In the first years of my communications career, I often worked as a consultant in between a range of full-time roles as an editor, reporter and corporate storyteller. Eventually, I had too many freelance gigs for me to juggle solo, so I opened my own agency, Moonraker PR. Fast forward 12 years, and we’re a tight-knit team of seven multi-tasking communicators.
Thanks to digital technologies, DIY careers are seeing a big a boost. If you work in communications or marketing, being a freelance contractor can be a rewarding, well-paying job. Advantages include a flexible schedule and working on a variety of projects.
Here are five tips to kick-start a consultancy business.
1) Have a corporate makeover
A website, no matter how small, gives you instant credibility and a professional look.
Think of it as a storytelling version of your résumé. Your content should include your work experience, a description of services, and, ideally, a recent example of a project you worked on. Include all your contact touch points, including Twitter—but only if you’re constantly monitoring it.
Next, choose a visual style that represents you professionally. Browse through some free WordPress templates using search terms like “consultant” or “agency.” Thanks to Web 2.0 technologies, you don’t need hard-core programming skills to use these simple themes. The templates are easy to use and allow for some customization of colours and fonts.
If you’re more digitally adventurous or are prepared to invest in more bells and whistles, look at Envato.com for website templates including photos and images. You can find turnkey solutions with vendors like Weebly or Moonfruit, which offer drag-and-drop website builds and hosting for as little as $10 per month.
2) Publicize and network
Review your LinkedIn profile with the eyes of a prospective client. Is your profile image professional, or is it better suited to a personal Facebook page? Take full advantage of LinkedIn’s fields and list recent projects, volunteer experience and certifications.
For example, if your passion is marketing for home developers, consider joining a group like Real Estate, Property and Development Vancouver. Are you interested in providing media relations to the food or restaurant industry? Try the BCFPA.
By observing threads in the group discussions, you’ll have a direct line of what’s topical in the industry. Pipe in with some free advice as appropriate—it can turn into a lead.
3) Get listed
Register a profile on freelance platforms like ODesk, Elance and Freelancer. Describe your services and prepare to “bid” on contracts. Take a look at similar consultants to get an idea of how low or high to go on project proposals.
4) Learn something new. Daily.
Writing creative copy might be your one and only service, but running a business is your other job. Be comfortable and savvy with a variety of online, mobile and social skills. Get used to being frustrated—it comes with the job. If you get stuck, most digital services offer a troubleshooting community.
5) Use the right tools
There are dozens of digital tools out there designed to make you more efficient. Find the right ones for your business, and make good use of them. Here are a few I recommend:
- Freshbooks.com: A free version allows you to invoice clients, track payments and send invoices online.
- Hangouts: Use this group-conferencing tool to connect with clients locally or internationally. Think of it as a virtual boardroom that records and archives meetings, and shares screens and files.
- Prezi: Skip the 10-page Word document proposal and wow your clients with an interactive presentation.