Consulting business ideas

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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.

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Consulting business names – 25 ideas for great brands

Looking for fresh consulting business names? Whether you’re giving a name to your upstart business or looking for ideas for consulting business names to rebrand your existing practice, it can help to review best practices. When it comes to choosing a consulting business name, you need to do more than thinking about just the words that appear on paper.

consultant business name

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25 Ideas for Consulting Business Names

  1. Identify your niche, mission statement and business direction. Before you dive into naming your consulting business, make sure you have a solid sense of your business, your market, your pricing, your goals and your direction.
  2. Look for a name that is easily understood. Good, clear names work better than invented terms, unless you have the brand power to help people understand.
  3. Avoid narrowing your business to a geography. If you need to move, expand or sell your business, a geographic name could become a liability. “Duluth Business Consulting” may be confusing if you move even a few cities away.
  4. Likewise, opt for a name that gives you some wiggle room. Some names can date your business – remember all the dotcoms? Others may limit future offerings. I used to hire a company named “Copytime” to do all my photocopies. I was shocked later when I discovered they could also do offset and digital printing, stationery, packaging and custom mailouts. It’s no surprise that they rebranded and grew the business when they came up with a name that showed they did more than print copies.
  5. Consider whether the name can deliver unexpected benefits. Early on with my business, I chose the name Abakai Management Company as an umbrella name for my other businesses. At the time, Yellowpages directories and online directories usually listed companies in alphabetical order. Since only AAA could come before “Abakai” and most professional consulting firms shied away from putting AAA in their names, I got tons of leads because I was first in directories under Marketing. “Abakai Management Company” sounded like it had been around for a while, compared to a lot of the dotcom names of the time. I eventually rebranded years later, but that name worked for a long time.
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Likewise, you often see other companies listed in directories using similar tactics, such as A1 or AAA. This tactic is increasingly less important, but worth thinking about if you do work in a relevant field.

  • Think about whether other people will join your firm or whether you’ll sell it. “Robin Smith Consulting” might work now, but what if you add a business partner or a few employees? Will you still be comfortable having your name on everything? If you go to sell your company, what brand equity will be lost when you leave, especially considering so much brand equity in smaller consultancies is tied up with the owner in the first place.
  • Take a look at the international portability of your name. If you’re planning to do business with people from other countries or cultures, find out how the name translates. The Chevy Nova worked in the US, but it meant “no go” to Spanish-speaking customers.
  • Stay away from puns, unless you’re a coffee shop. Witty names like Hazbeans and Higher Grounds might work for some, but a professional consulting firm needs a professional name. Find another way to stand out.
  • Figure out whether you want to stand out or blend in. This will help you figure out if you want to go with something more memorable and out there – such as Menopause Chicks – or something more familiar – such as Acubalance Wellness Centre.
  • Make it memorable. Choose something easy to remember, but stay away of anything so quirky that people remember it by “that place with the weird name”.
  • Check to see if you can get social media handles. While marketing trends come and go, you don’t really want to find out that all variations on your name have already been taken on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other channels, if you really hoped to use them.
  • Make sure the domain name is available – and make it a good one. If you can only get chosennamewithlongwordsstuffedbehindit.com or chosennamefromunexpecteddomain.ly, you may want to keep looking.
  • Check to see whether the name has already been trademarked. Take a look at the US Patent and Trademark Office and the trademark office in the countries where you will do business. While a trademark need not be registered to be enforceable – prior use goes a long way – a quick review of what’s already trademarked can save you from future hassle.
  • Find out if anyone else already uses the name. Avoid choosing a name that is already in use. It can lead to mix-ups and brand confusion. And another company’s prior use of the name may be enough to establish a trademark, so you’d just be shaping up to get into legal trouble later. Choose something that stands out.
  • Ensure the name is available where you plan to do business. In most places, you need to register a business name, although there are some allowances for using your own name. Find out whether you can register the name with your state, province or country.
  • Choose something easy to spell. You and your employees will soon tire of spelling your name over and over. And you want people to be able to get your name right in emails and social media. So choose something easy to spell.
  • Find a name with a positive connotation. Give clients a shot of optimism with your business name. There’s a reason “Mr. Clean” shows up on shelves, not “Mr. Messy Kitchen and Bathroom”. Include information about what your business does. Marketing, business strategy, accounting, sales – those are all broad terms that avoid the limits of things such as “social media” or “Year 2000 Planning”.
  • Choose something short. You’re going to have to fit your business name on business cards, emails, ads, stationery and more. Find a short name.
  • Take a look at the portfolios of naming companies. These will give you some tips for what’s trending and perhaps what works.
  • Consider the future of your business. If you want to eventually sell your business or have employees, you may not want to name the business after yourself. Do you want your name on things other people will be doing? Do you feel comfortable marketing under your own name now?
  • Check the initials, domain name and anything else that makes sense. Property Management Systems sounds good till you have to start abbreviating it. “Rogers Exchange and Hedge Management” might sound good till you write it as “rogersexchange.com”. I know a very successful independent publishing company that recently rebranded when the owner found that it contained an anatomical description.
  • Test the business name. Consider running some cost per click ads to test market ads using your chosen name or domain name. (Be sure to offer legitimate ads, given advertising laws.) Look at click-through rates. What works? What doesn’t?
  • Run your business name (and the domain name) through trusted people and even prospective customers. Do you have to explain the meaning? Can they understand it without having you spell it out? Do they like it? Can they see recommending your business to others?
  • Consider talking to an intellectual property lawyer about ways to protect your business name and other intellectual property.
  • Set up a Google alert to monitor the web for references to your business name. You’ll know if anyone starts using it.

