Twelve Things You Need When Starting a Consulting Business, Part 2, by Cliff Ennico (18 Aug 09)

Book coverTWELVE THINGS YOU NEED WHEN STARTING A CONSULTING BUSINESS [PART 2 OF 2]

By Cliff Ennico

Here are six more things you will need before you start a consulting business:

7.                  The right contract forms.  If you are working for individuals or small businesses, chances are they don’t have a consulting agreement form.  You will need to develop one, along with the following standard forms:  a “statement of work” (SOW) or proposal letter (spelling out what services and deliverables you will provide, what you will charge for those services and deliverables, the timetable for delivery, and when you expect to get paid); a confidentiality or nondisclosure agreement (this should be “mutual” to protect both your information and your client’s); and a subcontract agreement (in case you have to farm out certain work to another professional).  A good business attorney can prepare these for you for a fee of about one to two hours of their time.

If you are working mostly for larger corporations, you won’t need any of these forms except for the SOW or proposal letter.  Your client will have contract forms of their own which they will ask you to sign – make sure to have your attorney review these (again, the fee will be about one to two hours of their time) so that you don’t “sign your life away”.

8.                  A decent Website.  Your clients will expect you to have a website of your own for your consulting practice; (SET ITAL) do not (END ITAL) create a “free” website on an online service that uses its own URL as the home page (for example, www.doityourselfcheapwebsites.com/consultants/yourhomepage.html).  Go to Network Solutions and register a URL that is simple and easy to remember, such as “cliffennicoconsulting.com”.  Have a professional build your website, and do not scrimp on search engine optimization (SEO) as this is how many potential clients will find you.  Create a profile with links to your website on some of the popular online services people use to find professionals, such as www.craigslist.org and www.elance.com.  

9.                  A profile on LinkedIn.  Most social networking websites are for teenagers, but one big exception is LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com).  This is a social networking site for professionals like yourself, and a great way to build a network of contacts that can help you get business.  For information on how to use LinkedIn, check out Jan Wallen’s e-book “LinkedIn in Seven Days or Less” at www.linkedinworks.com.

10.              Information Giveaways.  To impress potential clients, you will need to convince them you are an expert in your field.  People nowadays expect to receive lots of information for free, and the traditional “marketing brochure” containing just your biography, photo and contact information just doesn’t cut it anymore. 

Write articles for local newspapers, business periodicals and trade publications, then make photocopies of them and create a “binder” which you can give to prospective clients.  Hire a graphic designer to create a professional looking cover for your “binder,” and have them printed at Kinko’s so they look like a “real” publication.

Even better, self-publish a short (less than 100 pages) book and give a signed copy to each prospect, lead and referral source.  With today’s self-publishing technology you probably can have 500 to 1,000 copies printed for less than $2,000.  For information on self-publishing a book, see the all-time classic book “The Self-Publishing Manual” by Dan Poynter, which is now in its 16th edition.

11.              Speaking topics.  Public speaking is one of the best ways for consultants to establish their expertise and get business.  Put together a list of 30 to 60 minute talks that relate to the work you do.  For example, if you are a marketing consultant to businesses, create a talk on “10 ways to generate more revenue in troubled times”.  Then, check your local newspaper, business weekly or industry trade publication to learn about upcoming meetings of business and professional organizations.  Call their telephone number, ask to speak to their “program director”, and volunteer to speak for free at a future meeting.  You will be amazed how many organizations will say “yes”, especially if your topics are timely, relevant and not being “done to death” by a million other speakers.

Put together a PowerPoint presentation of your talk, and be sure to make copies for all attendees with your contact information clearly displayed on the cover page.  Your name and telephone number should also appear as a “footer” at the bottom of each page.  Be sure to post copies of your presentations on your website and LinkedIn profile as well. 

12.              A support network.  When you work for yourself, especially if you work along out of a home office, you get some really crazy ideas sometimes.  Find at least four or five people who are in the “same boat” as you (self-employed consultants, but not competitors) and meet with them regularly to get a “reality check” on where you are, how you’re doing, what will work, and what (likely) won’t.  It may save you from doing something stupid you will regret later.

            Cliff Ennico (cennico@legalcareer.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series “Money Hunt.” This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.  COPYRIGHT 2009 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

           

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