You may have cut your teeth working for a firm, or even a boutique shop or partnership. Now, however, you’re considering striking out on your own to offer consulting services in your area of expertise. Parts of consulting can be precarious, sure – but the satisfaction of working for yourself is unparalleled.
ForwardAI, an advanced SME cash flow management software that provide tools to help financial services consultants – including accountants, bookkeepers, and other advisors – get a leg up on the competition, and deliver huge value to potential and existing clients. That’s all to say that we have a strong perspective on what makes a good consultant.
As you gear up to start your solo practice and offer consulting services, consider these points.
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1. Find your market opportunity
Many people fancy themselves consultants in this atmosphere, but just being able to dabble in work when you find it doesn’t an effective consultant make. In order to build your consultancy, you have to get a strong sense of the market for services like yours. Then, find the whitespace – in other words, the underserved piece of the market that’s not saturated.
For instance, if you’re a bookkeeper with experience in a certain industry, you might want to consider specializing in that area. Sure, you can pick up other clients, but if you’re able to see a need for, say, logistics company bookkeepers who really have a sense of what that industry’s books should look like, you can seize a big opportunity.
How can you get a handle on this? Word of mouth and asking around can put you on the right path. You also can use a free, easy tool such as Google Trends to check in on the search volume for certain types of services.
2. Identify your clients
Have a sense of the services you’d like to offer? Fantastic. Now, to figure out who your clients are.
Are you aiming to serve the smallest of firms with two or three employees? Are you well equipped to consult for early-stage companies? Do you prefer to consult on improving cash flow, for instance? All of these questions are important to be able to target people who could want your service.
Clarity around answers for questions like these will help you zero in on who your potential clients are, and the kind of marketing you’ll use to reach them. Options include building a website with strong SEO, cold calling, web advertising, posting on message boards, listing yourself on a marketplace like Fiverr, etc.
3. Set your rate
No matter how experienced a consultant you are, and how long you run your consulting services business, you’ll likely rarely feel comfortable about your rate. Charge too much and you’ll worry about putting off clients or being undercut by competition; too little, and you’re undervaluing yourself and your time, and could become resentful of your clients.
Luckily, in financial consulting – particularly a field such as accounting – you’ll be able to find a pretty standard and very transparent rate off of which you can base your own. If you look on a freelance marketplace such as Upwork, you can search for professional consultants with similar services in your area and view their rates and qualifications.
And, if you’re ever in doubt, ask fellow business owners what they’re comfortable paying. You can also always ask for an honest assessment of a potential client’s budget, and work with them to find a services package that fits in that scope.
4. Evolve your model
Even once you think you have a sense of how your consulting business is going to operate, which services you’re going to offer, and how much you’re going to charge for them, you should always continue to iterate. You may find quickly – or not so quickly – that there’s actually no market for your services as is.
Be critical of your approach, and willing to evolve. That may mean targeting a new set of clients, approaching marketing or communications differently, or bringing new financial tools into your arsenal to broaden your services.
5. Offer an advantage
Speaking of tools, the right ones can help you stand out and offer clients that other consultants cannot. Sometimes advantages come from your professional background and library of experience. Other times, you’ll want to seek out new tools to broaden or deepen your services.
For instance, if you’re a financial advisor, using ForwardAI could help you provide insights into clients’ cash flow that they don’t have. Instead of just overseeing their accounts payable or generating their financial statements, ForwardAI enables you to view real-time insights into clients’ cash flow and financial health by hooking directly into their accounting program.
Signing up for ForwardAI is easy. Just create your free account, connect your business and run your cash flow forecast.
The information in this article is not financial advice and does not replace the expertise that comes from working with an accountant, bookkeeper or financial professional.