While the world of consulting continues to grow — there were more than 637,000 consultants in 2016 — the ability to achieve success remains elusive for many. Freelance writer Anna Johansson compiled a list of seven complications that can stand in the way of success for new consultants.
1. Providing results is key for establishing a successful sustainability consulting business. Your clients may enjoy your company or think your are providing sound advive, but if they aren’t seeing results - either to their bottom line or in the way you follow-through on project deliverables - they are not likely to continue paying you. Make sure you create a goal-oriented, milestone-driven process in to prove your value.
2. The false assumption that consulting is easy sink your business. Although your new business may not require a lot of capital to get started, you'll want to create a business plan and be explicit in your service offerings, pricing, time management processes, billing schedule, and contracts. If you just focus on business development and nothing else, you may end up with work you don't want, or too much to handle successfully.
3. Competition will be a challenge for the new consultant too, so figure out how you will stand out from the crowd. Businesses have access to a large pool of potential specialists, price ranges and experience levels. What makes you valuable?
4. Evaluating your own risk tolerance will keep you focused during lag time. While there are established methods for starting a new consulting firm, they may not be the best approach for you. While a different approach may set you apart it may also be a riskier endeavor, so think about what is best for you, how you can mitigate risk (through subcontracting with other consultants or working part-time), or if you're the type that thrives in high-risk environments.
5. Focus on what your customers need, and match customer needs with your experience and skill sets. Don't be afraid to say "no" to work you can't do exceptionally well. In fact, look for another consultant who can do what you can't and turn your weaknesses into valuable partnerships.
6. Establishing a price range is important and also incredibly tricky. Set your price too high and no one will hire you, but if you set the rate too low people may view you as inexperienced. Remember to consider the value of your time as well as the additional costs you will incur from running the business.
7. Protect your reputation is key to building a successful business. If you don’t already have an established name, securing your first few clients may be more challenging than you expect. Use your network to gather referrals, offer your services to more experienced consultants as a subcontractor, and make sure your work is always the very best quality you can deliver.
If you feel like you could use more tips about developing your own sustainability consulting practice, check out our on-demand masterclass. The course consists of four webinars that cover topics such as writing proposals and contracts, clients you can expect to see hiring, communication strategies, project management tools and how to approach pricing.