The Complete Guide to Starting A Consulting Business You Can Run From Home & Getting to 6-Figures

For creative freelancers & technical consultants like designers, copywriters, marketers, brand managers, and strategists who want to work from home & get to 6-figures fast.

How to Start A Consulting Business & Get to Six Figures, Fast.

ARE YOU DYING TO ESCAPE YOUR TECH OR CORPORATE JOB TO START A CONSULTING BUSINESS?

I know how you feel.

At 23, I landed my dream job with a Fortune 500 company. I worked hard, advanced quickly and I made more and more money.

I had all the outward appearances of success, but inside, my soul was dying.

I hated getting up for work in the mornings, I dreaded every meeting, I started spending half my day looking forward to happy hour, usually while eating some sort of microwave meal at my desk.

I resented my boss, my coworkers and exhaustion of the burnout made even the best parts of my job – the stuff I liked to do – feel more painful than a root canal.

Eventually, I realized I had to make a change and quit without a plan, later starting my first business.

My journey wasn’t an easy one – my first freelance job netted me about $0.50 an hour – but I’ve never looked back from that decision to quit.

If I’d stayed in that job, I’d probably have a nice, fat 401K right now and still be praying that someday things would get better while slogging through TPS reports and crying myself to sleep at night.

Instead, I gave up what wasn’t working for me – the job, the drinking, the stress-related health problems – and embarked on redesigning my life.

I earned my MBA and spent 10 years helping entrepreneurs build businesses in one form or another – as a designer, marketer, advisor, coach – helping start and grow more than 60 companies, but I could never get my OWN business off the ground.

I tried 3 times to start a consulting business – but always seemed to end up back in a great-on-paper job I hated!

Finally, with the help of a coach, I managed to replace my $80K salary doing what I love, and I’ve not been stuck in one mindless meeting again.

If you’re good at what you do, and you’re committed to starting a consulting business you can run from the beach or your PJ’s, I’ve got great news…

If I can create my dream life & business, you absolutely can too.

A freelance or consulting business is the SIMPLEST business you can start.

You do NOT need to have a huge audience, be a social media influencer, spend a boat-load of $$ to get started or get an MBA, the way I did.

But you DO need a framework to follow if you want to skip the startup struggles & feast-or-famine freelance cycle and replace your salary fast.

Below is a complete guide to starting a consulting business (or freelance practice), finding your first clients, and getting to 6-figures while working from home.

Even if you’ve never run a business before, even if you have no idea where to start… even if you’ve been trying for years and just haven’t been able to give up those golden handcuffs.

I’ll go over the foundational parts of getting started & landing your first clients as a freelancer or consultant – and what to focus on if you want/need to scale to 6-figures your first year.

The 6-Figure Framework™

9 Steps to Starting Your Consulting Business & Landing Your First Freelance Client

As I said before, freelance and consulting businesses are very simple.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but a consulting business is the simplest of all business models. All you need to get started is:

  • A service to offer
  • A client who needs it

No inventory, no employees, no complicated sales funnel or celebrity status required.

If you’re good at what you do, you can spend a couple hours today sending out emails to potential clients letting them know you’re available to hire and you’d probably get a few bites.

So, what’s really stopping you from starting a consulting business?

The answer is simple: FEAR.

Fear of Failure. Fear of Success. Fear of Rejection. Fear of Going Broke.

Fear leads to all sorts of over-thinking, over-complicating and avoiding.

Fear creates self-doubt and tells you you’re not capable of doing this, that you don’t know how to market yourself, that you’re not good enough…

So you focus on the wrong things – like getting more degrees, certificates, credentials – instead of just accepting that you have a few things to learn.

Basically, fear keeps you stuck.

But you ARE good enough, you ARE capable of starting a consulting business, and you can outsmart the fear!

After working a few 1000’s small business clients as a coach, I’ve developed a 9-step framework for starting your consulting business and getting to 6-figures fast:

Table Chart of The 6-Figure Framework for Starting a Consulting Business

This is the same framework I used to grow my own UX design business to $120k/year in revenue while working part-time from my living room. 

It’s the same framework I used to start a 6-figure coaching practice while traveling full-time as a digital nomad, living and working in 25 different countries.

And it’s the same framework that 100’s of my clients have used to start their own businesses and leave their 9-to-5’s.

You MUST be good at what you do if you want to start a consulting business or become a high-end freelancer. 

But I can teach you all the rest.

This is a LONG article at more than 8000 words, so you might want to bookmark it so you can come back to it. 🙂

Want to fast track your learning? Grab the Secrets of a Six Figure Freelancer ebook for more template and exercises.

Let’s dive in.

Pillar 1: Master Your Mindset

Freelancing is a $1.4 TRILLION industry. 

That’s 12 zeros. A million million. A heap of money, really.

And some of that pie could easily be yours.

And it’s not contingent on your being the best at what you do.

It’s having the ability to CONSISTENTLY bring new clients in the door that will allow you to scale your income & live the lifestyle you want.

There is ONE super important thing you MUST do before you start a business if you want to make money quickly. 

Are you ready for it?

You MUST master your mindset.

