Wednesday, December 03, 2014

2014-12-03 Wednesday - Advice for a Friend Launching a Solo Consulting Business

A friend is about to leave his large comfortable corporate enterprise job - and go out on his own.  I offered to write-up some suggestions based on some of my own experience (this posting is primarily focused on specific tactical resources that he might find useful) to help him prepare for launching his solo consulting practice. His business is in a different industry than mine - so these suggestions are more general purpose - and not specific to the software/technology industry...


If your business evolves as mine has, you may find that 50% eventually comes from referral/relationships - and 50% from sources that you monitor.  Having said that - there comes a time (either at the bottom of a vicious downturn in the business cycle, or at a peak in the organic growth rate of your business itself - where cold calling will be necessary to thrive - or just survive.  These are the best-of-the-best books I have found for developing the mental mindset for that time...

Some Recommended Books...

Zig Ziglar's Secrets of Closing the Sale, my copy is the original 1995 edition

http://www.amazon.com/Zig-Ziglars-Secrets-Closing-Sale/dp/0425081028

You might prefer the newer 2004 edition:
http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Closing-Sale-Zig-Ziglar/dp/0800759753

Or, perhaps the Audio CD
http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Closing-Abridged-published-Schuster/dp/B00ES24V5G

This is an excellent book whenever your business growth feels like it is stalling...
Make It Happen Before Lunch: 50 Cut-to-the-Chase Strategies for Getting the Business Results You Want
http://www.amazon.com/Make-Happen-Before-Lunch--Chase/dp/0071360719

Gerald Weinberg's writing has been transformational in how I have evolved as a consultant...

Secrets of Consulting
http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Consulting-Giving-Getting-Successfully/dp/0932633013

More Secrets of Consulting: The Consultant's Tool Kit
http://www.amazon.com/More-Secrets-Consulting-Consultants-Tool/dp/0932633528

I have an entire shelf of Alan Weiss books in my library - his attitudes about most things rubs me the wrong way (often in a most disagreeable manner) - but his writing continues to challenge me in stretching my mind in how I view my consulting business - and how I seek to differentiate my competitive service offerings.  He also challenges my conventional notions about how to set billing rates - and how to value the service I offer clients. Be forwearned, he's a real ball buster kind of guy...
http://www.amazon.com/Alan-Weiss/e/B000AQ0PNG

 
Avoiding the Hourly Billing Trap - Selling Your Expertise...
http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2014/10/27/heres-how-one-new-college-grad-made-66000-in-one-month-without-a-full-time-job/
 

https://www.udemy.com/teach/
 


If you have some ideas for possible commercial/cloud software/service offerings, I highly recommend signing up for the Microsoft Biz Spark program...
http://www.microsoft.com/bizspark/


Business Insurance
Recommended:
http://www.thehartford.com/


Sample Contracts, possible sources...
http://www.onecle.com/
http://msabundle.com/


Cloud Hosted Accounting Software
You might want to look at something like this...
http://www.freshbooks.com/

..or just
Cloud Hosted Billing/Invoicing
https://www.simplybill.com/

...or perhaps Intuit's invoice payment service...
https://ipn.intuit.com/



If you find that you have long-term engagements with clients - where you need to publish client-specific documents - and have some form of interactivity - you might want to use a service like Base Camp
https://basecamp.com/
https://basecamp.com/start#prices

or...
https://trello.com/

Or perhaps if you need something a little more robust...this might be worth looking at...
https://www.worketc.com/

If you just need a time-tracking tool...
https://www.tickspot.com



Road Warrior Tools....

You'll be on the road...often....and as a solo Rōnin Business Warrior - you'll have no corporate organization to support and back you up. It is up to you to assemble your 'support team' and 'support services' - here are a few that I would consider as potential 'force multipliers' for an Army of One:


Wifi / Mobile Hotspot
I have been very pleased with my AT&T Mobile Hotspot device [Unite Pro] - and recently upgraded to the 30GB/month option. One of my best investments in tools for the road: Never having to worry about availability of Wifi; ability to avoid public/guest Wifi networks; and avoiding potential additional charges for Wifi access in hotels and airports.


Web Site Hosting
Want to host a web site?
Yahoo Business Hosting has very economical plans:
https://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/webhosting

You may also want to consider something like:
http://www.digitalocean.com
or...
http://www.rackspace.com


File Sharing
http://www.dropbox.com
http://www.github.com 
http://www.box.com 
http://docs.google.com


Electronic Document Management
https://www.docusign.com/

Need a Virtual Assistant?
http://www.virtualstafffinder.com/



Mail Box Service
UPS.com 
Having a mailbox with a local UPS store is extremely useful. The peace of mind that there is someone there to sign for packages, and who can forward your mail to you while you are on the road has been worth the annual cost.