 

Above all else, choose a name you like. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your business name.

Working on a business plan? See Write Your Business Plan Now.

 

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.

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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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8 reasons the economy means opportunity

Opportunities for consultants in a bad economyWorried about the economy? Don’t be.

When you’re a consultant you’re in control. You create your own business, your own contacts and your own client list. Being in control is one of the many reasons why consulting rules.

Here are 8 reasons the economy means opportunity for consultants:

1. Layoffs mean gaps that need to be filled

Fewer employees in the workforce mean that there are unmet company needs that can’t be filled by regular employees.

2. Less competition

When the economy is threatening to go sour many on-the-fence consultants looking for a change take the opportunity to get back into the regular 9-to-5 workforce.

3. More short-term contracts and one-off projects

Many companies are hesitant to take on new employees during so-called “bad” economic times and turn to consultants instead.

4. During a down-turn companies get serious about growth

During a shaky economy companies tend to get serious about marketing and planning their future. This can mean more work for consultants who offer strategic advice.

5. Opportunity to diversify your client base

If your regular source of work dries up during tough economic times it can be a great time to tweak your primary target market. Try government or healthcare or other industries who are less affected by the economy.

6. Look for new opportunities that weren’t there before

Downturn in the economy? Consider the market and whether that downturn has opened up a new opportunity in your service offering.

7. More time on your hands? Get focused.

Finding yourself with a gap in your schedule due to a slow economy? Take the time time think. Have you been too reactive when it comes to accepting new clients? Why not take this opportunity to go after the clients that you really want–rather than take the jobs that come knocking on your door. If you’ve been running from project to project without a chance to catch up or plan strategically, get serious about your business and go after the clients that will really take your business to the next level.

8. Work-life balance

Many consultants take few vacations and operate on a boom and bust schedule, often working erratic schedules if they are driven to grow their business. Finding yourself with a bit more free time? Relax. And take a moment to catch up on your work-life balance.

So don’t get sucked into worrying about the economy. Focus on the opportunities that are out there and how you can provide value in your industry.

Do you agree with these 8 reasons the economy means opportunity?

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Why build your consulting website using WordPress

Whether you are a just getting started as a consultant or whether you’re a seasoned veteran, chances are you will need a consulting website. Gone are the days where a business card will suffice when it comes to marketing your consulting business. You’re going to need a website.

The good news is that building a website is not as expensive as it used to be. And websites are becoming easier and easier to update and use.

If you are in the early stages of getting your consulting website set up, I suggest finding an IT consultant who is familiar with "WordPress" and having your consulting website built on WordPress.

What is WordPress? WordPress started out as free blog publishing software, but it is now used for more than just blogs. In fact, WordPress has been used by the Wall Street Journal, Ford, universities and many other large organizations. 

So, why build your consulting website using WordPress? Here are the top three reasons why you should build your consulting website using WordPress.

1. Inexpensive:

WordPress is free to use and inexpensive to install. Most IT consultants and firms are familiar with WordPress, and setting it up for you is a snap, which is generally reflected in the price.

Quick tip: Ensure that your WordPress site is installed on your own domain name (for example: www.yourbusinessname.com) rather than at the free WordPress blogging site (for example: www.yourbusinessname.wordpress.com).

2. Easy to use

WordPress is easy to use. And its popularity ensures that there are many online tutorials available for free. These tutorials can help you learn how to update your own website without having to rely on your IT consultant for every little change, such as changing your phone number or mailing address.

3. Standardized

If, in future, you would like to change the design of your consulting website, it will be easy to change because WordPress is standardized. You can easily buy new designs for your website, which most IT professionals should be able to install for you.