Your mindset is 100% responsible for the actions you take in your business, and therefore 100% responsible for your success – or failure.

We’ll go into this a little more later, but the first step you can take here and NOW is to:

Stop thinking like an employee.

8 times out of 10, when I meet someone who’s struggling with starting a consulting business, they still have an employee mindset keeping them stuck.

They’re not running a business – they’re just searching for jobs.

You MUST master your mindset if you want to make money fast. Click To Tweet

Want to finally start your own business?

Here’s what you have to STOP doing today:

  • Selling your skills as commodities rather than providing services
  • Using your resume or portfolio to try to capture the sale
  • Spending more time “looking for projects” than promoting yourself
  • Avoiding marketing or sales, or even telling people you’re in business
  • Doing everything for your business fast, cheap, and, frankly, half-assed
  • Over-thinking everything and waiting until “the time is right”

Adopt a business owner mindset instead and start investing time, money, and energy into starting your business today.

Learn how to stop self-sabotaging & start your business with the exercises in the book.

Now that you’ve mentally made that shift, let’s move on to the 3 mindset focus areas:

  1. Create Clarity
  2. Clear The Cruft
  3. Cultivate Confidence

Step 1: Create A Vision for Your Life & Business

There is a great TED talk, and subsequent book from Simon Sinek called “Find Your Why,” which outlines how knowing what you stand for can help you build a better company.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

For a freelancer or consultant building a brand, your clients are buying YOU

And to attract the clients you want, you need to know WHY you do what you, WHAT you’re best at, and WHO you work with.

So, start with the WHY of your business and know WHAT you *personally* want to get out of starting a consulting business.

You might also refer to this as your personal vision or mission statement, as it will help you make decisions along your way.

Here’s a straightforward example of the power of a personal WHY:

In 2005, MySpace was the hottest social network around, and everyone had to be there – then Facebook took over the world.

At first glance, you might think that MySpace, and it’s founder Tom, was a failure compared to Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg.

But, if you look at the driving factors – the WHY and the INTENTION – of those founders, you’ll see they were both incredibly successful.

Tom started a business with the intention of selling it, so he could retire and never have to work again.

Mark Zuckerberg wanted to build a BIG company and be a Silicon Valley CEO.

Because their “WHY’s” were different, each took very different tactics in growing their respective companies.

Tom sold his company for $380 million; he achieved his dream of never having to work again and is an incredibly wealthy man.

Mark now runs one of the world’s most profitable businesses and is said to be worth over $600 billion. He could walk away tomorrow and never work, too – but that’s not what he set out to do.

(Sidenote: The fact that MySpace is now virtually defunct is irrelevant except that the company that bought it clearly didn’t have a clear why or a strategy for keeping it alive!)

Your vision – and your WHY – will help you make the right decisions for you as an owner.

So…. What is your WHY?

WHY do you want to start a consulting business?

Do you intend to grow an agency or do you just want to work on cool projects from your pajamas until you retire?

Do you want to change the world through the services you provide, or just change your lifestyle?

Is it practice for a bigger mission, like a startup, or are you just desperate to quit your job?

Take some time to determine what success looks like for you, and why you’re dedicated to starting a consulting business now.

Download the book to get clarity & define your why.

Starting A Consulting Business: The Complete Guide to Getting to 6-Figures Fast 2

Step 2: Banish Bad Beliefs & Behaviors

You deserve to get rich doing what you love.

Does reading that statement make you uncomfortable?

It’s okay if it does. The first time someone said it to me, I felt almost like I could puke.

It turns out I had a lot of “poor kid mind-trash” floating around in my head, keeping me stuck and making stupid decisions.

I grew up somewhere between poor and middle-class American. We rarely went hungry, but we never seemed to have enough either. My father was notoriously stingy with money, while my mother is a spendthrift, and money was one of the driving factors in their divorce.

Somewhere along the way, I adopted a VERY conflicted view of money.

I wanted to spend and enjoy my money like my mom, but believed it should be hoarded like my dad, all the while believing money was elusive, scarce, and hard to earn.

This resulted in a pattern: I’d create vast amounts of money through hard work, spend more than I’d earned, lose it all, and start over –  because I never truly believed I was worthy of wealth in the first place.

In “The Big Leap,” Gay Hendricks calls this an Upper Limit Problem and suggests that you will always come back to where we are most comfortable in terms of our happiness, our wealth and our relationships.

So if we have an inner belief that we don’t deserve to – or aren’t able to – be wealthy, we will find a way to reset our level of success.

Kinda messed up, right?

But it certainly illustrates the power of belief!

Our beliefs guide our actions, which directly correspond to our results. Click To Tweet

This is true in every area of life, but when it comes to starting a business, your beliefs around money can absolutely make or break you.

So before you embark on starting a consulting business and decide how you’ll make money, let’s understand how you feel about money.

There are two types of mindsets when it comes to money. There is an abundance mindset, and there is a scarcity mindset.

  • Those with a scarcity mindset feel money is bad, dirty, or just plain out of reach. With a scarcity mindset, we believe money is hard to earn and only comes to those with exceptional talent, exceptional drive, or exceptionally good luck.
  • Those with an abundant mindset feel that money, and the desire for it, is healthy. They understand that money is a tool – neither inherently good nor bad – and that it’s as easy to earn or create more money as it is to spend money they receive. 

