If you’re kicking off a new consulting business or becoming a socialpreneur, there’s a few organizational fundamentals you need to take care of first. Our panelists sat down to talk about them, with an emphasis on repeatable processes that new agencies can document or templatize to become more efficient.
Table of Contents
What you need to build out before you prospect a single client - 5:24
Anna asked the panelists to put themselves in the shoes of waking up day 1 of starting a new consulting business. What do they need to create as the foundational materials for their business?
Budding consultants may be surprised to find out that the answer is a pretty short list.
AJ responded that he thinks talking to prospective clients is actually the thing you need before you do anything else, not the other way around.
“I like to say yes, and figure it out on the way home. So to me, the real answer is nothing. I think if you have a set of skills out there that you want to exploit, whether that is social media marketing, search engine optimization, content writing, I would say get out there and find clients.”
Essentially what this means is that the only thing you really need in order to start is a list of prospective clients that you want to contact, and an idea of what your service offering is.
Gee wholeheartedly agreed with AJ, adding
“Skip making the business cards, skip making the website, skip all these fancy things and get your first paying client, because then then you’re going to have something to stand on to even create a website or even create an LLC.
Until you have a paying client, you don’t have a business. So focus on that, focus on getting somebody’s foot in your door. And then once you get that client, wow them right. And then they’re going to be a source of that person could become a source of referrals, testimonials, and so on.”
Maddy noted that her approach is a hybrid approach, splitting time and making sure to set aside a few hours each day to plug away at building the materials. The time it takes to develop everything a consultant should eventually have can seem daunting, so she emphasized that it’s one step at a time.
“Don’t let the process of building all those materials overwhelm you. Something is better than nothing, just getting out there and getting started is the best thing you can do. And you can always iterate on those things, build on them as you go along.”
She also recommends checking out Side Hustle, which outlines a day by day plan for materials you should create for your business.
The perfect client pitch email - 10:16
So if you don’t need a ton of fancy branded materials, what should you put in these pitch emails? The panelists listed some pitch email attributes they’ve found success with, and between the three of them, developed this list below. In your next series of emails to prospective clients, try to make sure you include as many of them as possible.
Pro tip: These emails are something you can templatize. Create templates including these elements, and then add brief personalizations before sending.
Some consultants that are just starting out may think that they aren’t able to create and include samples, but Gee wanted to put this to rest and emphasize that something is better than nothing.
“I always tell clients that in your pitch emails, make sure you don’t make the client reach out back to you and say, ‘Well, where’s the evidence of your work?’”
She suggested finding a non profit in your city that you can do some marketing for if you’re lacking any sort of sample.
Maddy added a few other ideas for new consultants that don’t have any prior clients.
“It doesn’t have to be a paid client that you have a published sample with, you could work with a charitable organization who would love your help, you could write a blog on your own website that you’re going to also use to get your ideal clients.
So it can serve as both a lead gen tool and an example of your capabilities. You could guest post on another client’s website if you do writing stuff. So try to think outside the box if you’re getting stuck on that piece.”
One of the more important pieces of this list that Maddy mentioned is “WIIFM” or “What’s in it for me?”
“Remember, when you’re writing that email, it’s not about you at all. So you have to demonstrate that you’ve done your due diligence in some way, personalized. Even if it’s a templated email, you can have templates for different situations that you’re going after.”
Maddy also noted that covering WIIFM can sometimes overlap with your third party testimonial. You can point out a problem that you can help the prospect with, and then present a similar situation you’ve already had success with. For example,
“I noticed that your blog hasn’t been active in a while. You know, I worked with (restaurant down the street), and we put together this content strategy. And they saw traffic goes through the roof, they saw their bookings increased by X percent”
Deciding and communicating your pricing - 19:44
All three panelists talked through how they decide their pricing, and how they communicate it to clients.
