A few years ago, I had a client who was a CPA and started her career in public accounting. She went on to work for several other companies, always in tech and always in finance and accounting functions. She said, “I’m tired of tech and I don’t want anyone to know I am a CPA. I want to do strategic planning in the brewing industry.” I replied, “Who would hire you? You have no experience in the brewing industry. Just because you like beer doesn’t mean you are qualified to do strategic planning in the brewing industry!”
Do You Want to Take the Expertise You Have and Go Independent?
Going independent is not the time to conquer a new industry or area of expertise. People buy your experience. They hire you because you’re an expert. Work in an area where you have deep experience and expertise. Now is not the time to do something completely different. If you want to do something completely different, consulting is not for you, perhaps you want to look at franchises or something else. People hire me because I’ve been doing what I do for many years. They expect me to come in and contribute immediately.
What will be different is how, when and with whom you work. You will have the freedom, flexibility and control to choose your hours, location and clients. It will FEEL completely different. You will be working where you want, when you want and how you want. You will choose what kind of work you do, who you work with and how much you get paid.
In my early years of consulting, I told people I worked part-time. One time, a fellow Mom consultant overheard me tell someone this. She said, “Why did you tell him you work part-time? You don’t work part-time. Let’s count your hours.” Thirty hours a week billable, fifteen hours a week networking marketing and business development, five hours a week infrastructure and admin. Hmmmm. That adds up to fifty hours a week, clearly full-time. I was telling people I worked part-time because it felt like part time. Having all that control made it seem so much easier. On top of that, I work from home so there is no more getting dressed, packing up for a day away and making the commute. So many hours saved.
Do You Want to be Responsible and Accountable With No One to Blame?
My first engagement with a client is typically when there is a big mess to sort out. Sure, it would be great if they hired me up front to make sure the mess didn’t happen, but that’s not the way it usually works the first time around. I get hired to come in and save the day. If you are the chosen superhero, there’s no blaming anyone but yourself. There is no finger pointing. I am not the one who created the disaster, but I am now responsible for clearing it up. When I am presenting problems and solutions to the executive team, there is no way to avoid taking at least a few hits. I always wanted to be a superhero, so I don’t mind dodging some bullets.
Showcase Your Experience with Case Studies
Case studies are a great way to illustrate the impact of your work. They can provide content for many things: value proposition, elevator pitch, networking discussions, sales meetings and web site to name a few. You may be thinking, “But wait, I’m new to consulting, I haven’t done any client projects yet.” Don’t worry, you can use examples from when you were an employee.
I favor the CAR format – challenge, action, result. I am not talking about a multiple page case study for the Harvard Business Review. Here we’re looking for one page of information. It’s a marketing piece to go a little deeper into your capabilities. You will need both a one-page version and a two-sentence summary. You will eventually want a repertoire of a dozen case studies but start out by tackling two or three. Case studies will be your best source of content when you are getting started. Some people call them success stories on their web sites. Either term works so choose the one you prefer
Case studies convert prospects to clients. These mini case studies bring your service offering to life with something concrete. Choose one that will resonate with the client situation when you are speaking with a prospect. A good story makes you memorable.
Blend Experience to Create a Powerful Story
I want to tell you about my frozen coincidence. It is a great example of blending experience to create a powerful story. My deepest experience is software and medical devices. But I’m always excited to work in a different vertical if the opportunity comes up. I woman I knew from the medical device world became the CEO of a company that installs and services refrigeration equipment in grocery stores. A company that does what? I know, but it ended up being really fun. You probably never thought about the fact that refrigeration and freezing is mission critical for the grocery industry. I did a series of projects over the course of 18 months.
Shortly after that project ended, I got a call with a referral to a hot prospect. It turned out to be a company that does deep frozen shipping for the Life Sciences industry. I was able to say I had extensive experience in Life Sciences and just spent the last 18 months working in refrigeration and freezing! Can you believe it? That prospect turned into my biggest client ever. Half a million dollars in revenue over three years.
As you get better and better at showcasing your experience with these stories, you will need this free Billable with Baby® proposal template to lock in your new projects by delivering a beautifully professional proposal.
This is the third of the Top Seven Things to Know About Starting Your Own Consulting Business. It is important to work in an area where you have deep experience and expertise. Next up is the biggest surprise, the pent up demand phenomenon.