Well, you’ve done it. You’ve climbed to the top of the career ladder. But after a few years at the top of the ladder, you’re starting to get itchy feet. Like Alexander of Macedonia, you weep because you have no worlds left to conquer. You have two choices. You can either allow yourself to stagnate where you are, or you can strike out on your own as an independent consultant. Becoming a consultant not only allows you the freedom and autonomy that you won’t get from any corporate employer, it also allows you uncapped earnings way beyond your current (admittedly substantial) wage.
However, that’s not to say that the life of a consultant is all wine and roses. You will likely face a struggle to establish yourself and will need to be proactive in keeping your calendar full of appointments with the right clients. The kind who will give you referrals and repeat business. And what better place to start than your current contacts list? Many consultants start laying the foundations of their consultancy firms long before they leave their corporate employers. However, getting today’s contacts to become tomorrow’s clients can be awkward. Here are some ways in which you can not only increase their chances of saying “yes”, but make the exchange feel much more pleasant and organic...
Ask them their opinion first
Quite understandably, you don’t want to alienate your contacts by coming across as hustling. Networking is the lifeblood of consultancy. But overt hustling will likely stand in the way of prospective clients’ likelihood of taking your seriously. So, instead of asking them outright to be your clients, simply invite their feedback. Tell them you’re toying with the idea of going freelance and see how they react. Plant the seed in their minds to harvest later.
Offer them introductory rates
Once you’ve left that seed to germinate and your plans start to become a little more solid, you may want to check in with your contacts to see if they’ve thought about your burgeoning consultancy. If they remain tight lipped, you might want to consider offering them introductory rates just for them.
These should only be available for a limited time, however. If you start out giving all of your regular clients a 20% discount on your fee, you’ll forever be on the back foot and struggle to get them to see the value of paying full price.
Offer non-traditional incentives
You’re offering more than just consultancy services. You’re offering the chance to help build a new business from the ground up. Literally in some cases. You may even want to consider offering some non-traditional incentives taken from the crowdfunding playbook. Like perhaps one of these engraved bricks- https://www.brickmarkers.com/products/engraved-bricks/. It’s great if you can offer incentives that help founding clients feel like a part of your business.
Keep on generating value for them… even if you’re not working for them
Finally, don’t be a stranger.
Make sure you’re always generating value for founding clients, even when you’re not directly on the payroll. Keep writing thought leadership articles on LinkedIn. Discuss their problems informally over a coffee every now and then. Keep dropping them little nuggets of gold to remind them that they get access to the mother lode when they hire you. This is how you generate repeat bookings and referrals while building a brand with a reputation for quality.