Build a scalable online consulting business

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You’ve put in your cubicle time. You’ve worked hard.

And it’s paid off: you’re an expert!  What’s your reward? 

For many, it’s just knowing they’re really good at what they do. 

But others – like you  – choose to leverage their hard-won skills. 

So - you’ve plunged into the pool of online consulting. It’s teeming with potential clients – and it’s being fished by an ever-growing number of competitors.

The question is: how do you bait your hook to land your fair share of the catch?

Baiting the Hook

A person with a problem is spatially challenged: that is, there’s a big gap between where they are and where they want to be.

Your job as a consultant is to help them bridge that gap.

Once you’ve found your target niche – whether it’s helping Nuclear Physics Ph.D. candidates refine their dissertations, or making poodle grooming websites SEO-friendly – keep a laser focus. Your objective is to identify a specific challenge faced by your target niche and offer your niche expertise to help them overcome it.

Value Yourself

Successful consultants offer their prospects a compelling value proposition. It’s based on the promise that their expertise will help clients move from their current situation to the desired outcome.

Prospects will opt-in if they believe you provide value – whether it’s speed, scope, level of expertise, or quality of service - that nobody else in your industry can provide. 

Underscore this in all your communications – and be clear.

Saying merely “I help people with their businesses” means you’ll sink to the bottom of the pool. But saying “I help (target niche) to (results) by (service offered)”  assures clients that you genuinely “get” them – and that they’ll get results.

Build a Pipeline

Your pipeline – the channel that funnels your prospects through to a profitable outcome – is essential for both results in the short-term and growth in the long run. 

If you want to keep it filled, feed your social network.

Platforms like Linkedin and Facebook allow you to identify and interact with your target group, and establish your expertise within your industry.  Your online presence means that you can be easily contacted by users with similar professional interests -  and by potential clients.

Save time and effort by using a social media management tool. This schedules your posts ahead of time – and lets you build your day around your clients, instead of your schedule

With the pandemic-fuelled interest in the online tutoring business, it’s a good time to package your skills as a learning tool. Offer free or inexpensive courses on platforms like Udemy or Skillshare, and include information about your exclusive newsletter or Facebook group that these attendees can sign up for.

Then put them in your pipeline. Today’s students could be tomorrow’s clients.

Get Writing

Share your expertise in ebook form, and offer it for free or for a minimal fee on platforms like Amazon or Gumroad. 

Both ebooks and blogging are great ways to establish your authority (particularly in niche markets) and collect email addresses to put in your pipeline. Work on a series of email templates that you can use to nurture these subscribers to convert over time into paying customers.

Work the System

Establish system templates, so you’re not always having to start from scratch.

These could include proposal templates, data-collecting forms, onboarding questions, or service descriptions.

These tools will ensure consistency in your branding and client interaction, make your work process smoother and more efficient – and make your business more scalable.

Join Hands

Brand identity is about more than just a product or service: it’s part of a business ecosystem. So it makes sense to work collaboratively. 

Working with partners who provide complementary services has many benefits. It:

  • Adds value to your business by offering a variety of skills and expertise
  • Makes outsourcing easier
  • Allows for cross-promotion to a greater number of groups
  • Broadens your reach and appeal

Alternately, consider an affiliate partnership or sponsorship if you can afford it. 

Identify influencers in your ecosphere and discuss options like sponsored posts, reviews, and videos. Influencer participation personalizes your business. 

Give Them Something to Look At

According to a Hubspot Report, visual marketing works better than blogging as a marketing tool

Use graphics, animation, and videos to make content easy to consume. If you are not comfortable doing it yourself, you may consider hiring a freelance animator online. A DIY video can be as simple as a recorded PowerPoint presentation with a voice overlay.

There are plenty of online tools to help you optimize your visual marketing. Or, if you want to outsource, look for a collaborator in your ecosphere who can do the work for a reasonable rate. 

Spread the Word

Brochures and newsletters are another easy-to-build marketing tool. Make it a DIY project – or, if you’re short on time or you’re not confident about self-publishing, outsource the work to an inexpensive freelancer.

Ensure – as with your online posts – that it clearly conveys:

  • Who you are
  • What you do 
  • How you do it
  • How people can get in touch

Make the Case

Case study logs are invaluable tools for consultants. They’re a great way to share the experiences you’ve had, and the measurable outcomes you’ve delivered.

They let prospects know that:

  • They’re not alone in facing a challenge
  • Solutions can be found
  • You can help find them

Explain to prospects how you’ve helped other clients achieve their goals. If they can see themselves in one of your past challenge-resolution stories, they’re far more inclined to believe that your service will benefit them too.

Give away your “trade secrets”. Being transparent about what you do and how you do it only enhances your professional credibility - and adds a large dollop of value to your brand.

And let your professional success stories speak – literally - for themselves. Personal testimonials are powerful tools of persuasion. They reassure prospects that others have been there, done that – and that you’ve helped them come out the other side.

Automate Everything

Once you have these strategies in place, it is time to make all of this scalable. It is time to automate your business. There are plenty of online tools that can help you accept online bookings, engage with prospects, and market to them on autopilot so that you do not have to be there to take care of it at each step.

For things that you cannot automate, look for freelancers to who you can outsource these projects too. As a consultant, your objective to maximize your billable hours. Each hour spent tweaking your website, fixing SEO issues, or handling invoices is an hour that goes unbilled. 

By the time you’ve arrived at this stage, you’ll have mastered the fishing skills that will let you connect and engage with your prospects, and help scale your business.

That’s great – but how do you reel them in? 

By grounding your value proposition in delivered, perceptible outcomes. When prospects become happy clients, they’ll want to share that experience – and that, in turn, will land more new clients. It all comes full circle.

So keep that rod in the water.