The hardest thing about being a consultant is bringing in the business. I get out the binoculars, climb the mountain, scout the herd, raise my bow and arrow, shoot it, cook it, eat it and throw away the bones. It’s all up to me. No check goes into my bank account unless I go out and win the business. If you want to build a sustainable consulting business, there is no way to avoid being directly responsible for landing projects. I always laugh a little at this example because I happen to be a vegetarian but you get my drift.
I do a lot of speaking and always stick around to answer questions after the talk. I get a lot of people who say, “I’m going to get together with a couple of buddies and start a little consulting firm.” When I dig deeper, this person is invariably thinking, “My buddy is going to bring in the business and I’m going to crank out billable work.” WRONG! You WILL have to take front line responsibility for business development no matter what. If you are a partner in a big consulting company, what is job #1? Rainmaker, bringing in the business, not doing the work. Same thing goes if you are a partner at a law firm or public accounting firm. This holds true for all industries that live and die by the billable hour.
I spend 10-15-20 hours a week doing networking, marketing and business development. Here’s how my time stacks up. I shoot to bill 30 hours a week on average. I spend 10-15-20 hours a week doing networking, marketing and business development. And like it or not, it takes an average of 5 hours a week for infrastructure and admin. That adds up to 50-55 hours a week which Is about right.
One of my professional friends stayed home with her children until they were in school. Then she fell into some subcontract consulting work (a rare thing). Eventually she realized that she would have to start working on bringing in business if she wanted to keep doing consulting. She assumed that since I have been doing this for more than 15 years, I didn’t have to chase deals any more. Then I broke the bad news. A sustainable consulting business requires a lifelong commitment to networking, marketing and business development. If you stop, 9-12 months down the road, your pipeline will dry up and you’ll hit the doldrums. This happened to one of my colleagues recently. He panicked and took a dreaded corporate job.
20 hours a week is too overwhelming when you’re getting started so I recommend starting with an hour a day. I fell into consulting easily and had plenty of projects for the first few years. Then my pipeline dried up. I had worked off what I now know is the pent-up demand. It was a major turning point in my business where I had to decide whether I was going to look for a job or buckle down and make this work. I met with an experienced colleague and she asked, “Can you devote an hour a day to networking, marketing and business development?” It was a big light bulb moment for me. Anyone can spend an hour a day. Now I never let a day go by without doing something toward networking, marketing and business development. I tell all of my clients the same thing. Never let a day go by without doing something for networking, marketing and business development.
It’s easier than you think to start consulting. All you need is a computer, a phone, brainpower and business experience. The work is the same as the work you’ve been doing in your corporate job only better.
The best way to get started as a consultant is to dive in. This free email course will walk you through three action steps to generate revenue now. If you start right away, you can be doing billable work as soon as next week. Following these three action steps gives you the best possible chance of landing a consulting project. It works for me and I see it work for others, over and over again. Take control and take the plunge!