If you’re working with clients in the offline world, you need to cultivate the same values you have while working online. If you’re looking to be a consultant of any kind, there are certain tenants you need to hold dear. We’ve compiled some of the most important for you to take a look at, internalize, and understand. Once you do, get out there and show everybody what you’re made of when it comes to consulting!
Listen to your clients. There is a fine balance between offering valid advice and being pushy. At the end of the day the client is paying you for the advice you can give – and also for getting the job done in a way that they deem satisfactory. It may be frustrating when you have a brilliant idea and yet the client seems stubborn, but you’ll have to give in to the one paying your bill at the end of the day. Remember, always offer advice, but understand that the last decision is up to the client. You don’t want to be in the position of going against the client’s preferences and then finding that your suggestion didn’t turn out as planned!
Quickly establish rapport. Out of all the businesses that you could be going into, consulting is very much based on the relationship that you have with the client. A great relationship with one client can lead to them coming back to you the next time that they need a job done, as well as possible job referrals. Make sure to treat each and every client as if they’re extremely important – because they are!
Honesty is the best policy. Cliché, yes. True? Very much so. You are a consultant in order to offer the clients the advice they need, when they need it. The desire to please the client may be strong – and is very important – but don’t sugar coat unpleasant truths. If something is going wrong, the client needs to know as soon as it is convenient. Don’t be afraid to let the client know when something may be a bad idea. Of course, if the client is very particular about having things done a certain way that’s a choice that’s entirely up to them, but never tell a client that everything will be fine if it won’t.
Flexibility is key. One of the reasons why people hire consultants in the first place is due to the degree of flexibility that they can offer. Be prompt with your response times to emails. Give your clients your personal number. Stay on alert for them, and if they have time to do business with you at nine in the evening, it’s probably best for you to take them up on it. This doesn’t mean that you need to let the client dominate your entire life, but being able to respond to queries and work requests within a short period of time is what makes good consultants great.
Don’t overprice your services. It can be very tempting to charge clients an arm and a leg for your help, particularly if you’re a consultant with years and years of experience in the industry. Successful consultants though, are just worth their weight in gold – they’re aware of how much they’re worth and charge the client accordingly. This is not to say that you shouldn’t charge what you’re worth, but if you’re charging a rate that’s significantly higher than that of your competition, you’d better have a convincing reason why this is so.
Don’t undercharge for your services. On the flip side of the charge equation, be sure not to undersell yourself, either. First of all, it can be difficult to make a living at consulting if you’re not charging the proper prices. Second, no client likes the prices to be raised in the future, and no client is ever going to tell you that you don’t charge enough!
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The true nature of consulting work is that it’s a little bit unsteady – some weeks it might seem like you’ve got clients falling out of your ears, while others nobody ever seems to be calling. To this end, it’s important to spread out your business among many clients, and not just to rely on the services of one major company. After all, as a consultant you’re not a permanent member of the company, and it’s entirely possible that one week they’ll find somebody that they think can do the job better or they decide that they just don’t need a consultant anymore. Spreading out your work options means that you’ve got backup incase somebody bails!
Take as much work as you can, but never compromise quality. If you’re really reelin’ ‘em in, that’s great news. However, even if you have a thousand people knocking at your door, you’ll need to have the discipline to tell some of them no. Never take on more work than you can handle. Being a consultant means that your reputation is extremely important – and anything that goes toward tarnishing that reputation is anathema. If you have a thousand potential clients but can only take on two, commit to your 2 clients and help the other prospects find a solution by recommending other consultants (great networking opportunity for you) or at least having a checklist that they can use to find a good consultant. This might bring you their business in the future.
Current clients are more important than gold. This is true for obvious reasons – namely, your current clients are the ones providing you with revenue. Whatever you need to do to keep these clients happy and on your side is priority number one. Most literature out on the Internet is dedicated toward helping consultants find new clients, but there’s very little stressing the importance of the clients that you may already have. Keep them coming back for more – and keep them wanting to advertise your services out to others, as well!
Never stop looking for new clients. It’s important to keep your current clients happy and pleased with your work, but you also need to constantly monitor the market for new leads. At least one third of the time you spend at work during the week should be dedicated toward canvassing the wires for potential new clients. Remember that most leads don’t pan out, so even if you’ve got a lot on your plate, you should still be looking for more work. Who knows, you might end up landing your next major project or an opportunity that will lead to your magnum opus project as a consultant tomorrow on CraigsList! Be sure to take the time to look.
Credibility is the most important thing. Clients will first contact you because of your skills that you bring to the table. If they need an consultant to help them with their online marketing, they may turn to you because you have a distinguished record of clients assisted, or maybe your own online business is extremely successful. Whatever the case, once they contact you due to your skills, they’ll stay around because of your credibility. Do you keep your promises? Do you get projects in on time? Are your opinions honest, even when they aren’t the ones that the client would like to hear? If you market goods and services to your clients, are they ones that the clients might honestly be interested in or is it shameless promotion? Building a reputation of credibility will take you far as a consultant – and if you end up with a record for poor credibility your business will go belly up faster than you can say, “you lied.” Keep your clients and your business – be honest.