Archive for the ‘Consulting’ Category

Consulting as a lifestyle business

Maybe you’ve heard it, steeped in scorn. “Oh, you’ve got a lifestyle business”. For whatever reason, some people love to slag entrepreneurs who’ve built out businesses that work with their lifestyle.

The first time I heard this, I was about three years into my practice. I’d built out a solid business plan, brought in – and retained – Fortune 500 and A-list clients and my business was growing. I’d travelled, managed a chronic health condition, and gone back to school for an MBA, all while running my company. Still, some guy felt he needed to tell me I had a lifestyle business, not a real business. Of course, he didn’t even have a business, just a business plan he hoped someone would fund. It was still hard to hear. In fact, when Lauren Bacon posted her fantastic article on the subversion of running a lifestyle business, I had all those same feelings bubble up, all these years later.

Does hearing someone call your practice a “lifestyle business” gut you? It can be pretty hard to take, when you’ve gone to all the effort of building up a business of which you can be proud.

Realistically, though, people who make those comments are just ticked off that they haven’t found a way to do what you do. It’s easier for them to find fault with you and your values than to questions whether there’s something not quite feeling right about theirs. And it’s a way for them to dimiss and minimize their efforts. I find that people are more likely to make these comments to both women and PoC, which makes me wonder if there’s oppression built right into the idea that people who find balance somehow have businesses that are less worthy.

As for those people ready to lay into consultants as lifestylers, maybe they’re feeling overwhelmed with work, trapped in social and financial obligations, or chained to a need to prove themselves. They may be mad that you found a way to prioritize a variety of values, needs and wants that haven’t worked out for them.

It’s a difficult thing to stand up against in a world that talks up increasing valuation, getting to IPO, improving ROI, reducing churn, climbing sometimes toxic hierarchies, and Leaning In. And you may already be trying to navigate barriers around childcare, caregiving, health or family obligations, not to mention systemic oppression. Figuring out a way to make that work may take business acumen and creativity that goes beyond working any executive track position. Bacon’s right when she calls that an act of subversion. 

Still, people and businesses appear ready to buck the trend. I recall someone saying Millennials aren’t entitled — they’re just the first generation to refuse to accept abuse in the workplace. And that belief is starting to shift entrenched values in business. From the rise of B-Corps to corporate social responsibility, there are signs everywhere that some people want to do business differently.

For me, I’ve struggled with this lifestyle issue too. I look back on a post from a decade a go, where a fellow entrepreneur informed me I was too wrapped up in revenues and growth.  My friend was right. I remember the joys from that time, but not so much my revenues or website traffic.

If you’re struggling with having a lifestyle business, it may help to focus on you, not people trying to offload their own struggles by putting your business down. Take a deep dive into your own reasons for consulting – see our list of reasons to become a consultant. Your own motivations and needs will drive your plan.

In the end, your work, your career, your life and the legacy you leave are about what makes you feel happy and fulfilled. So focus on your own needs and wants and let the naysayers go do their thing. You do you.

How to Set Up a Website or Blog with Bluehost

So you’re looking to set up a personalized email address, website or blog. I’m a Bluehost affiliate partner and I want to be clear that I receive a commission if you sign up with them. You are certainly welcome to set up a website, blog or personalized email anywhere. I spent a fair bit of time researching where to send Consultant Journal readers, though, and I chose Bluehost because they’ve been around the block, they’re a recognized name and their approach seems good. I’ll walk you through the steps.

  1. Click here to go to the Bluehost website (it will open in a new window).

bluehost welcome screen

 

Got it? Good. I am a big WordPress fan and I find it’s pretty easy for most people to set up, so I suggest going with that.

2. Choose a plan.

I’m a bit of a klutz, so I like having a backup for my websites. You can choose any of these plans, but I personally feel most comfortable with one that comes with a site backup, so that I can recover anything I lose. However, when I was starting out, I used to just keep copies of my stuff in a folder saved in the cloud. If you’re just going to have a few pages, you can start that way. However, think about whether you also want domain privacy. I also pay the extra for my sites to have my registration details kept private, so that I don’t end up with someone showing up at my office or home unannounced, except for the courier folks who bring my chocolate subscription!

Okay. So click the plan you want.

3. Choose a domain.
There are lots of places you can buy domain names and you’re certainly welcome to choose one from your vendor of choice. Bluehost includes a free domain with your registration setup, though, so you might want to stick with them and keep it simple.

