How to make the leap to full-time consulting

  1. Moonlight. You can test the waters without plunging in by starting your consulting business while you still have a regular job.
  2. Build an emergency fund. Whether you decide to fly solo or not, you can benefit from having a few months of expenses set aside in an emergency fund.
  3. Set up your home office.
  4. Launch a website. Today’s clients like to get background information before they even meet you — and they like you to have a website.
  5. Print professional business cards. You won’t be able to network without them. And get professional cards. Don’t create your own.
  6. Figure out a plan for working on your own. Rather than abandoning a successful consulting practice because of home office isolation, you should figure out how to get out and socialize as part of your home office routine.
  7. Start networking. If you want to find new clients and work on big projects, you’ll need to know more people than you can count on both hands.
  8. Pick the right time. You’ll be more successful if you’ve got all your ducks in a row. Do your homework, get organized, find some initial clients, get some work under your belt, save up a little money – then become a consultant.
  9. Put together a budget. You can expect a feast or famine lifestyle with consulting. If you have an idea of your earnings and expenses, you can put together an average and dip into your emergency fund (or top it up) as needed.
  10. Establish credit. A line of credit and a business credit card – used responsibly – can help you manage cash flow, book flights and hotels, defer payments and pay for lunch meetings with clients. Clean up any credit problems before you launch your business and you’ll have better access to credit once you’re self employed.
  11. Learn how to write a good proposal. Good proposal writing is as important as setting your consulting fees right.
  12. Charge what you’re worth. Set your consulting fees and treat yourself like a real business – you are a business.
  13. Get a deposit.  If you take some money up front via a deposit, you’ll be better protected and less cash strapped.
  14. Get it in writing. You may live somewhere that verbal contracts are legal, but it’s a lot easier to prove you had a deal if you get it in writing.
  15. Come up with a customer relationship management strategy – and set of tools. Whether you want a Rolodex, contact management system or full CRM suite, you need some way to keep track of your leads, prospects and clients.
  16. Set up your home office. You’ll be organized if you put together a home office in the beginning, rather than six months from now.

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