Professional organizations offer a ready made network of friendly potential clients. The secret is to be an active participant, not just a passive member. As an added bonus, these organizations can help dispel the loneliness that often accompanies consulting, particularly for solos.
Most technical professions (medicine, law, accounting, engineering) have well established organizations. They may be national, or even international. They often host national symposiums where you can meet professional leaders, as well as the ever important vendors.
Don’t overlook the latter. While vendors may not be prospective clients,they can be very effective recommenders. Thus, it is usually in your best interest to cultivate contacts among the vendors serving your profession. Finally, as salespeople, most are friendly and gregarious — I’ve always enjoyed time spent with vendors.
Professional organizations exist for general business, too. Many focus on specific disciplines (sales, marketing, purchasing, etc.) Like the technical professionals, they often host national symposiums with presentations by business thought leaders.
While one can become active at the national level in either type of organization, your immediate efforts may be better spent at the local level. The reason — less politics, and more direct contact with actual potential clients. This is particularly helpful if you are targeting a geographical area, such as your own backyard.
We’ve had very good results with this strategy. Here are two examples:
- When we started out 23 years ago, we volunteered to edit a regional newsletter for our professional organization when the position vacated. As it was a bit of work, the local leaders were happy to have some new volunteers.
- In addition to editing the newsletter, one of us needed to attend monthly board meetings. What a great way to network! When our local power utility had a serious interference problem, one of the board members immediately recommended us. Why? To her, we were a known and trusted consulting firm.
- When I moved to Phoenix 15 years ago, the local professional chapter had been inactive for many years. A colleague and I decided to reactivate it, and hosted a couple of meetings at a Mexican restaurant –always popular in Arizona. We were soon joined by a third “conspirator”, and the chapter was off and running.
- We are still active fifteen years later. Not only has this affiliation resulted in several significant projects over the years, but I also made several new friends through our common technical interests.
The best part of all this is that you can begin doing this today. Furthermore, your employer will not be threatened or upset, but will likely be delighted by your initiative. And even if you never make the JumpToConsulting, the professional contacts you make through your professional organization will only help your career.
Finally, you’ll be doing some good. As my father always said, “Cast your bread upon the waters…” To receive, you first must give.
PS - Posts may be sparse over the next month, due both to business and a medical issue with a hand that needs to heal. Hope to pick up the pace again in May.
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