People with abundant mindsets are willing to receive money in any form it comes to them.

People with a scarcity mindset typically feel they have to earn their money through excessively hard work.

Which one are you?

If you’re operating with a scarcity mindset, you’ve got some work to do to elevate your belief system before you’re going to see success in your consulting business.

And it’s critical – because like I said before, you deserve to be rich!

When YOU become rich, you help the WORLD.

And you earning more does NOT mean anyone else makes less.

When YOU earn more, other people will earn more. Here’s why…

  • You’ll hire people to help your company & create jobs
  • You’ll hire people to help you at home & provide income to service providers
  • You’ll make better products and serve more people or companies & create more value
  • You’ll have more fun and be happier, and treat people better
  • You’ll be able to contribute more to causes you care about & help more people

You can contribute more. Give more. Take better care of yourself. Create more.

So do the work to get comfortable with the idea of being rewarded handsomely (get more exercises and resources here).

But money is NOT the only mindset issue you need to watch for.

When you start your business, and start seeing success, you’ll probably be amazed at how many ways you self sabotage.

Maybe you’ve been working on starting your consulting business for years but just can’t seem to pull the trigger, or maybe you dream about starting your own business but just can’t find the time.

Pay attention to that, because those are mindset issues that can be fixed.

While there are many mindset issues, I want to call your attention to one extremely destructive emotional-behavioral patterns I see in most new entrepreneurs:

Perfectionism.

Many people don’t think of themselves as perfectionists but still fall prone to some of the behavior rooted in perfectionism:

  • Not launching a website because it’s just not good enough
  • Not creating a program or product to sell because they’re scared it won’t sell
  • Not promoting themselves because they’re afraid of rejection or criticism
  • Not raising rates because they’re afraid of losing or scaring away a client
  • Not trusting their instinct or believing in themselves
  • Creating busy work to avoid doing the important-but-scary stuff
  • Jumping from project to project and “dabbling” rather than getting focused

Reed Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn & a VERY successful venture capitalist, once said “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

This doesn’t mean you should rush everything and half-ass everything.

It means you have to go with the mantra “Done is better than perfect.

If you want to be successful in your consulting business, take action quickly and aim to refine it later, rather than delaying or avoiding the work.

Launch your freaking website. Send the email. Write your business plan.

And keep working on your mindset and beliefs.

Step 3: Create a *SIMPLE* Plan You Feel Confident In

Now that you’ve got the “WHY” and you’re ready to start acting like a business, it’s time to pull everything together into a fast, easy & super simple business plan!

And I really mean it when I say SIMPLE.

If you are starting a consulting business, a freelance agency, or a coaching practice – you do NOT need a 47 page business plan with charts and financial tables and staffing plans.

Nearly every entrepreneur I’ve worked with who has invested months of time and thousands of dollars in a beautiful business plan – ends up reading it once before dropping it in the circular file.

A business plan should be a simple, easy to follow living document – the only time you’re gonna need a traditional business plan is if you’re seeking funding or financing.

Your business plan should help you create confidence in the direction you’re heading in, and should primarily focus on what you need to know for your first 1-2 years of business.

Here are the main questions your 6-figure business plan should answer:

  • What kind of business are you creating?
  • What is your vision and mission?
  • What is your exit strategy?
  • What is your 1st year revenue goal & how will you hit it?
  • What are your top 3 short-term revenue streams?
  • What are your top 3 long-term revenue streams?
  • What is your target market & how big is it?
  • What is your primary area of expertise, or what problem are you really solving?

Remember to KEEP IT SIMPLE and take your best guess if you’re not sure.

You do NOT need to know everything now. 

You do NOT need to have all the things figured out.

If you even try, you’ll kill yourself and never move forward.

Make a commitment to building the business. 

KNOW that you’re gonna figure this shit out and make your dream work.

Then, make a list of the three MOST LOGICAL next steps for you to move forward.

Do one NOW, or schedule it.

Keep doing that EVERY week and adjust as you need to.

Get my 30-minute business plan template & more templates in the book.

Pillar 2: Master Your Marketing

There are five main areas of your business that are going to be most critical for you to pay attention to:

  1. Marketing
  2. Sales
  3. Operations
  4. Finances
  5. Legal

80% of the time, when I talk to a freelancer or consultant who’s struggling with their business, it’s due to a problem in Marketing.

Even if you master your mindset and fully believe in what you do, if you’re talking to the wrong market, or are inconsistent, it’s going to be hard to be successful. 

If you skipped those pesky business classes in college (I certainly did), now is a good time to take my crash course in business foundation as related to starting a consulting business or freelance practice. You can get this training in video format here.

Within the Sales and Marketing categories, your efforts should focus *most* on these areas:

  1. Generating Potential Leads & Traffic (Marketing – Lead Generation)
  2. Qualifying & Capturing Leads (Marketing – Lead Capture)
  3. Talking to Potential Clients and Converting them to Clients. (Sales)

So first, what’s a “lead”? And what’s a prospect? And how do you get one?