If you’re choosing a domain name, I recommend going for something short and sweet. I’m a bit biased to .com domains, but it’s fine to look at other options. With so many people just relying on search engines and links, you have a bit more flexibility these days. Still, I prefer to find something short and easy to spell, pronounce and remember. I also suggest making sure you aren’t infringing on any trademarks or existing business names. You may want to try using the domain suggestion tool to find something, if your preferred options are taken.

Make your choice and click next. Depending on what you chose, you’ll either be on to your domain naming or the payment details.

4. Set up your account

Now you’re on to the account information screen. Provide your registration details. (Many countries require you to provide your contact information to comply with laws about website registration.)

Then choose your package. (It’s okay to choose the shortest time frame. You don’t have to go for three years and, although, as a partner, you might think I’d push you to go for the longest term, I suggest you just do a shorter term, so that you get a taste of what’s happening.) You can’t pay by the month, but you can choose a 1, 2, 3 or 5-year package that works out to a decent monthly amount.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I set up website, I click the domain privacy protection button. I don’t like my personal details out there for anyone to find. If you happen to work from home, it’s especially important that you consider a privacy plan – it doesn’t add very much and it keeps your address and other details private. Otherwise, just ignore all the special offers and details.

5. Add your billing details

website cc account details

 

 

 

 

 

Read the fine print and the terms, cancellation and privacy policy. If you agree, click submit.

6. Create your password.

website password setup

 

 

 

 

You’re almost there.

 

Click the Congratulations button.

congrats

And there you go. You’re done.

Okay. You’re all set up. You can set up your email, website or blog now.

While you can choose one of the website themes they offer, I generally stick with the themes that come with WordPress. That’s because themes get updates fairly regularly and you could be stuck with an out-of-date theme that hackers would exploit. (This has happened to me and it really hurt my brand. So now I make sure I use popular themes, not custom or one-off themes.)

Go check out your new domain – and don’t be surprised when you see it isn’t ready yet. It takes a while for all the new domain and name server info to percolate through the Internet. Give it a day or two. But, in the meantime, you can start building.

Click the all done button:

all done

Set up on WordPress

wordpress set up

 

 

Ta da!

So, from here, I would just click “I don’t need help.” Okay, I understand. You’re thinking, “BUT I DO NEED HELP!” I get it. It’s just that the options with the blue buttons come with things set up and then you might find you’re trying to undo some of what’s been set up. If you click “I don’t need any help”, you can start from scratch and just set up the way you want.

If you’re just doing a blog, you can simply have one page and do everything there.

If you’re doing a website, I recommend you do what I teach my university students! Set up the main home index page, About and Contact. From there, you might want to add pages for Blog, Services, Products. Keep it simple.

Check your email

Make sure you’ve activated any account and website links sent to you by Bluehost.

STUCK? HAVING TROUBLE? CONFUSED?

Contact Bluehost at https://www.bluehost.com/contact. Calling usually works better than chatting and, personally, I find I usually connect better with people on the phone, when I can hear their voice.  I don’t have your account information! Bluehost has all that and they can help you figure things out.

Enjoy your new website or blog!

CPD for BC CPA accounting members

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements for BC CPA (Chartered Professional Accountants) refer to the annual learning investment these financial professionals need to make every year. As with other chartered, certified and licensed professions, accountants need to maintain their right to practice through ongoing training and learning.

Our discussion of CPD explains both online and offline courses and examples of the kinds of continuing education many professions recognize. More than just British Columbia’s CPAs may find this CPD discussion helpful.

Many professional associations distinguish between verifiable and non-verifiable CPD — in some cases, organizations recognize self-reported learning. After all, members of chartered, licensed and certified professions are required to show good character and professional judgement. So time spent in self study on books and courses counts too. Some professionals from a range of careers – not just accounting — have turned to our books on consulting practice management for CPD course credit.

Verifiable credit usually needs to be supported through proof of attendance, examination or other third-party evidence that you took part. Professional organizations often give more weight or focus more hours on such programs.

CPD for BC CPA Accounting Members

For the specifics of what British Columbia’s CPAs need to meet outcomes, take a look at their CPD page on the professional association site.

CPD online courses – Canada, US & International

CPD online courses – in Canada, US & International – and other offerings for continuing professional development can help busy legal, medical, financial and other professionals meet their annual requirements. In many fields, professionals need to take a minimum number of CPD courses each year to meet requirements for maintaining membership, licenses, certifications or other designations.

