If you’re starting a new business as an independent consultant, preparing a written business plan is essential. The document doesn’t need to be very long, but it should contain at least some basic elements that you can refer to regularly as you grow your business. In addition to financial projections, your business plan should set out who you are, who your clients are, and how you will reach them.
Your consulting business is really all about you. Take the time to spell out what separates you from the competition and what your specific expertise is. This section should be more than a simple copy of your resumé. It should explain what your strengths are and how they can be useful for your clients. You should also identify areas that need improvement. By putting these elements in writing, you will be able to focus clearly on what your new consulting business will look like, and you can determine which markets to target and which ones to avoid.
Know Your Market
Next, identify the target market for your consulting business and the main potential clients in your target market. As a consultant, you can’t simply go after every single potential contract in every field. After all, there is only one of you and 24 hours in a day. Ask yourself what type of client would benefit from the strengths that you have identified. From there, do some research to determine the major players in that industry and how you might contact them. Find out about the main trade organizations for the fields you have identified and which ones you might join. Set out visibility goals in your written plan so that you can revisit them after a few months and see if you have achieved them.
Spread the Word
Your written plan should also include a detailed marketing strategy. For a new business, becoming known is often the biggest challenge. At this stage, brainstorm on how you will reach the market that you have identified. Will you write articles for specialty magazines and participate in panels at conferences? Will you attend networking events? Will you use a one-on-one approach? There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, but by setting out your personalized plan, you can bring focus to your specific ideas. You should specifically consider how you will use social media. There are great often free tools that you can use to create awareness about your business, but you must have a plan for using them to give potential clients a focused and consistent message. A business plan is not a static document. Rather, it is a dynamic representation of what your business is and where it is going. At least once a year, you should revise and update it to reflect your consulting business’s growth and new market trends.