When it comes to the speaking industry, entrepreneurs tend to focus on speaking at events and conferences. It’s the traditional path that is known and understood. Being a paid consultant to companies is something that intrigues entrepreneurs but there’s no clear path. The lack of clarity and not enough “how-to” information keeps entrepreneurs from incorporating consulting into the services they offer.
Consulting is different in the fact that you might be giving a presentation to a few department managers or part of a company’s employee workforce. The audience may not be as big, but the money tends to be better. Conferences are limited by their speaker’s budget. A company tends to bring in one consultant at a time and their budget can be unlimited. In 2013, it was estimated that consulting is a $39.3 billion dollar a year industry according to Bloomberg.
Consulting is also great because mid to large companies have offices in other countries. If you do good work in one office, there is the opportunity to consult with the other offices all over the world. I’m writing this article to you from Rome, Italy. I have been here in Europe for six weeks on a six-country consulting tour for the same company. If consulting at companies is one of your goals, here is how you get started.
Build your foundation and social proof.
Your foundation consists of your website, social media presence, and your email list. Your foundation is where you will send HR managers and department heads at companies to see that you are an expert at what you talk about. Your website shouldn’t be cluttered with too many pages and too much information -- you don’t want to overwhelm anyone. Each page should demonstrate that what you tech is practical. Companies invest their time and money on training and strategy they can understand.
On your social media pages, you should post content that illustrates you know what you’re talking about in regards to your topic. It is not uncommon for a company to follow your work on social media and your email list for some time to get a feel for you and what you do. After the foundation is set, it’s time to build social proof. You can:
- Get interviewed on podcasts about your topic.
- Write for large business and personal development publications.
- Speak at Rotary Clubs and Chamber of Commerce meetings to other business owners.
Start with local companies.
You’re not going to start out booking consulting work at Apple or other large companies. Where you’ll start is smaller, local companies. You start local because you have the opportunity to get in front of a decision maker that can write you a check. Local businesses also tend to move slower when it comes to a lot of things. If you consult on marketing or digital marketing —for example—you have the chance to book a lot of work because local businesses tend to focus on traditional forms of marketing. No matter what your topic is, there is a local business that could use what you teach on.
Look for you local business journal or scan the companies where you live. Think about your core message and how it could benefit one of those local companies. Put together a proposal to show the owner of the company. Send a welcome email, call the business, or go into the business. The goal is to get some time with the decision maker to show how what you consult on can help the business’ bottom line. Back your proposal up with research and data.
Leverage and grow.
The hardest part will be signing that first company. Once you have one, it’s easier to leverage that first one for a second one. Focus on building a local presence so that you will start to get referrals. Once you have three or so local consulting gigs under your belt, you can turn your focus to larger companies. You can leverage the work you’ve done and the social proof you’ve built as you book local work. Push for work in other offices as you start to work with large companies.
This is an intro to getting you started as a paid consultant. There are many businesses that could use what you teach. It’s a matter of establishing yourself and finding the right companies, then pitching them with a solid proposal. You can book some good work that helps your business grow and gives you the opportunity to travel. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper into consulting. You may not understand it all, but if you have worked hard to build your skillset, you can learn and book gigs.