The Art of the Business Plan:
8 Things Independent Consultants Should Consider
1. What Differentiated Services Will You Offer?
Focusing on the specific services within your area of expertise will allow you to create a more concise business plan. 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.
2. What Is Your Marketing Plan?
Speaking of marketing, whether you decide to go it alone or hire a marketing firm, you need to have a plan for marketing your business and gaining new customers. 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.
3. Who Will You be Working With?
Knowing your target audience is essential to develop your business plan as an independent consultant. Oftentimes, your first client is a previous employer, a friend or a family member. As
you grow your business, you may eventually consider targeting local small and medium businesses or even Fortune 500 enterprises. 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.
4. How Will You Price Your Services?
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.
5. Where Will You Work?
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. Remember, clients care more about the result than where you work, so before taking on a big overhead expense, be sure your profits can cover the cost of owning or leasing it.
6. How Will You Handle Contracts?
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.
7. Do You Have the Required Licenses and Registrations?
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.
8. How Will You Measure Success?
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. For more tips, ideas and resources visit us at http://hannaconsultantgroup.com/