Starting a consulting practice is easy…
The tough part is making it a success.
Recently ran across a blog post on business startups. The author suggested consulting, since it was so easy that anybody could do it. Of course, the author had never started and run a full time consulting practice himself. Go figure.
So, time for a short rant…
But the author is right. You can start a consulting practice right this instant. Just call yourself a consultant, order some business cards, and you’re in business. The telephone should start ringing any minute, right?
It really is that simple. Except it isn’t.
Unfortunately, this is a common misperception, particularly by those with lots of credentials (letters that can be put after their name.) Having already achieved some career success and prestige, they assume the rest of the world will immediately recognize their expertise and abilities.
It is the mousetrap syndrome. You know, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” Wonder who cooked up that piece of fiction?
No, it doesn’t work that way. You need customers. Furthermore, you need customers who are willing to pay you, too. For solutions. Not ivory tower lectures or esoteric theories, but real world solutions to their real world concerns.
So how do you get those customers? You market. You sell. You peddle your butt off. Hmmm, not so simple anymore.
Maybe, like any business venture, it takes some plotting, planning, and old fashioned hard work. Sorry, THIS blogger is not offering any magic miracles today.
At the fundamental level, all businesses have three components:
- Products or services to sell
- Customers or clients who will buy those products and services.
- A way to connect the parties (aka a marketplace.)
Really, that’s it. Congratulations, you’ve just earned your One-Minute MBA.
Now let’s dig a little deeper, using the old reporter’s method of 5W/H – what, who, why, where, when, and how.
- WHAT do you have to sell? As a consultant, it is your expertise and advice. So what do you have that others might want and be willing to pay for? What are you really good at, AND that has value in the marketplace?
- WHO might buy your expertise? Ah, now you are starting to identify your market or markets. Can you identify niches? i.e. – business/consumer, local/national, demographic, etc.
- WHY would they buy your services? Do they have problems to solve? Or prevent? Do they have dreams to pursue?
- WHERE do your customers hang out? Can you identify groups or organizations do they belong to? Media they read – magazines, newspapers, web? Do they use social media?
- WHEN do they buy? Short or long sales cycle? Seasonal? Impulse?
- HOW do you reach them? Having answered the 5W questions, you may already have a good idea HOW to start. But starting is not enough — you need plan, and then you need to execute the plan, over and over. Wash, rinse, REPEAT.
Ride along here and I’ll do my best to help you understand and address these questions. Ultimately, however, the specific answers will be yours. Incidentally, I’ve been at it this game for over 30 years, and I still ask these questions myself.
Thus ends the rant.
Yes, it IS easy to START a consulting practice, and anybody can do it. The real question is can you BUILD and MAINTAIN a successful consulting practice? It takes time and effort. Just like anything else worthwhile in life.
Happy New Year! Is 2013 the year you make your JumpToConsulting?
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