I often speak to people who are looking to break away from the corporate life and become a consultant. The flexibility, earning potential and idea of being their own boss excites them.
If you’ve reached this point in your career, it just might be time to consider life as a consultant and put those years of experience towards a better paid position. It’s not easy going it alone, but often very worthwhile.
In preparing for this move you may choose to get career advice, speak to mentors and network with consultants who already work for themselves. It’s an important move to make sure you get as much information and advice when breaking out on your own. Firstly you’ll need the support but secondly you want to make sure you’ve taken the time to consider the move carefully.
In this blog, we take a look at how to begin moving toward becoming a consultant and why you shouldn’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth.
Build Your Personal Brand
In February 2010, I received a surprising phone call from a potential client. It was the shortest sales call of my life, made particularly unusual, because I barely said anything. The woman on the other side of the phone simply said: “I have read your blog posts, listened to your podcasts, and I know you are right for the job. How much do you charge, and can I book you for next month?”
I ended the call, happy for another consulting engagement, and thinking that the whole thing must have been a bit of a fluke. A few months later, I received another surprising phone call. This time, from the huge potential client. They said they had done their research and decided that I was the most knowledgeable expert in the field they needed assistance with, and would like to book some time with me.
All of this happened within the first year of being on my own. I went from a nobody in my industry, to a somebody in less than 12 months. It was not because I was smarter than my competitors, or because I had money to spend on public relations – at this point I was struggling to pay my salary, let alone a public relations manager. As best as I could figure out, the difference lay in my relentless pursuit to build a personal brand online.
Your online personal brand is your biggest asset as a consultant, allowing you to reach more people, establish creditability and build trust with your future client base. I speak more about how I built this online personal brand in my book Renowned.
It’s not always straightforward to land clients and if you’ve had many years of experience working in your field then you might find that the best way to start is to go through your contacts list. Draft an email that reminds contacts of your experience, your skills and what it is you can offer that they can’t do themselves. Consider a launch offer, perhaps a review and some recommendations of where your prospective client is now and where your services could take them. Don’t be afraid to follow-up that initial email with a call to see how it’s been received. Do be prepared for rejection, it’s a tough part of the process but one you have to get used to.
Make sure that you have your website up and running before you embark on your consultancy journey. It’s where your potential clients will go to see examples of your work and clients that you’ve previously worked with. Use it as a means of showcasing your expertise.
Find subtle ways to stay in touch with your potential customers. My favourite way is to find a way to add value to their lives. One way people do this is to send articles of interest intermittently to their prospective clients. By way of example, if you’re a tech specialist, you keep up with technology news and probably read the latest TechRadar review of Templafy. In this case most of your clients did not. Sharing the article of interest with clients and prospects can add value to them and keep you front of mind.
Charge What You’re Worth
You’re not restricted by salary caps anymore so read around and figure out what other consultants in your field are charging and set your rates accordingly. Be competitive but don’t undervalue yourself. Remember that consultants are generally only paid for the time they are working. So bear that in mind when pricing your services. When you’re doing admin, marketing and sales, you’re not being paid. So make sure you consider this carefully when setting your pricing and your sales targets.
Clients want to know they’re hiring in a professional and expect to pay professional rates, sell yourself short and you might get more jobs, but you’ll find yourself working longer for less pay overall. Personally I got much busier after increasing my rates than when I had undervalued my services to clients. Aim for one or two well-paying jobs and don’t be afraid to say no to anything that wants to pay you less than your worth. Having prestigious clientele also looks great on your resume.
Going solo is an exciting and terrifying adventure but if you’ve thought about going down the consultancy route for some time, then start making it happen today. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, now it’s time to let others have the benefit of your fantastic expertise.