Lead & Prospects

Often used interchangeably, as they are so similar, but the technical distinction between prospect & lead is this:

  • A prospect is someone that could be interested in your services/products (like a website visitor, anyone that fits your ideal client, etc.)
  • A lead is someone that has specifically said they are interested in your product, service, or talking to you.

In layman’s terms, a lead is a prospective customer that shows interest in your products or services and has permitted you to contact them.

If you want to work anywhere like I do, you’ll want to focus primarily on digital leads – people who visit your website, social media profiles, or otherwise make contact with you online.

While every visitor to your website is a *Potential* lead, or prospect, only the ones who give you their information are leads.

And of those, only the ones that need what it is you have to offer, can afford it, AND want it is a “qualified” lead.

Warm Leads vs. Cold Leads

Now, within the leads category, you have another split: Warm & Cold leads (there are probably other terms in the sales field, but let’s keep it simple…)

  • Warm leads are anyone you’ve already built a relationship with. You might have an existing familial or professional relationship with them, or they’re fans of your work or friends of friends. But they feel like they already know you.
  • Cold leads are people you’ve never met or interacted with. They’ve indicated interest (given you a business card at a networking event or booked a consult), but for all intents and purposes, you were strangers until just recently.

Understanding the distinctions above isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, but I want you to understand that when I talk about “capturing leads,” it means getting contact details for any potential clients.

It’s that simple.

Rule #1: Interact with as many people as possible and get their information

Rule #2: Use that information and follow up!

For best results, you want to maximize the number of potential leads to your website or inbox, use your marketing materials (i.e., website) to qualify them and then capture their information so you can have a conversation with them.

Here’s how we can visualize the path as a simple funnel for a consultant or freelancer:

Starting A Consulting Business: The Complete Guide to Getting to 6-Figures Fast 3

  1. Connect: A prospects meets you, or visits your website (Lead Generation)
  2. Compel: They are qualified through your messaging & express interest (Lead Capture)
  3. Calendar: You Invite them to schedule a sales conversation or paid consultation
  4. Consult: You diagnose the problem or pain that brought them to you (Trust Building)
  5. Convert: You create a proposal that positions you / your business as the solution and they become a client.  (Sales)

And if they love what you do, they then become referral partners or at least give you good reviews that help you attract your next client.

But I’m getting ahead of myself… before you start generating quality leads & landing clients, you need to know who your market is, what they need, and why they’ll hire you.

Step 4: Identify Your Target Market & Ideal Client

“The Riches are in the Niches,” they say… but WTF does that even mean?

At its most basic, it means you don’t work with everyone. You are a specialist in a world of generalists.

Niche is what you do, your market is who you do it for, and a niche market is the combo…

What you specialize in, and who you specialize in doing it for… who you’re an expert in servicing.

And being able to focus down on solving problems for one particular client, will mean the difference between running a profitable business and searching for sofa pennies to buy ramen.

Let’s talk about the power of knowing your niche.

“When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” – Meredith Hill

 Click To Tweet

Meet Sally. 

Sally is an event planner and she just spent a ton of money on a brand new website that sells her services.

Because she’s never taken a marketing class, Sally offers to do any sort of events in her market.

She does weddings, she does Batmitzvahs, she does corporate galla’s and catered luncheons.

Sounds like a busy gal, right?

But you’d be wrong… because here’s what happens in real life.

  • A Fortune 100 executive visits Sally’s website and sees photos of a Quincenera she planned, and the exec assumes Sally doesn’t have the expertise to run their $1M ball. 
  • A local business owner visits the site and sees photos of the super-elaborate wedding and they assume Sally won’t be interested in a small professional event at the Hilton.
  • A local mom visits the site and sees all these fancy parties and thinks Sally’s services will be too expensive.

Do you get where I’m going with this?

Sally is all over the map with her marketing, so the people that do reach out to inquire about her services are probably just looking for the best deal… and are rarely the best clients to have. 

So take the time to do a little brainstorming to identify the people you’d MOST like to work with in your freelance business.

Think about these things:

Who are Your Favorite People?

What are Your Favorite Industries?

What Are Your Favorite Projects?

Once you’ve got the beginnings of your target market, it’s time to back it up with research.

Do a couple of quick google searches to get an idea of the market size and demand for your services – is the outlook good? Does there appear to be a lot of growth & increasing sales? 

If yes, Congrats! You’ve identified your target market!

Of course, it’s not enough to just know the industry or market you’re in.

You also need to think about who is hiring you (i.e., signing your paycheck/contract), understand WHY they will buy from you, and what you’re really selling. 

Because, here’s the deal…

Clients aren’t buying “UX design” or “copywriting” or “consulting.”

Those are simply the delivery mechanism for the RESULTS they are buying. 🙂

What clients are actually buying are things like:

  • “Better communication” or “More Engagement (via social media)”
  • “Increased sales (through dynamic advertising campaigns)”
  • “Happier clients (due to faster turnaround / better products / good design / great copy)
  • “Freedom from the cubicle (via an online course)”
  • “Confidence in a swimsuit (via health coaching)”

Most of the time what clients are buying is something that will earn them more business (More Revenue) or more efficiency (More Profit) or, in the case of direct to consumers, more happiness / better feels (more Income / Health / Etc).

