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How to start your own successful business consulting service
HOW TO START YOUR OWN SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS CONSULTING SERVICE
A consultant works with the management of a business to improve the
profitability of the business. Working with the top management, you
can rest assured the consultant is a very highly paid individual.
Some consultants charge $100 per hour. Others charge $1,500 per day
for their services, and still others work on an annual retainer fee
of $12,000 to over $30,000 per year from any number of large
Until a few years ago, the title "consultant" was more or less
limited to retired diplomats and top corporate officers. In other
words, until recently, the consultant's position was more honorary
than actual. But that has all changed dramatically in the past few
The number of consultants for almost any problem in life has
increased by tenfold or more during the past ten years! And the
field of consultants is continuing to grow. In fact, independent
consulting is one of the fastest growing businesses in the country
A consultant is an expert at recognizing problems and shaping
solutions to those problems. The need for business problem solvers
- among large and small businesses worldwide - has never been
greater. The ever changing moods of the buyer plus the myriad of
crisis situations businessmen face almost daily, have created this
"seller's market" for the alert consultant.
Reaching for a consultant when problems arise is as natural as
looking for the sun to come up every morning. When you're not
feeling well, you call for the services of a doctor. If your car
isn't running right, you take it to a mechanic. And so it is with a
businessman when he encounters a problem - whether it be in the
field of accounting, legal, sales or customer relations.
Another side of this need for consultants is in the case of the
over-enthusiastic entrepreneur who rushes headlong into a business
in which he has little or no experience. Many such dreamers invest
their life savings in questionable projects without even considering
the idea of bringing in a competent business consultant to analyze
and evaluate their plans.
Even experienced people are prone to overrate their own ideas. The
image of the end result, and dedicated enthusiasm toward the
attainment of one's goal are the prime prerequisites for success;
however, unmerited enthusiasm and dedication can also be very
dangerous as well. Unless it is based upon solid research, it may
cause people to chase headlong after nonexistent rainbows. And
that's where you can fit in as a business consultant.
It is not necessary for you to have owned or operated a successful
business to become a successful business consultant. Nor is it
imperative that you have been in management or have held a titled
position. You will, however, need the ability to sell yourself, and
an up-to-date understanding of the area in which you intend to
The first step is to make an honest evaluation of your own training
and experience. You might be an ambitious tax consultant who was
never recognized for your abilities. You might be especially good
in such general areas as systems design, marketing, advertising,
distribution, sales, or even efficiency, time management,
scheduling, expediting or productivity. There are hundreds of
consultants across the country specializing in Direct Mail and Mail
Order operations. Most of these people enjoyed some measure of
success in those fields, and then discovered the easier way -
advising others on how to operate successfully. There are
consultants for people who want success with a garage sale, party
plan merchandising, or even multi-level operations. The important
thing is to choose an area in which you've had some experience; an
area that you have spent some time learning about and of course, an
area of work that you enjoy.
Almost everyone is afraid of the responsibility involved. They claim
they don't have the experience or the knowledge. Such was the case
of a young lady we know who was seeking work as a personnel clerk.
She had worked five years as assistant to the personnel manager of a
large manufacturing plant, yet when we advised her to become a
consultant to people looking for work or to start her own resume
writing service, she pleaded lack of knowledge, experience and
Just about everyone has had special training in a certain line of
work, and they've gone on to absorb special studies or education
along the same lines, and most people have worked all their lives
along or very close to a specific line of endeavor. So, why
shouldn't a woman who has worked 20 years as a waitress represent
herself as a consultant to the training program for waitresses
within a restaurant organization? A shipping and receiving clerk
would be a natural for setting up efficient operations and for
solving problems for businesses just beginning or expanding their
The point is, most people don't realize how much expertise they
really have, or the probable marketability of their training,
knowledge and experience. The important thing is to look over your
educational strengths, combine that with any special training or
on-the-job experience, and then offer your expertise to help others
with their problems along the lines you know best.