Online CPD benefits

Traditionally, many people turned to their professional society or to annual conferences and cruises in warm and sunny climes. But the advent of online CPD course offerings has opened the door to new ways of accessing continuing professional development. With ebooks, videos and online courses, busy practitioners can access CPD online.

For people with busy practices and careers, active family lives, remote locations or just a preference to work on their own or in small groups, online CPD may be the way to go.

Online CPD and Offline Options for Continuing Professional Development

CPD is just one of the many terms for ongoing professional development. Other terms:

  • Continuing Education Units (CEU)
  •  Continuing Renewal Units (CRU)
  • Professional Development Points (PDP)
  • Professional Learning Units (PLU)
  • Continuing Legal Education (CLE)
  • Mandatory Continuing Legal Education(MCLE)
  • Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE)

CPD – online & other formats

Continuing professional development may happen on the job (in-service) or outside the workplace. It might be through formal or informal programs. In some organizations, the Human Resources department may offer programming or there may be dedicated training departments in some firms. Some employers may also include CPD and other professional development courses as part of annual reviews and ongoing workforce planning. In other cases, it’s up to the individual to pursue their CPD.

 

CPD Online & Traditional Formats:

  • Lecture
  • Workshop
  • Academic course
  • Case studies
  • Coaching
  • Small group communities of practice
  • Individual study or reading
  • Mentoring

Some organizations award CPD credit for:

  • Teaching
  • Mentoring
  • Writing and publishing
  • Supervision

Looking for individual study options for you? Take a look at our online CPD resources. We have also partnered with CareQuadrant to offer socially innovative online CPD courses on inclusive language, advocacy, reflective practice and more.

 

5 tips from a Vancouver business plan writer

Are you working on a business plan for your business? Are you feeling stuck or having a hard time getting started with your business plan? Here are 5 tips from Vancouver business plan writer Andrea Coutu:

1. Just get started

For many, writing a business plan can feel like a daunting task. All those tables, charts, figures and all that research can feel overwhelming. And what do we tend to do when feeling overwhelmed? Procrastinate! But don’t let your tendency to procrastinate or to strive for perfection get in the way of your business planning.

Not sure how to move forward? Like any large project, a business plan is best tackled in bite-sized chunks.

An effective place to start is with a table-of-contents style outline. Here’s a sample business plan outline that includes 10 sections. 

Start by listing those 10 sections, and then brainstorm whether your unique business plan requires additional specialized sections that pertain to your specific industry. Aim to have twenty sections (or sub-sections) in your outline.  (Don’t worry, you can always cull them later. But it’s great to brainstorm quite a few sections to get your creative juices flowing.)

Once you’ve brainstormed a tentative outline, pick the section that is the most appealing to you (or pick the section that you feel will be the easiest part of the business plan to write). And now you’re on your way to writing your business plan.

Related to business plans:

2. Research is a launching point for networking

When writing a business plan it’s integral to do research. Research can take many forms, including analyzing market research or simply chatting informally with others in your industry. Ideally, your research will include both formal and informal research.

When seeking feedback and doing research, why not enlist some friends, peers or mentors to help answer some of your burning questions? Not only will this help improve your business plan but it will help expand your network at the same time.

3. Know your strengths and weaknesses

Are you a master marketer but couldn’t multiply your way out of a paper bag? Or maybe you are the opposite – are you great with numbers but find networking or selling yourself to be a painful prospect

Get to know yourself. And if there’s an area of your business plan that you know is a weakness for you, consider bringing in extra help from a professional business plan writer in your area.

4. Connect the dots

It’s great to set high financial goals in your business plan. But don’t forget to connect the dots regarding how you are going to reach your goals.

This is why your sales and marketing plan is important. Outline a step-by-step plan regarding the specific actions you are going to take to help achieve and exceed your goals.

5. Get a second set of eyes

Once you’ve got your business plan to a final draft stage, now is the time to enlist someone you trust and who will also provide sound, constructive feedback. And don’t just get feedback from someone who always supports you. You want someone who will help you identify both the strengths and weaknesses in your plan. So choose that second (and third!) pair of eyes wisely.

Writing a business plan is something you can definitely do on your own. However, for an extra leg up or to leverage someone else’s expertise consider hiring a business plan writer to help you put together an effective business plan.

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How to use LinkedIn to build expert status

Using Linkedin to build expert statusHow to use LinkedIn to build expert status – Are you wondering whether LinkedIn can help you build your expert status? Curious whether LinkedIn is anything more than just a fly-by-night social media portal?