Are you looking for an IT professional to help you build your consulting website using WordPress? Check out the consultant directory.

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IT contracting rates

IT contracting rates vary greatly based on a number of factors, including location, skills required, and specialization.

Location – IT contracting rates:

In today’s world where outsourcing and cloud computing are becoming increasingly popular, be mindful that IT contractors are often competing with other IT experts from all over the world, including countries with lower costs of living. However, this competition doesn’t necessarily mean that rates are reduced or that there isn’t room for you in the IT contracting world. In fact, IT contracting rates continue to vary greatly, and there is still room for IT consultants at the higher end of the rate spectrum–as long as you are clear on the value that you provide and who your market is.

Skills required – IT contracting rates:

Regardless of location, there are a wide variety of client requirements–from small projects for individuals or small businesses to multi-year contracts for large corporations or governments. In light of this, IT contracting rates will vary greatly depending on the project and the perceived value or importance of the IT work that is being contracted. Some IT contracts require high-level skill and professionalism. For example, IT contracting in the securities and banking industry obviously require increased quality, monitoring and accountability which are reflected in price. This brings us to the next factor: specialization.

Specialization – IT contracting rates:

As in any consulting field, it’s crucial that you carve out a niche for yourself. Getting specific about your service offering helps in many ways, including being seen as an expert and being able to focus your marketing on a small, clear group of potential customers. Many IT contractors start out as generalists but they soon discover that IT contracting rates are higher in more specialized fields. Why not save yourself some time and skip directly to a specialization? Discover your niche and grow your IT contracting rates.

Are you interested in learning more information about setting IT contracting rates? Check out this excellent article about computer consulting fees. Further, if you’re looking for help setting your own IT contracting rates, obtain a copy of Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants.

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Become an IT consultant

Become an IT consultant – Are you interested in becoming one? If you are, you’re in the right place. In this article, I have compiled some valuable resources that can help you become an IT consultant. Here are some of the top questions and answers related to how to become an IT consultant.

If you want to become an IT consultant one of the first steps is to decide how you’re going to start consulting. Will you start as a part-time consultant or will you transition into consulting full-time? IT consulting can be a second-job or a full-time job. It’s up to you. Inc Magazine notes the wide variety of opportunities in the field, but you should know that you can choose your hours and how to go about it – you don’t have to work for a big firm with long hours.

How much do IT consultants make? Take a look at this article that explains average IT consulting rates.

Do IT consultants need a specialization or niche? It’s not necessary, but finding a niche is definitely recommended because it will make your life as an IT consultant a lot easier and much more profitable. Discover your IT niche today.

I’ve decided to become an IT consultant. Where do I start? Excellent! Check out this article: I’ve decided. Now what?

Become an IT consultant today. Want to learn more about how to become an IT consultant? Consider enrolling in the become a consultant course.

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Consultant course – 5 great options for study

Taking consultant courses can be an effective way to jumpstart your career as a consultant. However, consultant courses aren’t always easy to find or aren’t necessarily in your area. Here are 5 great consulting course options for study that will help you launch into your next career as a consultant. Consider combining some of the below options for an even more effective method!

1. Self-study

Self-study can be a great way to get all the information that’s contained in a consultant course at your own pace. Self-study can be comprised of many different methods, including reading, researching, taking online consultant courses or speaking to active consultants directly.

2. Find or create a peer group (online or in person)

Do you know of any other individuals who are interested in taking consultant courses as well? Join together and share resources, motivation and insights. If you’re in an urban area, create your own starter consultant group. Ask around–both locally in your community and online. You’ll be surprised at how many like-minded people you may run into!

Your consultant course peer group can be in your own city or online.

3. Find a mentor

One of the surest ways to find success is to get to know someone who you admire and who has achieved the results that you hope to achieve. Speaking for an hour or two to a consultant in your niche can be its own consulting course! Mentors are valuable. Although busy, many potential mentors are happy to help out new consultants. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and connect with acting consultants in your area who specialize in your area of expertise.

4. Local courses

Consultant courses are not regular curriculum at universities or community colleges. However, you can inquire at your local business organizations regarding whether there are any consultant courses happening in your area.

5. Online courses

One of the most effective ways to become a consultant is to take an online consultant course, like Become a Consultant: How to Make the Leap, which contains a number of workbooks, audio, and a one-year subscription to the insider’s edge newsletter.

Hopefully you’ve found these 5 great options for consultant courses helpful. If you’re considering taking a consultant course that must mean that you are seriously considering this exciting life change. Why not take the next step re: consultant courses and take action on one of the items above?