You don't need a big, fancy executive type office in order to get
started, especially if you start your consulting business on a
part-time basis. A spare bedroom, a section of the basement, or
even a corner of the dining room, will do very nicely. If you
handle your own bookkeeping/filing, you will need a ledger of some
kind, and a file cabinet or two. You will need a good typewriter if
you plan to do your own correspondence. An alternative is to do all
letters, etc. in longhand and hire someone to put them in final form
for you. Check the local high school or college. They may be happy
to post your ad for a young lady looking for part-time work.
Instead of going to the expense of paying for a business phone, use
your residence phone and train all members of the family to answer
it in a business-like manner during normal working hours. Save
copies of all the sales letters you send out, and of course, all job
proposals you submit. Set up your file system with your final plan
in mind, and you'll save a lot of time as well as frustration. Get
the kind of file folders that hang from the sides of the file
cabinet's drawers, allowing you to position the file folder title
anywhere across the top of the folder. Then as you add clients to
your file, you can keep them in alphabetical order without having a
jumbled-looking file drawer in which you have to search for each
title. It's also a good idea to keep your active accounts in one
drawer, your "hoped for" accounts in another, and master copies of
all your letters, proposals, business contact information and
records in still another drawer. You'll also need business cards.
Y ou nearest quick print shop can usually order these and help you
in selecting wording and design.
Whether to rent, lease or buy a copy machine is up to you. But
virtually no business can get by without file copies. Carbon paper
means a loss of efficiency, and running over to the corner shop to
get copies is going to cost you time and money, so be sure to fit
some sort of copier into your business start-up costs. If
impossible at the very first, use the old carbon paper - you must
have a copy for your file.
Just how good a typist are you, how well you can write sales
letters, and how busy you want to be, should be the deciding factors
about the typewriter. If you type at all - and there will always be
at least a few letters that you should type personally - we suggest
again that you go for the long haul probabilities and rent, lease or
buy the best and most modern typewriter you can afford. Later on,
when you do move into that "dream" office, that will be one less
piece of equipment you will have to be concerned about.
Once you've decided what area of business consulting you want to be
in, and have your office or working space set up, the next thing is
to let people know you're available for work. Definitely use some
common sense and applied knowledge before spending any money on
advertising. Generally speaking, you will pick up some customers,
regardless of the problem area you specialize in, by advertising in
your area's most popular newspaper. However, we wouldn't recommend
much more than a small ad in the Sunday editions, unless you're a
direct mail, multi-level or garage sale consultant.
Check with your Chamber of Commerce for a list of trade and
specialized business publishers in your area. Either pick up a
sample copy of the business journal at the local newsstand or write
to the publisher and ask for a sample. Look through those catering
to the type of business you want to serve. Check the editorial
styles and types of advertising they carry, then select the one that
corresponds with your needs. Basically, unless a publication
reaches the people you are trying to sell to, don't advertise in it
regardless of style, quality, or advertising rates.
Radio or television would probably be a complete waste of
advertising dollars, unless you're offering help with direct mail,
multi-level marketing or garage sales. The best time for any broad
cast advertising in order to reach you best prospects seems to be in
the evening hours after the late-night news, when these people are
either still laboring over their special projects or relaxing before
going to bed. If you do use broadcast advertising, the commercial
is very important. Really concentrate on this, and use a lot of
common sense in writing the message. Even if you engage the services
of an experienced broadcast copywriter, make sure the message speaks
to your potential customers, and convinces them that you can help
solve their problems or improve the profit picture of their
Finally, where to advertise. Go with a quarter-page ad in the
yellow pages of your telephone directory. The space salesman will
help you with the ad, but remember, you want it to catch the eye of
your particular client, and offer a promise of an end to his
problems. Always talk to your kind of people, emphasizing the
benefits of your services. It's not good practice to quote or even
discuss prices in either your advertising or on the phone when
people respond. Always get name, address and telephone number, then
explain your services in general. Set up an appointment to look
over their operation, analyze their needs, and make a written
proposal to solve their problems.
