You, Inc.: Part 2 in the Training Entrepreneurs Series
Starting a training related business is appealing because it is much less complicated than other business ventures. Startup costs are relatively low; there is no building to buy, inventory to stock or staff to hire, at least not initially. Because you provide the knowledge and talent, its success is dependent solely on you and what you bring to the table. Many successful training consultants begin the process with a side gig or a small job that can be done in addition to their day job. Academics in our field often combine teaching and consulting, finding that consulting work informs their teaching by keeping their skill set relevant. Others who work full-time for organizations may use vacation or personal time to take on gigs, but should only do this with employer approval. Still, others begin with volunteer projects for a local non-profit organization creating a win-win by giving back to their community and demonstrating expertise.
In Part 1 of this series, you learned about the role of timing, niche, and expertise in entrepreneurial readiness. If all is in alignment and either circumstances or desire drives you to strike out on your own, there are aspects of the business start-up process to consider:
- Identify your niche, mission, and business goal. Craft an “elevator speech” to quickly and clearly describe what your business is about how it adds value.
- Think about marketing. Identify a name for your business, register a domain, and start to think about a website and social media presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Consider your client base and think about how to reach them.
- Hire professionals. At the very least you should consult an attorney about incorporation and contracting, an accountant about business taxation, and a designer to create your website.
- Update your portfolio. Clients want to see work samples, tools, and templates when they interview consultants. Make sure your portfolio is professional and ready to share. References are also a plus.
- Get social by joining business organizations in your community, writing articles for LinkedIn or popular blogs, holding webinars, speaking at conferences, and in general, getting your name out there.
One of the most commons questions I receive from budding training consultants it what should I charge? If you over charge, especially early in your business startup, you may lose clients that could benefit your portfolio. If you under charge, you run the risk of appearing unprofessional or giving away your talent. One way to set fees is to reach out to other consultants to learn what they charge. Another is to identify a necessary annual income and calculate a daily or hourly rate based on this amount. Most training consultants charge by the hour but provide an estimate of the time they expect the project to take. It is difficult to predict the timeframe accurately, so I suggest specifying a range to allow room for error.
Flawless Consulting by Peter Block: Although this is an older book that is more about organization development than learning, the strategy for connecting with clients is timeless.
The Start-up Checklist by David Rose: A comprehensive summary of everything to consider when starting a business.
Platform by Michael Hyatt offers strategies to promote yourself through social media.
Questions for Discussion
- How can novice trainers gain expertise before starting an independent consulting business?
- What are the most important things to consider before starting a consulting business?