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Incidentally, if you belong to a professional association, check with them to see if you can have your self study or online courses here approved for traditional and online CPD course credit.

 

7 reasons to own a niche

1. Expertise

When you own a niche you are perceived as an expert in that niche. (And you will become an expert in that niche over time, if you aren’t already.) Customers feel more confident when they perceive you as an expert, and it’s easier to stand out in one area.

2. Clear elevator pitch

We’ve all met individuals at networking functions who stammer, "I’m a creative writer, but also do social media. And I love helping businesses with their financial books. And I sell audio files on the internet." When we hear someone with such a diverse range of interests and skills, it can be difficult to know what type of work to hire this consultant for, so we don’t end up hiring them at all.

On the other hand, if we meet someone with a very specific skill-set, such as, "I’m a fitness coach for pregnant women.", we may not need these services right away but we associate this consultant with a specific area of expertise. And when we have a need for such services, even years later, we will remember the specialist and seek her out.

3. Clear understanding of your market

When you own your niche you understand who your customers are. If you are an interior designer who specializes in the restaurant industry your customers are high-end restauranteurs. But if you are a general interior design consultant your customers are all homes and all businesses, which can be difficult to market to and stand out in.

4. Easier marketing – Direct to potential customers

When you own your niche and understand who your customers are, by default, you know where to market yourself. Advertising dollars are better spent and your message gets out to specific, potential customers more directly.

5. Your name is associated with your niche

You want people to associate you with a particular problem or situation. To use a basic analogy, if a man has gutter problems on his home he is more apt to flip to the yellow pages and contact "The Gutter Guy Co." rather than flip to the yellow pages and seek out a general handy man who may not be experienced with gutters–even if his price is lower. The same general rule applies to your consulting business. You want to be a specialist and you want to be known as "The Gutter Guy" or "The High-End Restaurant Interior Designer" or "The Fitness Coach for Pregnant Women."

6. Easier to stand out

When you own the niche it is easier to rise to the top–be it by word of mouth, in the yellow pages or in the search engine results.

7. Higher rates

Specialists earn more than generalists. It’s a fact! Customers are willing to pay for your expertise. Want to find out more about the elements that effect your rates and how much you can charge? Check out Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants.

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Social enterprise – four rules for start up

Planting the seeds of social enterprise

Is a social enterprise in your dreams? In this guest post, Daniel Frank of GiveACar shares some tips for planting the seeds of a social enterprise.  Giveacar is a social enterprise that allows you to donate your old car, just as you might donate possessions to a charity shop. Its goals are simple – to raise as much money as possible for registered charities and to recycle cars to the highest environmental standards.

Social Enterprise [soh-shuhl en-ter-prahyz] – verb

1.      A Social Enterprise is any for-profit or non-profit organization that applies capitalistic strategies to achieving philanthropic goals.
Ok, so now that we’ve got the definition out of the way let’s get down to the nitty gritty details of how to start and run a successful social enterprise. But firstly, let me briefly tell you about myself and my experiences with social enterprises.
Basically, I am currently employed by a social enterprise in the UK called Giveacar, which has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for hundreds of charities through the scrappage an auctioning of unwanted scrap cars. I have first-hand experience of how social enterprises operate on a daily basis and I would now like to pass this information on to you.
Rule 1# – Follow Your Passion
Running a social enterprise is a tough business and it’s only going to be successful if you’re doing what you love. Find what your passion in life is and make it the core function of your social enterprise. Giveacar founder Tom Chance was obsessed with cars; he would sell cars whilst at university so it was a no brainer for him to start a social enterprise whose core business is cars. If your hobby is also your ‘job’, you will rarely feel like you’re ‘working’ and success will follow.
Rule 2# Utilise the Benefits that come with Social Enterprises
A lot has been written about the failure rate of social enterprises, some concluding that they have not lived up to their promise. The key is to take advantage of the powerful set of factors that are available to social enterprises and not to your standard business. For example, the mission can create a strong marketing proposition which will appeal to many people, whilst social entrepreneurs have a greater chance of attracting like-minded talented workers which should help your social enterprise grow.
Rule 3# Take Advantage of Corporate Social Responsibility
These days every large businesses is so concerned about their public image that they’re spending huge sums of money on CSR just to get on the good side of the public. Being a social enterprise means that you can take full advantage of this. Get in contact with the large businesses in your area and see if they can help you out. Maybe they can provide you with some free equipment, business advice, or maybe they might give you a donation to help run your social enterprise.
Rule 4# Survive Long Enough to Get Lucky
Your job is to make sure that your social enterprise lives to fight another day, every day. If you do this enough times, then with the power of your social mission and your passion towards making a difference, your break will come.
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