LinkedIn is a unique social media site that can be a powerful tool when used appropriately. And one of the most effective ways to use LinkedIn is as a tool to help you build expert status.

Here are five tips to help you build your expert status on LinkedIn:

1. Be a valuable member of influential groups

Have you joined a LinkedIn business-related group yet? If not, a quick browse in LinkedIn offers a window into many online business groups. 

But don’t just join industry organizations. Consider frequenting complementary groups and becoming known as the resident expert in that group in your niche.

And don’t just post your own status updates. Answer others’ questions and demonstrate your expertise by giving back.

Not sure where to start when it comes to LinkedIn groups? Check out which groups your peers and colleagues have already joined.

2. Share your favorite book recommendations

Check out the LinkedIn "Amazon Reading List" application. It’s a great little app that allows you to share the business-related books that you like. Your chosen books are displayed right on your LinkedIn profile. Or, better yet, if you’re a published author, you can load your reading list with your own books–peppered in with a few other useful picks, of course!

Displaying your reading list on your LinkedIn profile is an effective yet subtle way to demonstrate that you’re active in your industry and that you’re an expert in your field.

3. Officially associate yourself with the movers and shakers in your industry

Are there big-wigs in your niche? Use your existing LinkedIn network to ask for an introduction from one of your existing connections so that you can be connected with the movers and shakers in your niche.

Become an expert by affiliation.

4. Ask for referrals from your best clients

You know who they are: the clients who think that you’re the greatest. The clients who love your work and what you do.

Don’t be afraid to request a recommendation or testimonial from your biggest fans. Nothing speaks louder than what someone else has to say about you!

5. Fill out the LinkedIn Honors and Awards section

If you’ve been nominated or won awards, don’t be shy. List ’em in LinkedIn! 

Never been nominated for anything? No problem. Why not join the board of an industry association instead?

Take action on at least one of these tips on how to use LinkedIn to build expert status to see results today. Increasing your expert status can do wonders for your business, so have the confidence to see yourself as an expert!

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Sample business plan for consulting

Planning aheadUsing a sample business plan for consulting –  Is it okay to use a sample business plan for consulting, as opposed to creating one from scratch? Of course it is! In fact, starting with a template is wisest since it will save you time and give you a springboard to start from.

Compare apples to apples

There are many free business plan templates on the internet; the trick is to find one that most closely fits what you have in mind for your business.

Don’t just choose the first plan you see; make sure that you choose a sample business plan template from a similar industry. Why? Because a plan that applies to starting a retail business, for example, will not be easily applicable to starting a consulting business.

Choose a sample business plan template that best fits your needs and goals. Be sure to choose a sample business plan for consulting; it will provide you with the framework to create your own plan.

You’ve found a sample business plan for consulting. What next?

Once you find a plan that you want to work with, study it closely. How much of it applies to you and your business? You will probably discover some great ideas and approaches that you can utilize in your own plan. Make notes of what you would like to incorporate in your plan and what might be missing.

Whatever you do, don’t copy the template word for word because odds are your business isn’t a cookie cutter business! Customize the sample business plan for consulting to make it reflect who you are, what you are offering, the vision you have created, and how you are going to achieve your goals.

Compare your sample business plan for consulting with this sample outline. Does your chosen template cover all the bases?

If you’re not sure how to get started, consider taking small business training. If you’d like a better understanding of consulting fees and how they’re calculated, take a look at our guide on consulting fees.

Remember … It’s beneficial to use a sample business plan for consulting rather than reinventing the wheel. However, customization is key. By finding a sample business plan that you like, and by changing it to suit your future consulting business, you are taking the first steps towards becoming a successful consultant.

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8 consulting lessons they don’t teach you in school

8 consulting lessons they don’t teach you in school – From setting rates to firing clients, university curriculum doesn’t quite cover the ins and outs of consulting! Here are 8 consulting lessons that you won’t learn in academia:  

1. Marketing doesn’t have to be a pain.

Marketing can be viewed as a necessary evil or as self-nurture.  Marketing doesn’t have to hurt. Learn to love marketing and networking, and you’ll reap the rewards.

2. You don’t have to be outgoing to succeed as a consultant.

Shy? You can still build a business network even as an introvert. In fact, introverts bring special skills to their businesses. Learn to leverage your personality – be it an introverted or extroverted one.