One litmus test is to think about whether a client would wish for your solution while blowing out their birthday candles.

A client is not likely to wish for a “great event management consultant,” but they might wish that “the event goes so great that I get a promotion.”

Make sense!?

Decide what problem your ideal client has that you can solve better than anything else and use that as part of your marketing messaging.

So, what is the biggest problem you solve? 

  1. What keeps this person {the person who hires you} up at night? What challenges do they face all day? Why do they need your help?
  2. What skill do you have that this business desperately needs? What solution do you provide?
  3. What is the result of the work you do for this client***? What are you really selling?

“Be an aspirin in a world full of vitamins: What PAIN can you take away for the clients you love?”

Grab the book to access exercises for identifying your target market, creating your ideal client persona and more.

Step 5: Position Yourself As The Solution

Once you know who your ideal client is, you want to get as clear as possible on communicating that.

You’ll want to update your online presence with clear information on who you serve, and learn about how to talk about what you do in terms of benefits.

Start by drafting a brief statement that pulls together:

  • Your Niche (your specialty),
  • Your Target Market (Industry / Client Demographic)
  • Your Ideal Client (Personality)

Write a short paragraph describing who you work with and what you do for them, using demographics as needed.

My example:

  • I specialize in helping burnt-out tech and corporate employees escape the 9-to-5 by starting a consulting business they can run anywhere. My clients are typically mid-career level and have a specialized digital or strategic skill, like ux design, copywriting, digital marketing, brand strategy, etc and they desperately want to start their own business, but are terrified of giving up their paycheck so they stay stuck. My ideal client is slightly spiritual, growth-oriented, has a great sense of humor, loves to travel and is ready to make a massive change by starting a business.

This can be used in your business plan and brand messaging, as well as be modified and added to your about page or LinkedIn profile.

Now, let’s simplify that down into a tagline or elevator pitch.

You’re going to write out the basics of what you do and who you do it for in a benefits statement like this:

I help …………………… ← your ideal client

With ………………………. ← what you do for them / help them do

So they can ……………. ← Most desirable benefit to client

Experiment with the format until you find something that feels good, then start updating your social profiles!

Here are some tagline examples:

  • From apps to websites, I bring your ideas to life so you can focus on your business
  • I’ll write copy that converts cold-traffic to clients and makes my clients ca-ching
  • We run promotions for health-care practitioners who can’t stand boring marketing

Your pitch or tagline can be used digitally, but should also be something that would make sense as a response when someone asks “What do you do?”

It should be clear enough that they understand what you do, but compelling enough that they want to know more.

Once you have a tagline that works, move on to creating more complicated messaging like your sales page or your complete LinkedIn profile or a speaker kit.

Download more resources, templates and samples in the ebook.

Boom! You’ve got your messaging nailed!

Let’s bring it all together into a brand!

Step 6: Build A Brand Than Builds Trust

Now you know the type of business you want to build and WHO you’ll be serving, it’s time to start branding yourself or your business.

So what is a brand anyway?

Brand encompasses everything your business does… but mostly “brand” is how your clients feel about you, what they think about you, and what they say about you.

It’s the visual look & feel of your materials…

It’s the way you talk or the words you use…

It’s how you communicate…

It’s your personality…

“Everything a Brand Does is Advertising” – Lee Clow Click To Tweet

For our purposes in this article, we’re going to focus more on your brand’s personality and visual look as it relates to your ideal client.

Spend a few minutes thinking about how you’d like your brand to be perceived by that client and what you’d like people to be saying about your brand when you’re not in the room. For example:

  • How do you walk into a room?
  • How much personal information do you share online?
  • What types of things do you share online?
  • Are you warm and friendly, or concise and trustworthy?
  • How do people find you? Or where?
  • What are you known for?
  • What’s your vibe?

Got a good feel for how you want to be perceived? Good!

Spend a little time thinking about the aesthetics of your brand and put together a simple brand board that includes:

  • No more than 3 fonts
  • 3-6 colors
  • 3 images
  • Optional logo or brand elements

Download the book to get a brand board template and more brand creation exercises.

Now that you’ve got your brand elements down, it’s time to put it to work for you…

Start simple and update your social profiles.

Then move to the harder stuff – like your website.

Today, there is no question whether or not you should have a website for your freelance business.

You MUST.

Even if it’s just a page with a link to your social media, you need to have a “source of truth” or a single location online, where people can easily find and connect with you.

But, better yet, have a sales page – not a “portfolio.”

A portfolio website showcases your skills and talents and is usually used to get a job… it’s what you create out of college to get work.

A portfolio is not what gets your ideal client to hire you.

You don’t need a portfolio – you need a website that sells your services.

Keep it simple to start – a single page with clear, compelling content and a calendar form will take you a long way when you’re getting started.

You can create a very simple, yet well-designed website in just a day or two, using templates from Divi for WordPress or Squarespace.

Get guidelines for building a website for your business inside the book.

Pillar 3: Simplify to Sell

Okay, now that you’ve covered the basics, it’s time to get into the serious stuff.

First up: PRICING.

