When you first start out as a consultant the prospect of having to sell your services can be daunting. And if you think this is something that only affects you, then you might be surprised to hear that a lot of my Solo Consultant Masterclass students have been in the same boat. When you’ve spent your career primarily within the public sector, moving to the private sector can mean getting outside your comfort zone – and for many of us, selling our services is definitely falls into that category.
To build a successful business, not only will you have to leverage your existing network of colleagues who are working within organisations you want to consult to, but over time you’ll also need to develop a broader network of potential clients.
So, when you first start out, how can you let people know you’re available for consulting without being that terrible cliché of a salesperson? Well it’s all about making connections with others and in this article I outline a few really good places to start.
Talk to people
I know……seems so obvious, but those of us who are on the more introverted side of the spectrum [yes, that includes me] might need a bit of a push, because it takes us outside of our comfort zone. Once you’ve made the decision to become a consultant [and you’ve let your employer know] you need to let as many of your peers and colleagues know about your decision. Pick up the phone, head to your email, or go to LinkedIn. However you do it, connect with people and let them know about your decision. And trust me, I know that even the prospect of doing this can feel potentially a bit exposing. It can be tempting to just stay under the radar and hope that some work comes your way rather than putting yourself out there and failing, right? Wrong. You have way more chance of failing if you stay under the radar. You need to back yourself and spread the word.
Before you reach out to people, spend some time before hand putting together a Capability Statement – it’s basically the CV for your consulting business. This will provide people with a bit of background about you – essentially your credibility to provide consulting services. It should also outline what type of consultancy services you offer – your niche or focus. My own Capability Statement is available from my website so feel free to download and replicate something similar.
And don’t forget to make sure that people have your new contact details.
Develop a brand
Again, not something many of us have done prior to going into consulting. But now it’s important. I’m not talking about hiring a brand consultant or spending a lot of time or money agonizing about this. I’m talking about some fairly straightforward first steps.
Chose a business name and have some visual branding created around this. Even if you just use your own name, like I have, you can develop a logo, business colours and a basic style template. Then you carry this across your business cards, consultancy proposals, PP presentations, website etc. Head to freelancer sites like Upwork or fiver to get this kind of work done at very reasonable rates.
Register a business email address [e.g. @yourbusinessname.com] so that that all email communication will come from your brand name when you connect with people, and create a branded email signature.
Carry the brand through to your LinkedIn profile and update it [don’t forget to make sure your connections are up to date]. This means that everyone in your network will then receive a notification.
Take these few basic steps and before you’ve had time to focus on your fear of exposure, your brand is out there.
These days there are endless possibilities to get published, especially online [LinkedIn is a good place to start]. You have a wealth of knowledge built up over many years of experience in the sector you intend to consult in. Now you need to use this knowledge to publish articles, blog posts, papers etc. You need to get your name out there because it’s all about establishing your credibility as someone who absolutely understands your potential clients’ operating environment. So approach online and offline industry publications – you’ll be surprised how keen they are to get new content and contributors. Position yourself as an expert and watch your profile [and your business] grow.
Keep yourself on the radar of potential clients
One of the keys to success as a consultant is being ‘on the list’. Because when a consultancy opportunity becomes available, in the majority of cases it’s sent out to just a handful of consultants to bid for. So it’s really important that you are on that small list. And the best way to ensure that is to stay connected. You need to keep in contact with past clients, as well as senior people you’ve connected with during projects, and your extended network. The aim of the game is that when a project becomes available, they think of you.
Jacq Hackett provides expert consulting services to public health agencies. And as a veteran of over two decades of consulting, she now provides coaching and development for other consultants. She is passionate about supporting the next generation of public sector consultants to become very good at what they do.
Improving your proposal writing skills is your ticket to winning more consultancy projects and earning the income you aspire to. Access Jacq’s free video training series Writing Better Proposals here.