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How to Become a Business Consultant

  April 22

This post may contain affiliate links.

Today’s post is by Tiffany, one of my recent coaching students. She’s here to tell you about her experience with quitting her job for self-employment. Take it away Tiffany!

Cutsy-2-e1425791609968In March 2014, I made the big decision to quit my full-time job working from home as the Director of Operations for a multi-million dollar online company. I had just earned the highest salary in my career racking in $71,000. For me that was huge considering this was only my second full-time salaried job and my first paid me $41,000.

When 2014 kicked-off, I had no intention of quitting my job. I figured I’d be there at least another year so I could save money, continue to pay off debt, and gain professional skills. However, after making my fist Vision board and realizing the companies values weren’t in line with my own, I had to make a hard decision. Do I quit or do I stay?

I didn’t have a plan of what I’d do after or really too much savings since I used most excess income towards my debt. Quitting sort of caught me off guard but instead of living for guaranteed paycheck rather than for my values, I took the plunge and quit my job.

After quitting, I literally spent two months trying to figure out what I was going to do next. The first month I allowed myself to chill out and regroup after such an intense year. The second month, I worked more intentionally to figure out what I was going to do. I considered going back to a full-time job but when I reflected on my goals for the year, I didn’t feel a full-time job would allow me the space I needed to create the life I wanted.

So I started my own business instead. From the start I knew I wanted to do consulting work but I didn’t have enough confidence in myself to do it. So I settled for something slightly less intimidating and that I knew I could do. I launched myself as a Virtual Assistant. Doing this helped me face my fears of starting a new business and allowed me to simply take action rather than sit around and wait until I was ready. Through taking that action, I gained confidence and about a month or two into being a VA, I was ready to focus more on consulting work.

Consulting wasn’t something I had necessarily done before but I knew I had a skill set in operations, operations management, scaling, and improving systems & processes. From my experience in my previous job, I knew this was an area many business owners struggled with so I wanted to find a way to leverage this skill set I had.

At first I thought I wanted to do this work for Small Business but I quickly found that although small business owners need this service, many aren’t willing to pay much for it. Since I have two kids to care for, I didn’t have time to convince people of the worth of my services. So I moved on to businesses that were more established, had a revenue of 2-6 million, knew they needed what I offered, and were willing to pay for it.

As a consultant, I focus on working with decision makers to improve their daily operations and processes so that they can scale more effectively, improve culture, and increase profits. How this plays out varies from company to company. Some companies simply need me to come in and assess their company dynamics and offer advice on what they can improve to reach their strategic goals. However, most companies are growing so fast that even if I gave them a plan, they’d have no one to implement it.

So most companies hire me to not only create a plan but also work with their team to implement it. Since the work is usually more hands on, I’ll on average have 1-2 clients at a time depending on the project. So far, that’s worked really well for me since I also do other freelance work. It enables me to give them the attention they deserve while also having other smaller clients that I do virtual assistant work with or create websites for.

As you can see, I have multiple hustles. While this isn’t my ultimate revenue goal, since launching my business in May, I’ve made $41,325 so far, which is more than I’d thought I’d make in my first year. This is mostly from consulting clients but also includes a few websites and a little VA work. And this is definitely on the low end of what consultants can make.

I’m really enjoying the balance that being a business owner and consultant brings me. My favorite part is that I get to go into a company and work with awesome people to create real change and then I get to go home. I rarely ever have to spend my time doing things I don’t enjoy, which is priceless to me.

From running my business to doing client work, I’m always doing something I enjoy. It’s pretty remarkable. Especially considering the fact that before this, I’d only worked in operations for one year. I worked in a High School before that as an Assistant Dean of Discipline and Community Service Director. And I studied Sociology in College. Nothing in my background really warrants me having my own consulting business. But this is what I love to do and I’m good at it.

The last year has been about me gaining confidence in my ability to do exactly what I love and get paid for it. I don’t have a business degree. I’ve never officially studied organizational development. I don’t even have a lot of “work” experience. I’m simply a renaissance woman who decided to give myself permission to be just that and make money being who I am. All I can say is that it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s been pretty freakin’ awesome.

If consulting is something you or someone you know is interested in trying, below are five simple quick tips for getting started:

  1. Determine your area of expertise

What do you want to consult on? Do you find that you give a lot of free advice on something right now that you could possibly charge for?

  1. Create a simple website outlining your services

When I first started, I literally created 3 different websites for myself for my business within the first 5 months until I landed on something that represented my business. So don’t get attached to the first site needing to be perfect. It will likely change and evolve as you do.

  1. Pick a launch date

When you’re starting something new, fear often gets in the way and can keep you from just getting started. So pick a date, tell a friend or coach, and hold yourself accountable to getting all your ducks in a row so you can start.

  1. Send a launch email to your network

This is vital. Use the network you have rather than trying to come up with a marketing strategy to reach people you don’t know yet, at least to start. In my first year, all my clients but one came from referrals from friends. (Mainly one friend who has an extensive network.) When I had a coach, they pushed me to market myself but it felt inauthentic and overwhelming. So I stopped. Do what feels right to you but from my experience, your network is the place to start. Leave social media and marketing for another time.

