Becoming a consultant

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Consulting Reboot

If you’re at this stage of your consulting business journey, you’re ready for a change. In the Reboot stage, you give your existing business processes, branding and offer a shake, so that you can get back on track.

If this is you, you’re probably experiencing the following:

  • You’ve had some initial successes, but you’ve hit a road block. Maybe a key client or team member turned over, your industry or market shifted, or you hit bump in your life.
  • You may have experienced personal or business challenges that led to a major change. Health, relationships, caregiving, financial and other pinches may have led to a few big or small bumps.
  • The way you were landing projects, bringing in clients, or getting work done worked for a while, but you hadn’t put in place recurring, scalable, predictable model, so that you could be assured of ongoing success
  • Maybe what you had in place was leading to feast or famine cycles, where you might have a large amount come in for a short time, but then you got so busy that you couldn’t keep up with maintaining the systems for marketing, selling and getting paid.
  •  Perhaps you ran into situations where there were communication barriers, contract or invoicing barriers.
  • Or maybe your business is doing pretty well, but you feel like it’s time for a reset, a new way of moving forward, and you know you have the ability to take it higher, if you can just refresh your existing assets and processes.

The great news is that your existing investments and experience can help you with finding the way forward. If you’re open to change, a growth mindset and you’re coachable and willing to make changes, you can find your footing again.

Does this sound like you? You could also be at Startup or Scale Up.

Consulting Scale Up

Once you pass the Startup phase with your consulting business, you’re ready for Scale Up. If you’re at Scale Up, you’re probably hitting a number of targets:

  • You have $3,000 to $8,000 a month in recurring monthly income
  • You’re focused on your business as your main work
  • You’re open to ideas, input and training so that you can make the mindset shift to building a business team, scaling your business, delegating work, and getting ready to pay yourself a six-figure income
  • You’ve got at least the basics behind your business systems, although you may still need to shift to where that revenue, client intake and workflow becomes more automated, predictable, sustainable and scalable
  • You want to take your business beyond its initial offer and start leveraging your intellectual property so that you can achieve scale by selling products, building a team to take on more work, or hiring in coaches and consultants to take on part of your offer
  • You recognize that the skills that got you to this point mean you can put the processes in place to build to $500k, $1M or more, but that you’ll need more sophisticated systems and a mindset shift to do it right

Where are you in your business journey? You could also be at Startup or Reboot.

 

 

Consulting Startup

If you’re in the startup phase of your consulting business, you’re probably working through some common processes:

  • What’s my business?
  • How do I make my business stand out?
  • How do I get clients and how do I keep clients coming in the door?
  • How do I price, set fees, negotiate with clients, put together quotes and get business?
  • What systems do I need in place to get paid, manage workflow and grow?
  • How do I get my business to the first $100k or $250k?
  • How do I make sure I have a sustainable, recurring model that helps me avoid feast or famine cycles and provides for stability and growth?
  • How do I set goals?
  • What skills do I need to hone for selling, financials, automation and delegating?
  • How do I build the leadership and management skills to pivot to a business mindset, so that this business becomes more than a job and leaves me with the energy to focus on what gives me energy, income and opportunity?
Does this sound like you? You could also be at the Scale Up or Reboot stage.

Consulting business plan template – free outline

Many people write to ask where they can find a consulting business plan template. Well, here’s a free outline of a consulting business plan template. It’s just an outline, though – see here for my full business plan kit, which includes the actual materials I use to help clients with their business plans.

    1. Executive Summary
  1. Business Overview
  2. Products & Services
  3. Sales & Marketing Plan
  4. Operating Plan
  5. Management and Organization
  6. Action Plan
  7. Financial Plan
  8. Investment Opportunity
  9. Appendices
    1. Personal Financial Statements
    2. Financial Statements
Having run a business and marketing consulting firm for most of my career, I’ve written countless business plans. Every last one of them counts, though. While I’m not someone who would ever tell you that you must follow your business plan to the letter – it’s a roadmap, not a jail term – I do believe that having a good sense of direction for your business is important. For most people, the process involved in developing a business plan is actually more important than the output. All the work and thought involved in figuring out where you’re headed is what will really drive your business.
With that in mind, if you are looking for a consulting business plan template, you want one that is easy to customize around your own business. Otherwise, if you follow a pre-written, off-the-shelf plan, how will you stand out from the competition? Your business plan, while following a prescribed template, should help create a business that is unique, sustainable and achievable.
At the same time, it’s no good to have a plan that just sounds pretty. Ideally, your business plan helps you set up the systems you need to get traction and growth in your business. That means creating systems for engaging and retaining profitable clients, operating your business and more.

