My years as a self-employed marketing consultant have long exceeded the years in which I was employed by anyone. I distinctly remember that point in my career when I had left a company and had made the decision not to look for another full time job. I had so much fear and trepidation at the mere thought of making a go of it alone. Having that steady paycheck was nice. So were the benefits. The predictability of it all. And yet, at the time, we were planning on a child. I wanted to have more of a life and not a more demanding job. I wanted to be able to place my family first. I had traveled extensively in my early career and was over long hours and being defined by my work. I yearned for flexibility. Images of taking my kid to school and to the park after school and to the library on a dreary rainy day floated in my head like a powerpoint presentation of my future life. So I literally talked myself into it. Sounds simple - and it wasn’t - but I had to replace that fear with confidence somehow.
I didn’t have any good examples of those who had gone before me. So I did some research and called every big agency in Nashville, where I had recently moved from Chicago. David Bohan is the only one who returned my call and agreed to meet with me. I needed help shaping my service offering and determining what I should charge here. I knew my value in Chicago - but that was an entirely different market.
Although there are several demonstrations of kindness in my career that are equally as special to me, I always think of David when I get a request to meet with someone who is considering leaving their job and starting something new; and I never say no.
Which brings me to the focus of this blog. Here are the top 3 things I advise those who ask me when they are considering launching their own sole proprietorship:
Define your service offering. Spend some time determining not merely what your skills are, but what you like most to do. Then take a look and see if there is anyone else in your market doing the same thing. This will help you to define your positioning statement and better understand how to set yourself apart. Try to write one fluid paragraph for each of your service offerings, but then also work to achieve those few sentences that you can articulate when you are introduced to someone. (And please - nothing hokey here - don’t you want to run the other way when you meet someone, ask what they do and they reply something like: I help businesses make more money!) Finally, know your worth. There are many considerations in determining what to charge for your time, but the depth of your experience is where you need to start. Then you need to run your math by someone you trust who knows what others in the market are charging.
Build your marketing strategy. You need to be realistic about how you are going to attract clients and you need a plan. Start by looking at your database and assessing how long it has been since you have been in touch with these folks. There are many cost-effective ways in which to build these relationships to get the word out about your new endeavor. The simple fact is that you and your offering are optional to your clients. They will most likely not call you until you are needed. So a lot of your work in your marketing strategy has to do with building your personal brand and planting seeds so that when they are ready to buy, they call you.
Consider your finances. This may be stating the obvious, but most consulting practices have an ebb and flow. There are times when you have too much business and times when you are wondering where the next client is coming from. To mitigate any drought to your income flow, you may need to approach your financial planning differently. You would be wise to investigate ways in which you can create multiple streams of revenue. Finally, make certain you consult with your tax advisor on the steps you need to take to prepare for your change in status with the IRS. You will want to ensure you are holding back enough savings to pay for your taxes quarterly or annually. You will also want to ensure you have the proper systems in place to invoice your clients and keep impeccable records on your expenses. There are many online solutions to help you with your budgeting and finance needs.
Working for yourself can offer immeasurable satisfaction, but it is not for everyone. For me, I’ve found that it has forced me to continually evolve and grow as my client’s needs change or as I stretch to take on new endeavors. And I wouldn’t trade the time with my daughter for the world.
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