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6 Things Every New Consultant Should Know

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. When I started my communications consulting career, my goal was to get six-month, on-site contracts from big corporations that paid large hourly fees. I would extend the contract for another six months when it ended or move on. I was more interested in getting steady contract work than building a business . It worked out great for about five years. Unfortunately, I got sick, had surgery, and couldn’t work. Hourly consultants don’t get paid when they don’t show up. And I didn’t show up for several weeks. The good news — companies kept calling to see if I was available. The bad news — I couldn’t leave home. Remote work wasn’t an option. My duties required working with executives to gather information to set up internal processes. I didn’t have off-site access to the clients’ systems. During my recovery, I decided to change my business model and improve my processes. It was time to build a business. Most entrepreneurs learn by trial and error. My journey was no exception. Even with extensive industry experience, a mentor and great business contacts, it wasn’t easy to go in a new direction after my surgery. But I needed to survive, and it’s hard to know what works or doesn’t work if you don’t try new things. There are many facets to becoming a successful consultant. I’ve perfected my process and believe these six things helped scale my business. 1. Consultant or freelancer? Freelancing and consulting are two very similar but different entrepreneurial paths. One title is not more prestigious than the other, but prospects and clients may disagree, preferring freelancers for short-term creative work and consultants for in-depth industry expertise. When you are starting out, it’s easy to use the titles interchangeably to describe who you are and what you do. Your goal is to get new clients and if prospects are looking for a freelancer, you are happy to be one to land the business. This can be a mistake. Most companies hire freelancers for projects that require creative skills and often consider them gig workers. They hire consultants to help restructure their businesses or implement company policies and procedures — and they’re willing to pay for it. Freelancers and consultants may provide identical services and charge the same fees, but it’s better for your brand to choose the right title to land the right clients. As a new consultant, you are the brand. It’s important to remember that at all times. 2. Pricing your services Pricing is more art than science. Large consulting firms know the value they bring to their clients, and they charge accordingly for their expertise. You should, too. To stay in business, you need to know what it costs you to do business. That means understanding your business margins. Most novice business consultants don’t know their margins and work for low project or hourly fees. This strategy may get you a client, but it won’t keep you in […]

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