6 Things That Will Help You Succeed as a Business Consultant
Businesses everywhere can use the help of an outside consultant to improve their processes and boost profits, so the opportunities in this field are ripe for the picking … as long as you’re prepared. Here are six items that will ensure you succeed.
Use the Right Apps and Tools
LeBron James once said, “I’m going to use all my tools, my God-given ability, and make the best life I can with it.” Your story as a consultant will be similar. You’re turning a talent into a business, and that requires suitable tools.
Literally thousands of tools can help with both the consulting and operational sides of the endeavor, but these are among the best to get you started:
FreshBooks: This invoicing software makes the payment process smooth and easy. You create attractive invoices to get paid twice as quickly as if would when you use spreadsheets or other rudimentary invoicing services.
HubSpot CRM: Client relationship management software (CRM) is vital to keep track of your contacts and maintain strong relationships.
TimeCamp: An accurate record of the time spent on each project is crucial. TimeCamp will monitor each project for you, even if you have multiple employees involved in the work.
ConstantContact: Email marketing is a superb tool for making contacts and keeping customers up to date. You can create customized emails and newsletters, and send them to all your contacts at once.
Choose a Focus or Niche
You might start out doing whatever you can, but your business probably won’t thrive if you don’t focus on a specialty.
“While being a jack-of-all Microsoft trades (Excel, Word, PowerPoint) is definitely needed, the consultants who perform best always have an area that they truly excel in—one that’s in demand and that nobody else seems to have,” advises a Forbes article. “Whether that’s advanced financial modeling, communications skills, or a particularly deep knowledge in an industry, take the time to find out what you can become the go-to person for.”
Decide on your best skill and curate a business around that. You’ll generate greater revenues and create more satisfied clients when you’re the best at one thing rather than good at everything.
Form a Business Structure
Form a legal business structure for tax purposes. It’ll reduce the burden on your personal taxes as well as separate your personal credit and assets from your business.
That way, if anything goes wrong, you’ll be protected. Choosing a structure that’s best for your consulting operation means evaluating your business needs and your growth projection.
“The most common legal business structures in the U.S. are the LLC and Corporation (S Corporation or C Corporation),” explains an article from Secret Entourage, a business publication.
“There’s no single right structure for all businesses, even all freelance or consulting businesses. Each structure has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation. However, generally speaking, a C Corporation is overkill for most freelancers and solo businesses.”
Hone Your Skills
Your business is your skillset. You are what people hire, not your products. If you want to remain current and competitive, strive to improve your current skillset and gain new ones.
“Beyond your number one specialized skill (management, IT, etc.), there are a few other basic, but necessary skills,” says Victoria C. in an Experience article. “You must have a great writing skills, business acumen, presentation skills, and basic computer skills. Without these capabilities, you won’t even be able to get into the door with a company you would like to work with.”
Market Your Services
Once you’re ready to gain clients, make sure they can find you easily. Marketing is a complex talent that starts with a plan.
Study the best forms of advertising, social media focus, email campaigns, and incentives. Most important, remember you are your brand.
“There are many new, emerging ways to market yourself to ensure your small business is visible not only on the Internet, but also in your community and among your colleagues,” says an article from the business management firm MBO partners. “Remember, everything you do, say, or publish online reflects on your business.”
Focus on Relationships
Last, but certainly not least, prioritize relationships with your clients above all else. “This is a business based on relationships,” reminds Scott Steinberg, CEO of TechSavvy Global and in an article for Inc.com.
“The wise consultant always listens before she speaks. Never talk costs before first discussing your clients’ specific needs and objectives. For reasons both practical and political, few businesses actively look to hire consultants on a regular or recurring basis. So knock on many doors and make a point of keeping in running contact with connections. And above all else, maintain good rapport through your work. Reputation is everything, and it’s vital to stay on clients’ radars.”
As you take care of your customers and structure your business for success, you’ll expand your business rapidly and become a bold new name in the realm of consulting.