How to Use Your Expertise to Start a Consulting Business
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We all reach a point in our careers when we start getting questions about our experience or expertise. Perhaps you’ve been asked if you can do someone a favor and "look something over." Or maybe someone has even asked if they can pay you for a consulting session. Perhaps you tapped into a new way to create marketing campaigns or conduct market research that you know other people would want to know about. Whatever your expertise is, it’s likely you’ve felt the tug at one time or another to offer consulting services.
Here’s how to get started marketing your expertise to do just that.
1. Understand your unique expertise, then offer it for free.
Of course, the first step to starting a consulting side hustle is to know what it is you have to offer. This could be based on experiences you’ve had or an area of specialty you’ve studied at length. Depending on your reputation in your industry, you could go out there and immediately start selling sessions. But, you’ll have more luck on sales calls and in marketing yourself if you have clear deliverables on what you’ve done for companies and individuals in the past.
So, commit to working for 2-3 companies for free at first. This will give you a good sense of your consulting style, and there’s a clear difference between being able to say, “I can help you increase your profit margin” and “I helped two companies triple their profit margin.” Potential clients want to hear about clients you’ve worked in the past. The Ambition Plan writes that offering to work for free is also a great way to “meet and spend time with influential people in your industry.” Get out there and show them what you have to offer!
2. Craft an offer and a payment plan.
Once you get some experience under your belt, craft an offer that makes sense. Choosing a price is also why it’s so important to know what exactly you can do for companies or individuals. If you help companies hit six figures in their first six months, it’s reasonable to charge at a higher price tag than if you just “help companies become profitable quickly.” Cory Jean, a credit and receivables consultant, noted to this end that, “Clients respond well to numbers. Telling potential clients exact percentages in sales growth helps them understand the full picture of what their investment in you is, and what it will reward them with.”
Then, figure out if you’ll offer consulting on a retainer or just on one-off sessions. Both serve different purposes. If you have one core branding strategy session for startups, perhaps it will just be a two-hour immersive meeting at one set price. But, if you help with a longer-term strategy and go into the trenches with them, a retainer would be more appropriate. Consulting services usually go on retainer.
3. Create materials promoting your consulting business.
It’s important that all numbers associated with your consulting promises are listed somewhere; ideally on a funnel or a landing page. Create the exact specifications of what your consulting services entail, including hours spent in 1:1 meetings, materials included, and what the potential client can expect to learn and get from you. The more specific you can be, the better. Make sure to write to their pain points and rely heavily on past experiences for credibility.
Then, brand strategist Erin Feree recommends marketing through a blog, a newsletter, and a small website. Create more succinct versions of your sales script, such as small paragraphs that can be used as a bio on blogs or in the “about” section on a newsletter.
4. Engage in content marketing.
Finally, remember that the best way to demonstrate your expertise to your audiences online is to release content associated with what you consult on. This type of content is often referred to as “top of the funnel content,” and will give potential clients a taste for your style and insights, thus establishing trust. They need to be able to see your obvious expertise in order to want to hire you.
Do you offer social media consulting? Post a few social media tips a week. Do you offer HR consulting? Post a few HR tips or stories a week. Over time, this will begin to equate with your brand and appeal to your audience. If you feel like you’re running out of content, Tsavo Neil recommends asking your audience what they’re struggling with. The more you can start to solve their problems, the more they’ll see you as the industry leader.
Over time, as you continue to land clients and help them, you’ll have enough case studies and numerical evidence to expand your consulting business beyond a side hustle. You have something to share and a way to help entrepreneurs or businesses; get out there and show them!