This is a controversial topic when you’re starting a new consulting business or a freelance practice, so before we go any further, I want to make sure you put on your abundance mindset.

Ensure you’re doing the work with an open mind and not thinking back to that comment someone made about creative people being broke or small businesses failing.

Mmmkay?

Once we get through this, we’ll talk about how to bring all the work you’ve done so far into a simple process for officially starting your consulting business, finding clients and making sales.

Alright, let’s begin.

Step 7: Perfect Your Pricing & Packages

There are a lot of different ways to charge for your services, but these are the most common are:

  • Hourly
  • By Deliverable
  • Monthly / Retainer
  • Project (value / benefit)

The first two, hourly & by deliverable, are what most new freelancers start with.

It’s also why most new freelancers struggggllllee.

I encourage you to never work hourly again unless it’s in addition to an existing project (like last minute, out of scope updates).

First, we want to start earning with our minds and not our time.

Second, this limits your income by the number of hours you can work and is not scalable.

Lastly, and most importantly, if you’re good at what you do and can do it quickly, why should you be penalized!? 

I mean, if it took your mechanic 30-minutes to rebuild your engine, would you expect to pay him less than if he took an hour?

Or would you pay MORE to have it done quickly?

It shouldn’t matter how long something takes you if you’re providing the same amount of value.

So, I suggest you focus on the cost of the problem you’re solving or the benefit of what you’re providing when you decide to set your rates.

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Warren Buffet Click To TweetThinking about your area of expertise, your special sauce / unique value proposition, and your ideal client, come up with some tangible dollar amounts for the problems your clients face or the increased benefits they will get.

List out some of the costs & benefits related to what you do. Attach actual estimated dollar amounts to the work you do by researching average costs in your client industry.

Then spitball some project prices and ideas for how you can better sell your services. Keep it loose for now and brainstorm ways you could sell your services with baseline prices.

Example: 

You’re a UX designer, and you’re hired to design a new MVP for an edTech startup.

  • Bad UX will lead to lack of adoption, product abandonment, cancellation, unhappy customers, and an increase in customer service costs
  • Good UX can lead to product awards, great press, more leads, retained clients, increased adoption, better funding, lower support costs, easier sales / lower cost of sales

Let’s pretend for a minute that your work for this client results in winning a design award and getting free press in Entrepreneur & Inc magazines.

This leads to 20 new clients at $10k ($200K/year), and the company is also able to keep 10 previously-unhappy clients from leaving, which retains $100k in sales.

These 30 clients then referral a few more and add another $20K in sales.

This gets the attention of an investment firm, and the startup gets a new round of funding ($15M).

Your new designs have saved $100k in potential lost income, earned $50K in free press, $220K in sales, $15,000,000 in funding, and a bunch of other cost savings – and that’s just in the current year!

So what if that work only took 40-hours. Should you earn less even when you brought $15M+ into this business?

No, you shouldn’t. So bill by the project—price based on results.

Now, let’s discuss a little strategy and a little psychology.

After setting higher base rates, there are a few ways you can earn more in your business:

  • You can have more clients
  • You can sell more products/services
  • You can work on bigger projects
“Most freelancers think more clients = more $$. Most new freelancers are broke. Click To Tweet

Or at least massively stressed out…

A better way is to look for BETTER clients who will book you for larger projects, repeat projects, or splurge on all the bells and whistles.

You can do a few things to make it more likely a client will work with you at a higher value per sale – or more profit to you.

Provide three pricing options

This can be a small, medium, and large package based on deliverables, services, expertise, or time. Most clients will choose the middle option – so make sure that’s your sweet spot.

You can also sweeten the deal by offering discounts on higher packages.

Example 2: 3, 6 & 12 month coaching packages at $3, 5, 9k. Make it clear that by purchasing more, your client saves…this is the appeal of the McDonald’s value menu! Of course, you don’t need the large fries – but it’s only $0.50 more!

Offer Upsells & Downsells

Another way you can increase your overall profit is to offer upsells and downsells. These are smaller offers that you can either tack on or sell someone that’s not quite ready for your main packages.

Download the book today to get tips for setting your rates & creating high-converting offers.

Step 8: Generate Leads & Create Systems For Keeping In Touch

You’ve probably all heard the term “Content is King…”

This is why most new business owners jump onto all the social media platforms, write dozens of blogs, do ALL of the things – and often lose their minds.

This is a BIG mistake that most new entrepreneurs make (not just freelancers), and I made this mistake when I switched to coaching.

But there is a life cycle of promotions, which is NOT the most effective way to get clients when you’re new – it takes a LOT of time.

You should absolutely start planning to create content and blogging and all of that.. but don’t expect it to flood you with income immediately.

Earning business from completely cold leads is naturally harder.

That’s why you MUST focus on the warm leads when you start your consulting business (refer back to Pillar 2 for definition of warm leads).

Once you have the systems in place (like a killer website), you’ll start turning cold leads into warm leads online, so your sales conversations are like meeting an old friend.

In the meantime, you’ll focus on warm leads when you’re starting your consulting business and start practicing your pitch.