3. Firing your clients is an option.

Not being treated with the respect you deserve? Is your client an annoyance or a money pit? As a consultant, firing your clients is always an option!

4. How to set consultant rates.

Setting consulting rates is one of the most important elements of your business.  Find out everything you need to know about setting consulting fee rates right here.

5. Sometimes saying no can be the best decision you’ve ever made.

Every time you say yes to one thing you’re in effect saying no to something else as a result. Do you want to be a specialist or do you want to be a generalist? Should you "do windows"?

6. How to build your expert status.

Consultants get hired for their expertise. Here are some excellent tips on how to build your expert status–even if you’re not the world’s leading expert in your industry.

7. What to do when a client doesn’t pay.

It’s bound to happen eventually. Do you know what to do when a client doesn’t pay? Here is an outline of the steps you should take when a consulting client doesn’t pay.

8. Consulting rules: From work-life balance to choosing your own co-workers and clients, here are 8 reasons why consulting rules.

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What is consulting?

What is consulting? Consulting is a career choice that offers professional or specialized advice to individuals and businesses for a fee. As a consultant, you will likely work freelance, although some consultants are employed by large corporations. A consultant may have one specialty or many. You may choose consulting as a full-time career or as a second job that provides extra income.

What types of consulting are there?

Consulting doesn’t have to be technical or complicated, nor does it necessarily require a diploma or a degree. All it requires is that you, the consultant, possess the specialized knowledge required to educate your client or perform the required services.

For example, you might offer personal consulting services. Personal consultants offer expert advice to individuals on topics like party planning, life coaching, dog obedience or home decorating.

Technical consultants provide advice on topics like home security, internet security, networking, and social media.

Professional consultants are usually specially trained or educated with experience in their field. As a professional consultant, you would provide advice on more complex topics like human resources, finances and taxation, business management and insurance.

Executive consulting is consulting at its most professional level. It provides advice on subjects like law and medicine. To consult in such fields, you must possess a high level of education, as well as extensive experience. However, not all consulting requires such specialization.

What do clients want from consulting services?

Clients hire a consultant to improve either themselves or their business. Consultants can help facilitate personal and professional growth, save their clients’ money, and increase efficiency in their clients’ lives or businesses. Consultants provide clients with information that they don’t already know, and that they don’t have immediate access to. As a professional consultant, you should leave the client satisfied with your services and better off than they were before.

What is consulting going to do for you?

Consulting is an excellent career choice if you are motivated, enjoy working with people, and prefer to work independently. You can set your own pace and your own hours. It is also an excellent way to network with clients and other professionals.

What is consulting’s future?

The outlook for consulting is excellent. As long as there are individuals, professionals, and companies seeking to improve themselves, their lives and their businesses, there will be a need for consulting services. Skilled consultants who provide useful advice will always be in demand.

Are you interested in becoming a consultant? Check out the Becoming a Consultant FAQs.

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Dreyfus model of skill acquisition

The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition is a helpful concept to understand when interested in building your expert status. The Dreyfus model was developed at the University of California during the 1980s, and this model of skill acquisition is still relevant today.

The basic premise of the Dreyfus model is that students progress through five stages of expert status in this specific order: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert.

In their paper, "A Five-Stage Model of the Mental Activities Involved in Directed Skill Acquisition," brothers SE Dreyfus and RL Dreyfus discuss each skill level in great detail. In short:

Novice – Dreyfus model of skill acquisition:

Novices adhere to specific rules. Novices do not think outside the box, nor do they exercise "discretionary judgment."

Advanced beginner – Dreyfus model of skill acquisition:

Advanced beginners take a more holistic approach to the project at hand than do novices, but advanced beginners have a limited understanding of the big picture.

Competent – Dreyfus model of skill acquisition:

Competency is achieved when you start deliberately planning your projects and when you have created routines and structures in your work.

Proficient – Dreyfus model of skill acquisition:

Proficiency is achieved when you can effectively prioritize different elements of your project. You know that you’ve reached proficiency when you truly grasp the whole of what you are trying to achieve.

Expert – Dreyfus model of skill acquisition:

In the words of the authors, experts possess an "intuitive grasp of situations based on deep, tacit understanding." Experts forego rules. Instead, they make decisions based on analytical approaches.

Are you interested in learning specific, actionable tips that will help you jumpstart your expert status from novice through to expert–just like in the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition? Get Six Tips for Jumpstarting Your Expert Status for free when you subscribe to Consultant Journal’s newsletter.

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