In the meantime, it’s still okay to start exploring the kind of business you want to start, the marketing you want to do and the fees you want to set. You can start on your business while working on your business plan, if you want.

Related:

Entrepreneurial FOMO: how to deal

Entrepreneurial Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). All those selfies got you down? Here’s how entrepreneurs can cope

Open any social media app and you’re likely to find beautiful images of people living their perfect lives. While many discussions of social media talk about the effect on individuals, entrepreneurs can be just as vulnerable to the effects of social media. Here at Consultant Journal, many of the people who request our tips on building expert status say they feel overwhelmed and need direction.

Fear of missing out – often hashtagged as #FOMO – means “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media”, according to the Oxford Dictionary.

“FOMO has grown as the presence of social media has developed due to the increased access to people’s everyday lives,” says Lindsay Cooke, LMHC. “

Fear of missing out – the FOMO origin story

First mentioned by Dan Herman in an article on branding tools for The Journal of Brand Management in 2000, FOMO has since made its way into discussions of everything from vacation envy to restaurant meals and from business school parties to awards. In fact, Harvard Business School student Patrick Mcginnis wrote about it in 2004 for The Harbus, detailing how it affected his social life during his time in biz school — Joseph Reagle provides in-depth notes about the etymology, if you’re interested.

Managing FOMO

For entrepreneurs, confronting FOMO can mean hard work. As you interact on social media, you may find yourself surrounded by images, clips and news of people speaking, presenting, attending conferences, working in prestigious locations, receiving certifications, and getting testimonials. Those posting may seem to have perfect hair, stylish clothes, fancy cars, amazing vacations, and a constant stream of business deals.

As with all marketing, entrepreneurs choose their messages carefully. What you see may even have been constructed by a marketing agency, photographed professionally, touched up, staged on a green screen and heavily edited. Entrepreneurs often blur the lines between personal and professional content.

Even experts on media literacy can fall prey to FOMO. “ I am like the doctor who suffers from what he treats,” muses Jim Wasserman, author of a three-book series on media literacy and behavioral economics (aff). After moving from the US to Spain, Wasserman relied on social media to promote his books. “”I was constantly checking and seeing how I could be on social media and interact. The fear of missing an opportunity to promote my books, do a podcast, write an article, or in any way interact became pretty bad. I could almost FEEL my positioning of my books losing ground and slipping spaces.” He notes the process was driving him to burnout and leaving him feeling like he was working harder in retirement than as an employee.

Tips for managing entrepreneurial FOMO

“ Usually when someone is experiencing FOMO it is similar to treating an anxiety issue,” says Cooke, an LMHC counsellor. She says she supports clients by helping them identify options, reflect on their decisions, explore the truth of their thoughts, and distract themselves. “Often times, utilizing these strategies can decease or even eliminate social media FOMO,” notes Cooke.

Distract yourself

“Engage in another activity at home that is distracting,” suggests Cooke. She recommends clients try movies, books, cooking, staying off social media or planning something fun for yourself. And “Give yourself a break for staying in.  

Fact check your FOMO

Sure, your friend, colleague or competitor may look like they’re up to amazing things, but is that the whole story? Entrepreneurs can make themselves look good, regardless of their qualifications, experience or outcomes.

Moreover, with such heavily curated and managed content, you’re only seeing part of the story. Someone may be posting pictures of their latest business deal, but they may not show up 2 months later to say they got stiffed or that they had a falling out.

You may also notice peers and competitors posting a stream of awards. An entire industry supports carefully worded applications, with some awards even representing a business revenue scheme for the awards organization. It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s paid.

Embrace your feelings

Recognize your feelings, says Whitney Hawkins LMHC, a psychotherapist In Miami. “Recognize that you are feeling that way for a reason. Don’t push it away or punish yourself.” But examine whether there’s evidence that your thoughts are true.