“Pitching” your service is scary stuff for a lot of new consultants and creative people (including me), but it gets easier with practice and is much easier when you’re crystal clear on the value you provide.

Remember, you’re not going to jump right into sales. You’re just asking someone on a date right now – not jumping to the wedding!

And just like asking someone out, you might like to be prepared and think about what you’d say if the perfect man/woman came to you.

It’s the same for business: sometimes you’re going to meet someone with a problem you can solve. You’re the peanut butter to their jelly.

And you can effortlessly pitch them this way.

Here’s how it might go.

You’re chatting with someone at a conference or networking meeting… Said person mentions a problem or idea related to what you do…

You say: “Oh cool – Is that something you’re looking for help with?”

If they say yes, you say, “That happens to be in line with what I do. I’d love to chat more – do you have time now / would you like to schedule a call / have coffee / etc.

If they say no, you can change the topic or say, “I see, well if you know anyone who does, that’s what I specialize in…”

See? Easy right?

Of course, in order for this to work, you:

  1. A) Need to know who your clients are and why they buy from you, and
  2. B) Know where to connect with them

To pick your lead generation strategy, start by getting focused on your ideal client and make a list of all of the places they might hang out regularly in real-life and online.

You should be doing at least ONE task per week to generate freelance clients. Click To Tweet

In-Person Lead-Generation Examples

The goal is to meet people, have conversations, capture their contact information & book consultations:

  • Attend networking events, business lunches
  • Volunteer for local events, charities, related groups
  • Join meetup groups
  • Put on a workshop
  • Tradeshows, conferences, etc
  • Speaking engagements

Online Lead-Generation Examples

The goal here is to drive traffic to your website, where you start a conversation (with your copywriting) and capture their contact information (with some sort of form & incentive)

  • Blogging
  • Content marketing
  • Funnel Hacking
  • Facebook pages, groups, LinkedIn Groups, quota, forums, etc
  • Advertising, SMM
  • SEO / Inbound Linking

When I moved to Savannah from Portland, I made a list of all the local tech and startup related organizations, and I researched when they had monthly meetings. I went to 1 a week until I found an organization I liked, and then I offered to volunteer with them weekly. That led to at least $30,000 in business that year, in a new city.

But I also did a fair amount of connection building with LinkedIn. I pimped out my profile with all the keywords my ideal clients might be searching for, had a clear call to action, and started connecting with people in my target market.

I always recommend starting with ONE in-person and ONE online marketing strategy and learning how to master it.

And remember: 1-on-1 and direct promotion is going to be your fastest path to cash.

One of the BIGGEST reasons new consultants and freelancers fail is because they are inconsistent with their marketing, think Instagram posts = sales, or get bored and start trying to master multiple platforms and do too many things – which means they do none of them particularly well.

You should be doing at least ONE task per week to generate leads.

And now is a great time to start.

Pick ONE idea from your list that you think would get you the MOST traction/interest with the LEAST amount of effort on your part (or MOST enjoyment) and plan out your next steps!

That might be calling a local organization to inquire about volunteer opportunities, making a flyer to post on the coffee shop bulletin board, whatever…

Do it or schedule it.

Don’t worry – you can always change your mind and come back to your list if it doesn’t work out!

Find more online marketing & social media tips inside the book.

Step 9: Present Proposals & Land Your First Client

Technically the minute you have a client, no matter how small, you’re in business, and the fastest way to get a client is to call on your network and ask for referrals or invite people to work with you.

I know this is scary, but you CAN do this.

The EASIEST way is to focus on your warm leads… Meaning friends and family and people that love you. IF they are in your target market or know people who are (and most likely they do).

This means:

  • Sharing on existing networks
  • Sending emails to friends, family, existing connections
  • Sending messages on social media to existing connections
  • Calling a friend and casually asking, “Who do you know that might…[need X]?”
  • Reaching out to past / existing clients
  • Following up with existing leads that have been sitting in your contacts list for 6 years, unanswered and unnurtured (just me?)

In order to:

  • Share something helpful
  • Start a conversation
  • Make an offer / invite them to work with you
  • Ask for a referral
  • Ask for repeat business
  • Ultimately – Land clients

For best results, make it easy

  • Send people templated emails / social posts or specific links to share
  • Create a Calendly account or similar so people can book a consultation with you instantly

Start by making a list of 100 (or more) people you can reach out to & ask for a referral, invite to work with you, etc. Add EVERYONE you can think of.

Pick the 5 people you think would be the best candidates for working together or who might know the most people you’d like to work with.

Get in touch with them.

Want a new freelance client? Make a list of 100+ people you know. Pick 5 who might need you or know someone who does. Contact them. Click To Tweet

No, don’t go straight for the sale; just start building that relationship.

Send them a text and say, “Hi, thinking of you!” or share something they might find useful.

Next, maybe tell them that you’re starting a consulting business!

But do this one-to-one. Not on Facebook.

Start cultivating the relationships now so that when you launch, those leads aren’t just warm… they are “Hot and Fresh out ‘da kitchen.”

Once they’re ready, you’ll have a simple consultation call where your #1 goal is to determine:

  1. What it is they need help with
  2. IF you think you can / want to help them

That’s it. No creepy sales techniques, no sliming strategy.

