Updated: Aug 1, 2019
It's an exciting time! You've decided to start your own consulting business and bring your unique skills and talent to the marketplace. There are five critical areas of focus to incorporate into your planning phase.
#1 Identify your core advisers
These people will be your sounding boards, advocates, truth-tellers and referral sources. Ideally, they are business leaders in their own right, but not necessarily in your line of business. You need smart, straight-shooters who understand business and clients. They will provide you with unvarnished feedback on the early and ongoing versions of your business name, logo, website, business plan, blogs, business cards, etc.. Make a list of them now. Identify what their strengths are and what you will rely on them for as advisers. My advisers include small business owners, clients, friends, former co-worker, current collaborators (who I pay), family and neighbors. The key here is quality, not quantity. They are my trusted inner circle, representative of my target markets (professionally and demographically) and they are comfortable challenging me.
#2 Secure your human resources
1. You need a marketing ace. Do you know one already? If not, how will you find one? First, know what you need them to do for you. Do you need them to be skilled at all or just some of the following?
Business card, brochure & stationery creation
If you don't know someone who fits the bill, ask your advisers and local business leaders for referrals. They are a wealth of knowledge. Maintain an inventory of all the referrals you receive. Resource bandwidth and availability are fluid, so recommended resources are like gold when you are in need. You will likely work with your marketing consultant for six months. Identify this person as early in your planning process as possible, and reach agreement on your collaboration timeline.
2. A photographer to take professional pictures for your website, brochures, marketing and social media.
3. An attorney to file your business with the state and guide you through the legal requirements. Will you need contracts, statements of work, or power of attorney agreements drawn up? Will you do business nationally or internationally?
4. A sales coach. I completely lucked out on this one. A member of my core advisers is my sales coach. Your sales and marketing strategies are complementary. However, your sales strategy is more about you becoming comfortable selling your business, skills and results. Working with your sales coach will help you prepare to respond in the moment to prospects who doubt your competence.
#3 Identify your technical resource needs
1. Do you have all of the computer and mobile resources (laptop, iPad, Bluetooth,etc.) needed for your new career? Are your printers of sufficient quality for your business and client needs? If not, what do you need and how much will it cost?
2. Do you need to buy a quality camera or newer phone to take event photographs suitable for sharing on your website, blog and social media posts?
3. What types of software will you need? In addition to web hosting (Wix, WordPress, etc.) and multiple email boxes, will you also need project management, record keeping, and client relationship management (CRM) software packages? I found selecting CRM software to be a particularly time-intensive effort.
#4 Make space
It probably won't cost you a penny to make space for your new business. This is a great opportunity to clear the clutter in your home office. Within a couple of hours, I freed up two drawers of filing space for my new business and didn't need to buy additional cabinets.
#5 Buy your domain names a.s.a.p.
As soon as you have identified your new business name and available domain names, buy the domain names. Buy all of the domain names you may eventually want or need. I filed the trademark for my business name and submitted the request to buy my desired domain names at the same time, after filing my business with the state. Somehow, the #1 domain name that I wanted and was available when I placed the order was purchased by another entity a couple of days before my purchase request completed through Trademarkia.com and Domainmarkia.com. When you buy an available domain name it will run you approximately $25. If another entity buys the domain name first and you later need to buy it from them, the opening bid will likely start at $500. Do yourself a favor before filing your business with the state, and before filing a trademark for your business name, and buy the domain names you wish to use for your business. Even if you buy more domains than you eventually wish to keep, you will still save money as compared to buying from the secondary market. You can always let your domain ownership expire in future years.
Bonus tip: When you choose your logo and brand colors, you might want to choose colors you like to wear, as well as look good on you.
Let me know how the path to your new consulting career is going. What's the short list of tips you wish you had known before starting out?