According to the State of Independence in America, 13% of all adults in America, 29 million people, are considering independence in the next 2 to 3 years. But going out on your own as an independent consultant requires extensive planning and preparation in order to find success. Creating a business plan is key. As you begin to plan your new, solo business venture, consider the following:
Focus your initial business plan within a specific array of services within your areas of subject matter expertise. For example, offering marketing services or tech consulting are good broad overviews, but designating yourself as a social media marketing expert who configures and monitors SEO optimization for small-to-medium businesses gives you a different value proposition and will attract more clients.
Core to a business plan is how you plan to attract new clients. Client recommendations and job referral services are excellent resources when starting out, but as your business expands so will your marketing needs. Consider your audience, and determine whether efforts such as a business website, social media marketing or traditional direct marketing might be the best supplements to the word-of-mouth reputation you're hoping to gain.
Knowing not only who you will be working with initially, but who you want to work with eventually is an important step in preparing to win business. Depending on your existing network of relationships, you may be able to immediately reach your goal client, but you must be prepared to excel and deliver value before you make a big commitment.
Before reaching out to potential clients, you should know how you plan to answer one of the most important questions: what your services will cost them. There are a number of factors to take into consideration when determining how you will price your services, including your experience, your target clients, and what others in your industry charge. This will require research on your part, but determining your bill rate is essential to positioning yourself effectively in the market. In pricing your services, don't forget to account for overhead expenses that go into owning and managing a business. You'll likely be responsible for all supplies and equipment, marketing costs, an office space rental and salaries for any employees or subcontractors you work with. A good budget can help you price your services in such a way that you cover your costs and a bill rate calculator tool such as the one MBO Partners offers can help.
Do you plan on working out of a home office? Will you set up a workspace in clients' offices? Or will you rent a space all your own, or opt-in to a co-working facility? To decide which solution works best for you consider factors such as your industry, desired overheard, space and equipment requirements, client type, and personal working style. Take inventory of your needs and factor this choice into your business plan.
Some clients will have standard contracts they require all of their independent consultants to use. Others will not, and the responsibility of preparing an agreement will be yours. Be prepared for this, and create one beforehand as part of your business plan. This is a legal document; therefore you may want to hire an attorney to draft one for you. Another option is to talk with consulting services experts to discuss the best options for standard contract clauses to help your business.
As an independent consultant, you are considered a small business owner. This designation comes with license and tax requirements from local, state and federal government agencies. Before getting started, research what licenses and registrations your business will require to operate legally.
Everyone begins their independent consulting career with the goal to succeed. But it is important to define what success means to you. Does it mean immediate profitability, or hitting your break-even point after the first six months? Will success to you be earning a specific annual profit, tripling your client list, or spending more time with your family? Put your specific and measurable goals in writing in your business plan you give yourself key performance indicators to use in determining your success.
With a solid business plan in place, you're ready to make your dreams of working as an independent consultant a reality.
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