Your call should be about 80% them talking to you, providing the information you’ll use to determine if and how you can help them.

And if you think you can help them, you say something like this:

“Great – I think I have everything I need to put together a bid and a plan for you. I should be able to get that to you by X day. I’ll include a few options for you based on what we discussed and your budget, and we can loop up again to discuss it on X day. Do you have any other questions today?”

Then you get to work creating a killer proposal!

Learn how to have a sales call and create a killer proposal here.

Starting A Consulting Business: The Complete Guide to Getting to 6-Figures Fast 4

Getting to 6-Figures as a Consultant

By this point, you’ve got the foundation you need for starting your consulting business.

You know your ideal client, you know were they are spending time and how to communicate with them and you know what you’re selling and why they buy.

Now it’s time to scale that into a profitable business by practicing consistent marketing and promotions.

For the first 3-6 months after starting a consulting business, about 80% of your marketing time (the time outside of actual client work & critical admin stuff) should be spent on lead generation or revenue producing activities.

For the first 3-6 months in business, you should spend about 80% of your time on lead gen or revenue producing activities. Click To Tweet

Specifically – having conversations in person or online that invite people into a sales call, having sales conversations, and writing proposals.

Only 20% of your marketing time should be on brand building activities in these critical months.

But naturally, this is the stuff you’re gonna WANT to do because you feel insecure about being new to business, or unsure about marketing.

Things like building up the perfect Instagram grid, posting and praying on Facebook, getting press placements or investing in a stupidly-expensive website or complicated sales funnel…

Stop this sh*t before it destroys you.

Figure out ways to have actual conversations, and bring in REVENUE.

The methods that have typically worked best for myself and my clients include LinkedIn lead gen, cold email campaigns and in-person networking / referral requests.

LinkedIn is one of THE most powerful networks for creative freelancers, and I highly recommend that you update your profile here before you do anything else.

I landed a $90,000 job and a $60,000 client from LI. Both found me via keywords I’d added to my profile and booked a sales call because it was easy (I’ll teach you how to do this in my book, Secrets of a Six Figure Freelancer).

From a long-term standpoint, you also want to start thinking about search and SEO… because a lead that’s actively searching for someone to do what you do has already qualified themselves… and takes no effort for you if you’ve done the work to get discovered.

Organic and paid SEO, Pinterest, Linkedin and Content Marketing tend to be the most lucrative methods that have worked for myself and my clients.

But PLEASE… remember these are long term plays that take time to master.

Focus on your fastest path to cash and go with a more direct outreach strategy for your first 6-months.

Do it consistently and connect with at least 30 people per every sale you want to make.

As you get better, your conversion rates will go up – but this takes time so you should anticipate needing to have 10 sales conversations, and sending 5 proposals out, per every 1 sale.

Be consistent and go after your dreams!

Starting A Consulting Business: The Complete Guide to Getting to 6-Figures Fast 2

More Resources for Starting a Consulting Business

I’m on a mission to help creative entrepreneurs design fulfilling lives & businesses, and I hope you find value in the content I’ve created.

At this point, you should have a good idea of how to create a business plan and a strategy for starting your new consulting business NOW. 

Which means it’s time to take action.

You can get more templates and step-by-step guidance in the ebook, Secrets of a Six-Figure Freelancer.

You’ll get everything included in this article, PLUS additional in-depth exercises to guide you through creating your brand, managing your time, onboarding new clients and more

You’ll also get access to my free training videos, and special offers on upcoming coaching and training programs

If you’d rather get personalized advice, learn more about my coaching programs here.

Now, get to it and start your consulting business this week! You’ve got this!

And if you enjoyed this article, please do me a solid and SHARE. Click below to instantly tweet.

Check out this amazing article: 9 Steps to Build a 6-Figure Freelance Business Click To Tweet

And feel free to ping me – @kbagoy on Twitter with any questions.

Thank you!

XOXOXO,
Kate Bagoy

Starting A Consulting Business: The Complete Guide to Getting to 6-Figures Fast 6About Kate Bagoy & Six Figure Freelancers

Listed as one of Thrive Global’s “Limit Breaking” Female Founders, Kate Bagoy is an award-winning designer, strategist & business coach who helps creative corporate burnouts build work anywhere businesses.

After quitting a corporate dream job in 2008, Kate moved to Silicon Valley to manage design and marketing for a mobile startup – the valley wasn’t a fit, but she caught the startup bug & has been working with entrepreneurs ever since!

Over the last decade, Kate has worked with more than 50 startups and helped start dozens of small businesses. She is a graduate of the Portland Seed Fund, served as a mentor at multiple accelerators, and has led projects for Fortune 500 companies, including Nike, Ricoh, HP, Apple, BP, and Microsoft. Kate holds a BFA in Design and an MBA in Marketing.

Obsessed with travel since a flight to Oregon at age six, Kate left the US in January 2017 to travel full-time & run her business entirely online – she helps others do the same at sixfigurefreelancers.com.

Kate’s personal mission is to inspire and empower people to lead lives by design, not default.

Starting A Consulting Business: The Complete Guide to Getting to 6-Figures Fast 7

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