Virtual Office / Phone / Mail / Support?
http://www.regus.com/products/virtual-offices/index.aspx

Although I am currently a Vonage business customer, if I were starting out today, I might consider...just a Skype Business Number

...or...
http://grasshopper.com/


For offering seminars/classes: Student Registration / Sell Class Tickets Online
https://www.eventbrite.com/t/how-to-sell-tickets-online


or...
https://www.regonline.com/


If you find yourself in the same major city often enough - and the client's office location is not usable (for whatever reason: space, convenience, noise, lack of privacy, etc.) - you might want to consider a Gold Business Lounge Membership with Regus.com
http://www.regus.com/products/businessworld-membership/gold.aspx
http://www.regus.com/products/business-lounges/index.aspx

Prices are very reasonable - and you can select a plan that is specific to a State, Country, or Global

Sometimes you just need a place to sit, have a coffee, and do a little work - this may be a useful link to save:
https://workfrom.co/

If I were traveling frequently, to help deal with stress, jet lag, etc. you might want a gym membership - my personal preference would be an LA Fitness Signature Club membership
https://www.lafitness.com/Pages/findclub.aspx

If you find yourself spending a lot of time stuck in airports, it may be worthwhile to sign-up for a Priority Pass
http://www.prioritypass.com/

For frequent business travel, I would also consider the extensive benefits offered by the American Express Platinum card
https://www304.americanexpress.com/credit-card/platinum

Also, for frequent flying, TSA-Pre
http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck-application-program

If you have frequent international travel,
http://www.cbp.gov/global-entry/about

This site can help with getting visas for international travel...
http://www.itseasy.com/


Need to host a web demo kind of meeting? This is a very economical service that also includes a free usage tier
https://www.join.me/
https://www.join.me/en/features
https://www.join.me/en/pricing

or...consider this service
https://www.uberconference.com/

or....
http://www.screenleap.com/

or...
http://www.gotomeeting.com/online/



A World Clock
http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/

Currency Converter
http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/


You may need to entertain clients sometimes, OpenTable is convenient for checking menus, venues, and makes dinner reservations a snap
http://www.opentable.com


Some useful travel sites:
http://www.flightarrivals.com
http://www.flightradar24.com
http://www.seatguru.com
http://flightaware.com
http://thepointsguy.com
http://boardingarea.com



Consulting industry trends...

I subscribe to the Kennedy Wire e-newsletter, since it gives me a broader overview of trends/news related to the business of consulting in general.
http://www.kennedyinfo.com/consulting/
http://www.kennedyinfo.com/consulting/periodicals/kennedywire


Some links to inspirational content for the start-up / consulting frame of mind...
http://onstartups.com/
http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/
http://venturehacks.com/



For an overview of the legal aspects of start-ups...
http://www.startupcompanylawyer.com/

Presentations / Marketing:
Need business cards, stationary, signs, banners, web site, company swag?
http://www.vistaprint.com

Need a logo developed or a web site - put it out as a contest/bid project

http://99designs.com/

or consider this service...

http://www.logoworks.com/

Engage your audience with a web hosted survey
 
https://www.surveymonkey.com/
 

Need to send out mass-mailings (e.g. newsletters?)  
http://mailchimp.com/

Share presentations

https://speakerdeck.com/

Share videos
 
https://vimeo.com/

Press Release Distribution
 
http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/submit-a-press-release/ 
http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/distribution/

Presentation Zen
http://www.presentationzen.com/

http://www.garrreynolds.com/preso-tips/


I find it helpful when crafting an initial contact email to refresh my mind with this...

[Apparently I captured the following snippet in a notebook some time ago, but I can't seem to find the source for proper attribution - I will update with the proper attribution as soon as I can confirm the source]

AIDA
When crafting a sales letter, try to go with the proven direct marketing formula known as AIDA. It stands for: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action
Your sales material must incorporate all of these elements, which in effect takes the customer by the hand from the moment of getting their attention (A), having them take interest in the product (I), causing them to desire the BENEFITS that the product will give them - note that this is not the same as desiring the product (D), and calling them to action (A). A strong call to action, where you spell out and tell them exactly what to do in order to buy your product, is essential...

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