When you've been in the business for years and you've developed an image as a powerful and successful independent consultant, it's easy to become complacent. Understandably, you appreciate your current clients, you feel comfortable working with them and you feel secure. But things can change in a minute; clients can go out of business, have a change of leadership, or simply decide to try something "new."
It's important to always keep your businesses' door open for new opportunities. Use the actionable tactics below to up your networking game and attract new clients. While the tips are geared towards established consultants, they're useful learning tools for new ICs just starting out, as well.
Any successful update to your business plan begins with a thorough audit of your current model. For example, you may need to adjust your business goals or re-evaluate your bill rate to determine if your rates are still competitive with the marketplace.
The more experience you have, the better you'll get at being able to manage different types of clients and client problems. To grow your business, look outside of your core areas for expansion. This may mean a reach in focus area, or an expansion geographically. You may even take on a partner or team up to cover more ground. These decisions should not be made lightly; expand your business with care.
As you already know, word of mouth only goes so far. Due to your consistent business with your current long-time clients, you may not have had to attend meet and greet events, conferences or seminars. These events are where the deals are waiting. You've most likely attended conferences when you first started out, but they've changed since then. With the new and improved opportunities to market yourself these days, whether it's through social media, email marketing, business cards, etc., conferences have substantial potential when it comes to helping you expand your business. While you're at it ... have you updated your website lately?
Sell your experience as an advantage. While you shouldn't go down a bulleted list of all of your success and accomplishments, explaining how you've positively affected businesses goes a long way. Deepak Lalwani, change management consultant and speaker at a recent MBO Partners webinar on becoming a preferred consultant for top businesses, suggests using case studies as part of your marketing collateral to help showcase your work with past clients.
Experience and age are valuable tools, and for many clients, these things may prove to be advantageous. But a primary reason businesses look for new consultants is to see a fresh and unique perspective; but some may turn to new or younger consultants because they have a skill or know a technology that you do not know. You can certainly keep an eye on your attitude, but make sure that your skills are equally up to date. This means regular learning, be it professional development in your area of expertise or continued skills classes. Use online tools like Lynda.com for skills-based learning, or consider courses through sites like MediaBistro.com (for marketing and digital skills) or broad-based online learning platforms like Udemy and Coursera.
How professional certifications can give independent contractors a competitive advantage.
As a new independent contractor, you may not know how much to charge for your consulting services. Learn how to calculate a cost-based bill rate with this video tutorial.