By Kanika Khanijo
It was a lively discussion among members at a recent IABC/Calgary Company of One meetup – a safe environment for our consultant community to share tips and experiences about getting started and thriving in the consulting arena.
How did you envision your communications business taking off? And what could you have done differently?
- Set the Rate
A common theme that came up among consultants was that they wish they had charged more to start, because with time, you may only be able to increase fees and retainers in small increments. In the initial stages one tends to accept the going market rate, but that is not how one should determine their rate. It should be based on evaluation of your best and highest skill set, justifying it and then recognizing what one needs to get done. Instead of only charging by the hour there are other ways to go about it. Package pricing is one option, in which, each package comprises of different features. As we know, every project with time will eventually evolve and the specifications will change. Charging a certain percent of the leads per project or even resorting to ‘value pricing’, is another effective option.
2. Create the Contract
After establishing rates, the next crucial step is to understand what the client is looking for. If a client does not have a clear picture of what they want, there is no way one can sell just on their creativity. So here you need to do your ground work and the best way to bring the client to a negotiation table is by understanding their PAIN and responding accordingly. A contract should be reviewed first by a lawyer and then presented to the client. However, once the basic contract is in place, all you need to do is change deliverables to suit client specifications.
3. Offer Pro Bono
Sometimes a prospective client will ask to meet for coffee to ‘pick your brain’. Unfortunately, this is often a telltale sign that they’re just looking for free advice and the opportunity to ask you questions without paying for your time (and expertise!). One way to help ensure you’re both on the same page from the start: offer the first 30 minutes pro bono and clearly outline that anything beyond that will be invoiced as a consulting service.
4. Build your Network
Now when you decide to go your own way, be patient; it first will take you anywhere between three to six months to get the client to even listen to you. Having a wide and loyal network in place is a prerequisite to take the consulting route. Build your village together, do not isolate yourself and do not restrict to the communications industry only. Know your expertise and share proposals, templates etc. Even if you have the necessary skill-set, think about trade-off, automate certain tasks when it saves time and makes sense but stay wary of getting buried under subscriptions.
5. Follow the Rules
It’s also important to recognize specific rules and guidelines framed by the CRA. Have more than one client. CRA will look at it. Also there is nothing such as a full-time consultant. Something to keep in mind – a consultant provides expertise and a contractor does tasks.
Looking to connect with peers in the local consulting community? Check out an upcoming Company of One meetup – it’s included with your IABC/Calgary membership.