  1. Stay open

You may have a vision of what you want your new consulting business to look like. But in the first year, it likely won’t look like that. But don’t get discouraged. This process is about learning, growing, and ultimately finding out what people want from you. You may think its one thing but you have to be open and willing to it being something entirely different. Go with the flow, be flexible, and just have fun.

So there you have it. The hardest part is often just getting started and moving through our fears and resistance. But hopefully through my experience you’ve gained a little more confidence that it’s possible.

So who is Tiffany? Well, I’m a mama, entrepreneur (my biz is here), partner, fiery ball of awesomeness, loyal friend to my small circle of peeps, artist, a woman of many colors, a writer for hire, singer, dancer, and a huge promoter of living one’s best, most fullest life.

In March 2014, I made the big decision to quit my full-time job working from home as the Director of Operations for a multi-million dollar online company to work for myself. Crazy, right? https://www.catherinealford.com/2015/04/22/my-first-year-of-being-a-business-consultant/

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19 responses to “How to Become a Business Consultant

  1. I just wanted to echo how websites evolve. I’ll probably be in my tenth theme later this year and when I contacted a professional friend for my second logo redo, I told her to make the logo something that could work with any theme. My blog has evolved so much in the past year…

    And I also thinking picking a date to just start is key. It’s good to give yourself boundaries and timelines, acting like you are your boss. Because you are!

    1. @Kirsten…I’m already thinking of my next blog iteration and I literally just finished it 🙂 And I’m a big proponent of boundaries & timelines because when you’re working for yourself, there’s a special self-motivation piece that’s needed and sometimes structure helps us accomplish goals when we aren’t so “self-motivated”.

    1. Thanks Anne! I do love that pic too 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment and share your thoughts. It’s much appreciated!!

  2. I have to agree with Anne — that’s a fantastic photo! Love it, and your story. I think the tip about staying open is the most important advice you can give anyone wanting to work for themselves in any field. Things change, and we need to evolve and adapt to keep up. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Kali! Staying open has definitely been huge for me. I’m an Aries and some would say we’re stubborn, so staying open when I know what I want isn’t always easy. But its been the best thing to enjoy the process of learning and evolving with the process. Thanks for reading!

  3. Thank you for sharing. I’ve spent at least the last year trying to figure out where I’m heading and in the process ended up feeling stuck. It’s refreshing to read that you just took the leap not really knowing what to do. I absolutely love your advice to pick a date. Personally, I can analyze anything to death and having a deadline would force me into action.

    1. Hey Jessica, I totally get what you mean! I definitely like to plan as much as possible and think things through. But I found with something I’ve basically never done before, there’s a limit to how much I can actually plan. At some point, I have to just jump. Feeling stuck is extremely frustrating. Indecision is absolutely the death of me. Pick a date, go for it, and let me know how it goes!! [email protected] 🙂

  4. Nice story to read. I am an insurance agent and radio show host in Texas. Love what I do but am truly considering changing my show format to small business consulting and beginning the plans for my Exit Strategy. I have taken the leap from corporate America a couple of times in my life and though the risk does not scare me this time it is the “starting all over” phase because I know how much work it takes to start a new business.
    You have inspired me so thank you
    Lezlee

    1. Hi Lezlee! So glad you feel inspired. Even though it feels like you’d be starting all over, its important to remember that this new experience is the culmination of all you’ve done up until this point. It brought you to this place. If this next step is something you feel called to do and are excited about, trust that you have everything you need to make it happen and that it will all work out! The best of luck to you on this new journey!!

      Tiffany

  5. Tiffany, I must say that of many of the blogs I’ve read, the flow and sincerity of this story is just stellar. You hit on so many great points that many of us face when starting a business. Having a plan, trying to figure things out and reflecting your goals.

    I will echo Kali and agree that staying open is refreshing advice. I feel like Jessica when she mentions feeling stuck, though, but I know there is an answer.

    I won’t even tell you how long I’ve been researching, thinking, looking, overthinking, analyzing… and I still haven’t made up my mind. I have all these great ideas (I think), and have even greater aspirations. Every day, I inspire others by advising them ‘start now’. Why wait? Why subject yourself to office politics, long commutes and building someone else’s dream? It’s such an amazing feeling when the light bulb goes on, and they have this renewed sense of purpose and drive. But for myself…I wait. Why can’t I follow my own advice?

  6. This was so inspirational and spoke to just about every single thought I had/have. Thanks for sharing your journey!!

  7. Hi, I’m have a passion for branding and content creation and I’m starting my online biz. First, I decided to go with VA services, but I don’t feel confident on that as it implicates many tech skills that I’m starting to develop. My background is in online marketing and I feel more confident with branding and content strategy, but have doubts on how do deliver my work. I can do the strategy and present it, but if they need me to guide their team on the implementation or me to offer that service too, how do I charge for it? Time, results?

    I basically have doubts delimitating until what point stills my work.

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