Tune into your goals

Revisit your personal plan and see if you’re making steps toward your own goals. “”Focus on gratitude. Did anything else positive happen today? Is there anything that helped you with this situation?” suggests Hawkins “You can even be grateful you’re having this problem in the first place, like if you have the privilege of having a business in the first place.” Once you’ve invested time in the problem, move on, she adds.

Reconnect

And create connections. Wasserman turned to family. Visiting his wife’s family in Asia, where family is first, helped him reconnect face-to-face. “ would go many days without  the ability to check social media, or even the news, and found not much changed, except that I had dricher living and less worry about ‘What will happen?’

Walk away

Upon returning to Spain, Wasserman and his wife hiked El Camino, an ancient pilgrimage route. “We are  not religious, but walking that route, disconnected from news of the world, social media, and really anything but living in the now and having to look people in the face when communicating brought it home for me; when you are stressed about how hitting yourself with a hammer hurts, don’t redesign the hammer or change the frequency of swinging…just put it down.”

Move on

Go back to your own business plan and goals.. Hawkins, a business owner and a psychotherapist, says, “I make a plan for the future and continue to work on the reason I am comparing myself to others online.

 

Struggling with FOMO? Join us for free tips on transforming your expert status. Click here.

Related to FOMO

 

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 dismiss 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.

FREE – Get 6 Tips for Building Your Expert Status.

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.

 

What kind of consulting should I do?


When I speak at industry events or even just go to business cocktail parties, people inevitably come up to me and ask how to get into consulting. It doesn’t matter whether they know I run Consultant Journal or not – just hearing that I’m a consultant seems to get people talking. That’s because many people like the idea of being their own boss, charging for their specialized knowledge, picking their own clients or maybe just having the freedom to schedule their own hours. For many, the idea of being a consultant is a dream, but they’re not sure how to combine their skills and experiences to create their dream business.

Because I spent years consulting to government, universities, non-profits and businesses about career planning, I have a good understanding of what it takes to develop a career path. Many of the materials and tools I have developed have been used throughout high schools, universities and the US and Canada to help job seekers find their way. And, because I’ve been a business coach and a small business advisor, I know what it takes to plan and launch a business. So, with all that in mind, I wrote Discover Your Inner Consultant. It’s a workbook for taking stock of your own skills, experiences, interests and unique attributes to uncover the work you’re meant to do. If you’re ever asked, “What kind of consulting should I do?” – this is the book you’ve been waiting for.

This workbook is a hands-on guide to help you on your way to identifying the kind of work you do. Based on a personal inventory, the book helps you identify what you love, what you hate, what ideas you have and more. If you’re not sure where to go, this book can help you find your way. You can order Discover Your Inner Consultant and start working on it right away.

Consulting goes mainstream

More and more people are choosing consulting as their primary or secondary mode of income. Consulting as a career has become widely accepted, and more frequently preferred in today’s busy world. There are many reasons why consulting has gone mainstream: do any of them apply to you?

Consulting goes mainstream: what does it mean for you?
 
Career satisfaction
 
Becoming a consultant allows you to pursue your passion and get rewarded for it. Let others pay you for your consulting expertise while you enjoy what you do best. You can also control how busy you want to be; take on as many or as few clients as you want.
 
Convenience
 
As a consultant, you set your own schedule. You don’t have to answer to anyone else. You can work from the comfort of home in a stress-free environment. With today’s technology, keeping in touch with clients and peers has never been easier.
 
Cost-efficient
 
Consulting usually has low start-up costs. If you operate from home, you may write off expenses such as utilities and house insurance. You may also write off a portion of vehicle costs if you use your car for business purposes.
 
Notice the difference
 
When consulting goes mainstream in your life, you will also notice an improvement in your work/life balance. When you work for yourself, you can make the time to have lunch with a friend, visit your mother, or walk your child to school. And if you want to work all night, you can!
 
Make the decision!
 
Don’t get left behind while consulting goes mainstream. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy what you do, and set your own pace? As a consultant, you can have this, and more. There are so many reasons why consulting has become such a popular profession; start planning today for your new consulting career.

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