I’ve just been on the phone chatting to the friend of a friend who has just taken the leap from a corporate marketing job to marketing consultant. Scary AND exciting all at once!
As you would expect, he asked me a heap of questions. The one that struck the loudest chord was “knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you started your business today?”.
The business world is quite different today compared to nine years ago when I started consulting. BTW I can’t believe it’s been nine years. NINE YEARS!!! (Technically it’s nine years on 13 July. Shame that Flour & Chocolate is closed on Mondays. I’ll have to buy a celebration cake on Wednesday. And have a celebratory drink on Monday…).
Quitting my job to start consulting was the best business decision I’ve made so far. It suits my personality, how I want to spend my time and I love that I can work from home and sit in trakkie daks with no makeup. Mostly.
However mostly I love that I can choose who to work with, the type of work I want to do, and, generally, when I do it.
Anyway, this is what said on the phone today (and some of what I should have said):
- work out how much you need to earn to cover your basic living expenses
- find out the market rate for the work you want to do and quote accordingly – ask people you know what they charge and how they charge – flat rate vs hourly rate vs day rate – and consider your overheads. I charge a bit less than my equivalents in the big agencies as I don’t pay a massive amount of rent – it makes a difference.
- develop a good set of terms and conditions to give to clients when you send your proposal – this should to include your payment terms, confidentiality, scope of the job, how to change the scope of the job, what you on-charge (travel, parking, third party suppliers etc) – keep it to one page if you can
- think about what type of work you want to do and what you don’t want to do. You may not be able to be choosy when you start, but you will eventually be able to say no to people and work that doesn’t resonate with you
- set some business goals and write them down. Work out how you will achieve them.
- create a website and ideally start a blog
- use a “real” email address – gmail and, God forbid, hotmail, are sooooo unprofessional looking. By real I mean firstname.lastname@example.org
- start a twitter account and use it every. single. day. If you don’t know how, then read this post. Follow me on twitter and tweet me any questions you might have.
- update your LinkedIn profile to reflect the type of work and clients you want to attract (I’m assuming you’re already on LinkedIn, if not, start an account)
- tell EVERYONE that you are now consulting and the type of work you are looking for. You never know who the people you know may know.
- get a professional looking photo taken to use on all your social media (especially LinkedIn) – you don’t need to a professional to take it, but don’t use a photo of you holding an alcoholic beverage. Unless you are someone like my friend Amanda Reboul who is an expert in champagne – and yes, what a great job!
- get out there and network. Meet people for coffee, tell them what you do. Go to networking events, develop a bit of an elevator pitch so people know what you do. If you’re not sure which networking events to go to then read this and this. In my first six months I met 10-15 people for coffee every week to talk about myself. And, obviously, to find out about them and what their marketing pain points were. A lot of those led to work or referrals.
- don’t make assumptions about the people you meet – they could refer you work one day. I had a lovely client who was referred by his daughter who heard me speak at a networking event two years earlier.
There was also advice I didn’t give him – as he had already quit his day job I didn’t want to freak him out! :
- think about why you want to be a consultant rather than an employee. There are loads of pros and cons – pros include flexibility, working from home (for me at least), better integration of work and life, deciding who to work with, greater variety of work. Cons include loss of a regular income, having to do all the boring jobs (filing, paying bills, filing…), no support staff, having to make all the decisions on your own, isolation, having to go out and actually find the work, etc etc. Weigh these all up before deciding – it certainly isn’t a business decision that will suit everyone.
- spend time planning and saving before taking that leap. Make sure you have a good financial buffer, I would suggest at least six months income, as it can take time to build up a list of clients and get paid.
- get your personal insurances sorted out – life insurance, trauma insurance, income insurance etc. You can’t get income protection insurance if you work for yourself unless you can show (I think) three years of financials.
- spend time networking and building your list of contacts so you have a good range of people to talk to when you start your consultancy
- start to build a presence on social media (especially twitter) as soon as you can. I know I talk a lot about twitter, but it really has helped me grow my business via all the fabulous people and opportunities it has put in my path
- work out what you want to do and what you don’t want to do – set some goals and create a basic marketing plan (something I didn’t do…).
I’m sure there are many more words of wisdom – what are yours? What do you wish you had done differently when you started out? Or, what would you absolutely do now?
Or, are you thinking of taking the leap? If so, do you have any questions?
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