These days of downsizing and temporary staffing can work to your advantage and you can stay as busy as you would like if you treat your consulting business like the company you are building.
Step One: Know Your Field.
If you have extended knowledge in any subject you are already on your way to consulting. Read new literature and research your subject. As a beginning consultant you will need to be better prepared.
Step Two: Gather Essentials.
There are a few things that no business can be without:
A Phone: a cell phone or line that you alone answer is a must.
Business Cards: include your name, your cell number, and a specialty statement.
A Press Kit: As a consultant, you are a product. Advertise yourself!
Quiet Work Area: This is not a “lifestyle”, it’s a career and should be treated as one.
Transportation: A car or access to one is important if you don’t live in a city.
Client Management Software: Track and bill clients quickly to save your time for projects.
Step Three: Join Trade Organizations and Community Clubs This is not a luxury. Many proposals are made and accepted at mixers and tournaments sponsored by these organizations alone. To compete with those already in the business you must be where the jobs are being discussed.
Step Four: Build a referral list.
No one wants to hire a consultant who has never consulted. Use past experience to prove your worth. If you were an employee you can use your years with a corporation or even a temporary agency as long as you have a voice on the phone to back you up. Explain to potential references that you are now consulting and that when they refer to you they might remember that fact.
Step Five: Ask for Advertising.
When you finish a project to your client’s satisfaction ask them if they know of others that could use your expertise. Ask them to introduce you with a letter or phone call. More often than not they will oblige.
Step Six: “Answer” Ads.
If you have a specialty, companies that need you are often listed in the directory or advertising sections of those journals. Call a few, introduce yourself and ask if they have been having problems in your area of expertise, you may be surprised to know they have been looking for you too.
Step Seven: Stay Competitive.
Continue to read up on your subject, check your prices against others in your field and most of all, don’t let your clients down: Only take projects you are sure you can finish to your client’s satisfaction. Word of mouth can kill a consulting business before it even gets off the ground.
Good luck in your venture. We’ll see you in the Forbes 500!