Updated: Jun 17
So you have been working in your field and something changes. There is a change at home or work that makes you rethink the work-life balance.
Maybe there is a new addition to your family and you are looking to free up more time. Possibly it's the management structure at the office that is increasingly stressful and less rewarding. Possibly, it is the thought that the boss just doesn't recognize your worth. Then finally, there is the impending job security fear, the risk of a layoff or termination, or being bypassed by a peer for a promotion. All of these circumstances and countless other reasons can lead your mind down the path to, "I'm going to do my own thing."
When I first started as an Entrepreneur and Consultant, I was still fairly young. I had technical acumen, industry contacts, and about 10 years of experience in my field. Each of these pillars was key to the early success of my business. I partnered with some great industry salesman, who got me indoors to do project work. The relationships that were established with the project work would evolve into consulting arrangements down the road.
Getting up and running quickly is a key to going out on your own. Getting a first customer is extremely important. The customer doesn't even have to be under contract, it can be verbal, but you need a revenue source for the service you intend to provide. And then you need a billing system. You need a way to track your hours or projects and generate a bill. I started many years ago with an access database that I used for billing. Now, I use Freshbooks. It tracks hours easily and is the perfect way for me to invoice clients. I invoice clients monthly.
Once you get that initial client and invoice running, you can begin working on the business. Remember though, if you are a one-person shop, you will be working in the business and on the business at the same time. Don't forget to do both. A key to consulting is having a recurring revenue flow. This can come in many forms. A managed service contract, an ongoing training contract, project management, or a block of monthly hours to perform your service. The best is to set a contract for a retainer at a certain rate to perform your service. This gives you the ability to provide ongoing value to your client. So, having some contracts is advisable so you can understand what you will do and won't do for a client. You can purchase them online for reasonable prices or have an attorney draft them up for you. When I first got started, I purchased a disk of business contracts, and surprisingly, they have worked well. But the relationship as a consultant is far more important. I have had decades-long recurring clients, without contracts, who know what I will do and won't do, based on open and fair communications. I use the contracts at the beginning of new relationships to set the groundwork for future arrangements, but don't always require a contract.
I recommend purchasing insurance for yourself to cover general liability and professional liability or errors and omissions. This adds a level of legitimacy to your services and also minimizes risk for both you and your clients. I use Next Insurance. It is easy to obtain and you can easily add clients as additional insured and print COI's.
If you've made it this far, you can start building your agency. Now, you can develop your business plan that expands on how to create your sales and revenue streams, establish a brand for yourself, collaborate and leverage other consultants and contractors to achieve results for your clients.