In the prior post on the topic of Launching a Consulting Business we began discussing the topic of “How to avoid Feast vs. Famine.”
The first / major step here (to ensure a continuous revenue stream) is to never cease your marketing activities. And, because this is so important, it will be covered in future posts as well.
Assuming that you never cease your marketing activities (I cannot say this enough) you should be generating inquiries for your services on an ongoing basis.
At this point, some might ask: “What happens if I’m already busy when someone requests my services?”
To this (a small-thinker’s question) I’d respond with “Are you bragging or complaining?”
This is a GREAT problem to have! If you’ve been listening (reading this blog) you have positioned yourself to start growing your business (beyond a one-person shop). At this point, you have a couple of choices: NONE of which would include telling your prospect that you cannot help them at this time. That would be suicide!
In fact, I have only turned away 1 prospect since launching my business. The reason: they were in Mexico City and wanted me to live there for (at least) 6 months. At the time my (4) kids were very young and I didn’t want to be away that long (for fear that my wife would kill me 🙂 ). In another year (2015) all my kids will be 18 or older, in college, the military or living on their own. If/when a similar opportunity presents itself my wife and I will likely be on the first plane to Mexico City to enjoy some time there (before, during and after the engagement)! Ah, the flexibility of living outside of corporate employment.
So, what do you do when you receive an inquiry at a time when you are already busy?
In the prior post I mentioned that I “try” not to engage with any single client for more than a few days a week. This leaves me time for marketing activities, mountain biking, skiing and, oh yeah (back-to-business), engaging with other clients. As such, if the scope, timing and scheduling flexibility are such, you might try taking this additional project on in parallel with your other / current engagement. To be sure, you are going to have to be VERY GOOD at managing your time/schedule and both clients’ expectations so that you knock both projects out of the park. Said another way, YOUR scheduling challenges are NOT your clients’ problem. You must make it invisible to them!!!
But, you are still doing it all yourself and you won’t have time to take on that “next” engagement that will result from your ongoing marketing activities. As a result, you will be limiting your business growth (and income). I hate that 🙂
At this point you can engage other people to join your team. And, in the beginning, this does NOT mean that you must hire employees…
Like you, there are other freelance consultants out here (or people who wish they were) who will engage on a project-by-project basis. To find them, simply reach into your personal network (LinkedIn is a GREAT tool for this purpose) and seek-out individuals with the skill-set and availability to assist you. Note: You are encouraged to begin this process in advance, so that you have a roster of people (other freelance consultants) you can call upon when the opportunity presents itself. As previously mentioned, it can be useful to have these people as members of your Board of Advisors.
Then, over time, you can decide if/when it makes sense to bring on any full-time employees. This is a topic for an entire book that I don’t plan on writing 🙂
How do you leverage these people? Depending on the nature of the project, skill-set requirements and your own availability, you could:
- Have them work side-by-side with you
- Completely hand-off the project to them
- A progressive combination of the above
I probably don’t need to go further in regards to having someone work side-by-side with you on this additional engagement. That is, you would be “in the lead” and they would take on any overflow work (or work that is more aligned with their skill-set and availability vs. yours) to complete the project.
At some point, however, you will find it necessary (and/or desirable) to completely hand-off projects to others. You can do so in a few ways:
- If you’ve been working a project for some length of time and have “gotten over the hump” (that is, laid the groundwork that absolutely required your time and expertise, have built a solid relationship with the client, and they are in a “good place”) you can bring on another consultant to drive the project to completion by phasing them in and phasing you out.
- If you began the project with another consultant working side-by-side with you, over time you can prop them up as the lead and you can phase out.
- During the early stage of developing the lead (for the new opportunity) you can bring another consultant with you. And you, together, “close the deal” fully setting the client’s expectation that this other consultant (on your team) will be the lead on the project.
In all of the above scenarios, you must realize that in the eyes of the client, you / your company is the “single throat to choke” for the project. As such, you must be sure that any resource (consultant or employee) you engage is capable of high performance under your good name!
In future posts we’ll cover the necessary (but boring) stuff that must be in place (i.e., legal, accounting, insurance, etc.) to properly manage the business and mitigate the inherent risks.