Independent consultants face a number of challenges when pursuing new clients. Consulting professionals must be prepared to constantly work toward developing new client relationships. From building consulting credibility and advertising services to understanding the nuances of contract negotiation, consultants must understand and act on a wide array of industry requirements in order to successfully land new contracts.
Build Your Business Basics
Get a business license. It is necessary that you obtain the proper licenses from your local regulatory bodies before obtaining a consulting services contract or conducting business of any sort. Consulting license requirements vary from state to state and even from city to city, but most states require a minimum of a county business license and state tax certificate in order to conduct business.
Get a phone number. When working as a consultant, you need a way for your clients to reach you. Contact your local telephone company or mobile service provider to obtain a new telephone line. Depending on your needs, you may choose to subscribe to a telephone service with a monthly billing cycle or purchase an inexpensive prepaid mobile phone from a local retail establishment.
Get business cards. To ensure your clients and potential clients can reach you, you need business cards that list your contact information in a convenient, easy-to-read format. Contact a local print shop and request business cards that show your name, mailing address, telephone number, website address, and email address.
Get contract templates. Before you can secure a consulting services contract, you must have a contract available for your clients to sign. You can purchase pre-printed contracts from local business supply shops, but for legal and financial security, you should consider consulting a qualified attorney for help in creating an official consulting contract. Keep copies of the contract available for new clients.
Build your reputation. Consulting services clients want to feel comfortable in their choice of consultant, so building your public reputation as a reputable and experienced consultant can help increase your chances of landing a contract. Contact your local newspaper and inquire about writing a weekly “Tips” column as a way of putting your name in front of potential clients. If you have a clear speaking voice, contact your local talk radio station and inquire about appearing as a guest on a talk show relevant to your field.
Build a web log. According to Raible Designs, an independent consulting agency, web logs, commonly known as blogs, commonly serve as a primary source of information for potential consulting clients. Visit a free, hosted blogging agency like Blogger.com or Wordpress.com and click “Create an Account” to set up a blog. Use the blog to answer common questions or provide general information relevant to your field.
Give free advice. In some cases, your local news outlets may not be in a position to pay you for your column, talk show appearance or other expert advice. In addition, you may not realize an income from your weblog. According to Business Town, a resource organization, many consultants dole out free advice and information through these venues as a way of building credibility and gaining the attention of potential clients.
Run advertisements. In addition to your periodic newspaper column or media appearance, you may consider running advertisements in local media as a way of gaining the attention of potential clients. Contact the advertising department of your local newspaper, television station or radio station to inquire about advertising your consulting service.
Look for requests. According to Business Town, consultants must constantly be on the lookout for potential new clients. People who do not know where to turn for professional consultants, as well as government entities that must advertise to ensure the lowest cost, commonly solicit Requests for Proposals (RFPs) in which they publicly ask for offers from local consultants to fill their specific needs. Review your local newspaper or classified advertising service for RFPs.
Give out your business card. When in public, listen for any conversations or discussions relevant to your field. If you overhear such a conversation or meet a potential client in a public setting, seize the opportunity to tell the person about your services, then offer your business card. They may later use the contact information on your business card to request your consulting service.
Get the Contract
Arrange a meeting. Once a potential client responds to your advertising or business card information, meet with them to review their specific needs. Depending on the needs of both you and your client, you may ask to meet at their location, at your office or in a public location.
Review client needs. Because every consulting job represents a unique set of requirements, discuss the client’s needs in detail to ensure you can meet them. Ask specific questions about your client’s requirements to ensure you fully understand the scope of their request.
Determine a billing arrangement. Make the client aware of your billing practices and include specific information like cost per hour, charges for phone and email contact, and incidental expenses like mail, fax and mileage. Discuss how the client will remit payment and explain any late payment charges or other fees that may apply.
Sign the contract. Once the client agrees to your terms of service, review your stock contract to ensure the charges and services match the ones you discussed. Ask the client to sign the contract and provide a copy for their records.