“I’ve wanted to start consulting for so long, but…”
I hear this a lot. Several times a day, in fact. The ‘but’ is usually followed by… “I don’t know how,” or “I can’t afford to take a drop in income.” This was my default from about 1999 to 2014 as a matter of fact. Yes…for almost fifteen years I put my dream of working for myself on hold because I didn’t know how to start without dropping my income, and the thought of that caused me a lot of anxiety.
I bumped around a lot taking all sorts of actions in my quest to work for myself. I wrote novels, but didn’t market them effectively. I got coaching certifications but didn’t create a coaching program. I started consulting in HR but wasn’t in love with HR. My problem was I had a lot of things I wanted to do but no idea of how to tie them together into an irresistible offer.
That’s the exact same situation most of the people I talk to are in. Some of the talents these folks have are things like:
• 10+ years in a leadership role in their company
• Exceptional ability to ‘just know’ when a work flow process or dynamic is broken and how to fix it
• Passion for communicating with diverse groups of people
• Intense drive to help others grow and be better
• Strong writing and presentation skills
• Deeply analytical
• High personal standards
• One or more areas in their professional careers that they really gravitate towards and are uncommonly good at
Note what’s usually not on the list:
• Experience repackaging all that experience into a signature service offering to deliver as a consultant, not as an employee
• Background in creating a successful sales process that fits with their personality
• Ability to craft a compelling message about what they do to attract the right clients to ask the right questions
If that’s you, those bottom three points can seem SO BIG and SO DISQUALIFYING, that no matter how unsatisfactory the employment situation has become, it seems safer, better, and more realistic than creating a business based on your purpose and talent.
For me, on the other side of all that, it’s a different story. See, I’ve felt that fear and anxiety about not being able to get clients and make money and become homeless. Like everyone else, I thought the answer was to slowly build up my consulting business while working (soft launch) and then take the big jump when I was finally ready.
Well, for better or for worse, I was pushed out of the nest long before I was ready and our family didn’t have a financial leg to stand on, so I had to figure it out and figure it out FAST.
I paid a pretty high dumb tax, but I also learned that packaging, pricing, marketing, and selling are all just a set of tasks that can be learned and performed and perfected…EVEN FOR INTROVERTS. Even if it’s scary! Even if you don’t know how to today!
I ended up creating a mentoring program for people who are stuck in the ‘but’ part of “I really want to start consulting”. It’s the steps that need to be taken and repeated in order to build a sustainable business. Like anything new, it’s a bit uncomfortable at first, but also like any new habit, repetition and perseverance is the true ‘secret’ to success.
The steps to success that I’ve identified are:
• Intentionally creating a growth mindset and positive beliefs about your own success
• Developing your product and identifying your perfect client
• Creating a business plan
• Creating your brand and social media presence
• Creating your business infrastructures
• Creating marketing structures that you can dial up or dial down depending on your workload
• Developing a sales process that works for you
• Learning to deliver dynamic and engaging presentations
• Learning to scale up and use leverage to increase your wealth
It really is that simple. Of course, a lot goes into each step, and depending on whether you’re planning on doing business consulting, training, coaching, or some version of all of the above, will vary how you execute on many of the steps, but those ARE the steps. And what I’ve learned is that this is also a good order to do the steps in.
You have to make sure you believe in yourself and aren’t going to crumple at every setback, or it’s going to be an awful journey. But next is creating your offer. I rushed through this in my first iteration of my business because I was so concerned with making money quickly. What I didn’t realize is I would have made a lot more if I would have taken the time to figure out how all my interests and skills combined to make a really unique offer for my perfect clients. I really can’t overstate how important it is to combine the vision of what you want for your life with the skills you bring to the table, and the businesses or people you’re motivated to help. There is no box here to think outside of…this is YOUR field and you can dream as big as you need to to include ALL the things. If you take nothing else away from this, please understand that YOU have something unique that will be irresistible to your perfect clients and your business depends on you rolling up your sleeves and figuring out what it is!
My experience is that having a mentor or guide throughout the process eliminates a lot of wandering in the wilderness, performing by trial and error, and applying for jobs every week out of fear that maybe you can’t do this.
Because you CAN do this if you want to.
I love the freedom, flexibility, interesting, and meaningful work consulting affords me and am grateful everyday that I am on this journey.