptional business sense in order to retain them. You should continuously work on polishing your skills by keeping up with the latest business news, trends, market behavior and customer expectations. Staying current is important for maintaining up-to-date knowledge in your industry and anticipating your clients’ needs.
If you’re just starting out as a business consultant, or looking for new clients, why not sign up and create a profile with Sagegroupy and let everyone know what kind of problems you can solve for them.