AJ prefers to get on the phone with a client first and ask them what their budget is for marketing services. If he receives a lot of pushback and requests to just hear a flat cost for something, that could mean trouble ahead. This prospect is usually highly fixated on price over working out a nuanced plan and strategy that may have different costs and outcomes than AJ’s competitors.
One piece of advice he gave was to productize services as much as possible. This entails documenting “a la carte” services you provide often and are well-practiced in how much time and resources it takes. This will help new consultants move through the pricing decisions more quickly and with more confidence that they’re setting the right price.
Maddy echoed the recommendation to productize services, and advised new consultants to go to Fiverr for inspiration. Dig around among Fiverr pros who offer the same types of services that you want to offer, and look to them for inspiration on how they broke it up into modules.
She also explained her more straightforward approach, which is to display pricing on her website. She says this more quickly weeds out bad fits and clients who don’t have an aligning budget, since they need to agree to her pricing before any meetings are set.
“While they’re filling out their name, their email, you know, all the details for whatever calend.ly is asking them. There’s also a question that says, ‘Have you seen my pricing? And do you agree to my pricing?’ and it has a link to my page that has pricing on it. So they literally have to say yes, that’s cool, before the meeting goes through. Then it’s just like, ‘What’s our first topic going to be?’ It’s not a sales call.”
While Gee doesn’t post her pricing publicly, she emphasized the need for new consultants to cut their losses when someone may be a bad fit and, above all, respect their own time.
She’s determined a minimum that she will not go below. Beyond that, it’s a case by case basis depending on what the client wants, but she’s still careful not to sell herself short. Part of being able to successfully not sell herself short also includes not revealing too much to clients.
The thing that comes with writing is, first of all, you’re not just paying me for writing, also paying me my education also comes into play.
I think the biggest takeaway I could give in terms of which way to price is that the client doesn’t have to know how long it takes you. Your experience comes into play, and you shouldn’t be punished for being efficient. So it’s not necessary that they know, I wouldn’t tell them.
Gee also wanted to let freelancers know that they shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for themselves and maintain these expectations.
Especially solo freelancers, will be like, ‘Oh, well, maybe if I lose this, then I won’t get another client.’ And that’s simply not true. I am a big believer in set your prices and go with it.
Templatizing your intakes and onboarding - 31:28
One of the ways the panelists recommend getting preliminary information is creating an intake form. On the intake form, you can ask these questions about timeline and budget if you want, or anything else that hones in on their general needs and expectations. If you have a site, you can build a contact form like AJ has for Guerilla Agency. If you’re looking for something a little more simple (and free), the panelists responded that Google Forms was a perfectly effective choice.
More in-depth discovery questions asked during the onboarding process can be built out in a form that you can repurpose for every client as well. We asked the panelists their must-have questions for an onboarding document, and this was the list they came up with.
They also had a few tips for making this process go more smoothly in your client relationships. Maddy suggested giving back to them, either in the form of a small gift, or in just making their time spent more worthwhile.
“It’s easy to be like, oh, I’m asking a lot of them, you know, this is kind of overwhelming. And so one thing that I do to try to incentivize them to like actually fill it out, is, I say, at the beginning of the form, I know, this is a lot of stuff, but I will send you a copy of this when you’re done. And you can use it with any other marketing people that you work with. So it won’t be always the time you can use. Even if you don’t work with me, I’m going to send it to you, you could use it.”
Managing leads and client data - 48:10
When asked how they keep track of leads they’re talking with or want to reach out to, all panelists agreed that the most important thing was finding a system you’ll actually stick with.
Pro tip: Plan out what the different phases of your sales and onboarding cycle will be ahead of time, so you can create labels for the phases in whichever data tracking system you use.
Some of the suggestions from the panelists include:
Q&A - 55:25
Skip to the Q&A section to hear the panelists answer rapid fire questions on delivering the news to a client that they’re a bad fit, how often to collect payment, creating marketing materials with no money, and how many hours of unpaid labor to put into discovery for a pitch.