There may be a number of factors involved in establishing your fees,
but starting out with beginning and small businesses, and until you
line up 50 regular clients, your best bet would be $50 per hour.
Count on two to three hours per client per day, and devoting 10 days
per month to work on their needs, you're talking about $1,000 to
$1,500 per month from each client. Multiply that times 50 clients,
and you'll be grossing $5,000 to $7,500 per month. As a one-man
operation, you'll be plenty busy.
Insiders in this business say a person can leave his regular job on
Friday, start a consulting business on Monday, and within six
months, have an income of more than $100,000 per year. Suffice it to
say that a beginning business consultant should earn from $30,000 to
$60,000 before taxes and office expenses, in his first year in the
There's still another very important method of finding new clients,
and that is via Direct Mail solicitation. This is done either by
postcard or sales letter mailings. For a mailing list of local
businesses, check the yellow pages of your telephone directory,
under the heading "Mailing Lists." Tell the advertiser the kind of
mailing list you need - if they don't have it, ask them for the
names of suppliers who might be able to supply your needs.
Alternately, you could compile your own mailing list of prospects
most likely to be interested in your services. Mark the names you
want in the area business directory, and pay someone to input these
names into a computer for you. The computer operator should be able
to supply you with peal-and-stick address labels at a nominal cost.
Putting your list on computer from the start will save you thousands
of dollars in money and count less hours of work.
Your postcard solicitation should basically be an elaboration of
your printed advertising. In other words, an ad for a Direct Mail
Consultant might be transferred to a postcard along these lines:
ARE YOU HAVING TROUBLE GETTING RESULTS
WITH YOUR DIRECT MAIL BUSINESS???
I can help you! Show you how to double, maybe even triple the
response from your mailings! Expand your market! Increase your
profitability! Whatever your needs, I can HELP! Whatever your
problems, I can SOLVE THEM! Call now, and let me explain.
After the message on the postcard, add your telephone number and
your name, followed by your identification as Direct Mail
A direct mail solicitation sales letter simply uses more words than
the postcard, reads smoother, and forces the reader to respond as
you direct him. Your sales letter can be any length needed to tell
your story and achieve the objective. To be successful, though, it
must embody and follow the "AIDA" form: A = Attention; I =
Interest; D = Desire; A = Action on the part of the reader.
Another point to remember when writing sales letters: Always appeal
to the needs and wants of the person who's going to be reading the
letter. He will start reading to see if your services can benefit
him. He is greatly interested in more profits, reduced production
costs and higher efficiency. He is looking for answers to his most
pressing problems. Keep these elements in mind when you write a
sales solicitation letter, whether for yourself or for a client.
People receiving sales letters are somewhat more responsive to a
letter that is typed, as opposed to one that is typeset. But the
typed letter must be "letter perfect," and not of a different or
unusual style of type. As a consultant, your letterhead should be
simple while still conveying to the reader a sense of class. Your
paper should be the best quality you can afford - not flamboyant,
but sending a subtle message of success. Direct mail surveys show
that slightly better numbers of responses are received when a light
beige or off-yellow paper is used.
Basically, your letter should do what the postcard does for you -
move the recipient to call you and allow you to set up an
appointment to discuss his needs as your client. Whether you're
writing an advertisement or a sales letter, it's important that you
have the objective clearly in mind - what you want the reader to do.
With this in mind, you needn't use the "hard sell" approach quite as
forcefully as someone asking for money on the first contact.
All that's left is meeting with the prospect, listening to his
problems, and hearing what he wants, then write out a proposal to
solve his problems and satisfy his wants. This means selling
yourself to the prospect - assuring him you know what you're talking
about, and that you can make him more successful.
There you have it - a plan that can lead you to success as a
Business Consultant. Remember, though, no amount of research,
reading, listening or investment can make you successful until you
do something with them. Action on your part is the absolute
ingredient that must be added, and that's up to you.
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