I’ve tried it all.
For the past five years I’ve worked as an independent audience growth consultant and have figured out how to build a successful and sustainable business.
During that time I’ve experimented with all sorts of different services for all sorts of different clients and have learned a ton about what works…and what doesn’t.
The following will help you figure out what to offer, to who, and how to message and position your offerings to attract the right clients.
1. Do you want to do the work or teach the tactics?
The first key decision to make is if you want to offer a done-for-you service in which you actually execute the necessary work for your client or if you prefer to show clients what to do and have them execute it themselves.
Essentially, do you want to sell service or strategy?
Either can work, but they’re completely different and the type of clients you’ll attract for each are totally different.
In both cases, your client will look for a result.
But if you sell a service, your clients will pay you to save them the effort of having to do something themselves.
If you sell a strategy, your clients will pay you to save them the time of having to learn how to do something themselves.
In theory you can do both (there’s overlap), but it’s important to get clear on which you’d rather do and message your offering accordingly.
2. Do you want ongoing clients or one-off projects?
Are you looking to bring on clients who pay you an ongoing monthly fee indefinitely or do you want one-off projects with a defined end point?
Ongoing monthly retainers may seem like the obvious answer at first, but it’s not so obvious.
Those kind of ongoing relationships can be tougher to sell because it’s a more long-term commitment, the success metrics can get murky over time, and you can only take on so many clients (unless you plan to grow into a bigger company/agency and hire help).
On the flip side, one-off projects can be easier to sell and give you the flexibility to work with more varied clients (and more quickly raise your prices with each new project), but they require you to more frequently attract new clients.
There are pros and cons to each approach and either can succeed, but it’s important to understand what you offer and who you want to attract.
Message it accordingly.
Personally, I go for projects with specific end points, though occasionally those evolve into ongoing retainers.
3. Sell to people who know they have a problem.
Are you selling a service to people who know they have a problem or do you need to convince them they have a problem in order to sell them the solution?
Choose the former — it’s much easier and more likely to succeed.
4. Pitch a result, not a tactic.
Clients want a result, not a tactic.
That’s what they buy.
You may know they need a marketing strategy, or a brand refresh, or better content, but that’s not what they’re seeking.
They want a result: More sales, a bigger audience, etc.
Your sales pitch (and service) needs to be centered, focused, and messaged around the result you will help them achieve and not just the tactic or method you’ll use to do so.
5. Start charging.
Doing free work when you start out is find and it can help you figure out your approach and potentially get some testimonials.
The sooner you start charging the better — even if you charge a super low rate.
If a client isn’t willing to pay you even a tiny rate, then they’re not willing to put in the work and effort on their end to capitalize on the strategy or service you give them.
That means you’re wasting your time.
The best consultant in the world can’t succeed if a client isn’t committed or willing to follow through on their recommendations.
Charging money — even a little money — helps you avoid those situations.
Someone will pay something. Always.
6. There are no “rules.”
You can structure the service you offer and value you provide in any way you want.
There’s no one “right” way to do it.
Come up with a format that works for you and plays to your strengths and interests…as long as it also delivers a result for the client.
I’ve had clients where we had no calls and I sent them a weekly email with suggestions.
I’ve had clients where we had one call a quarter and nothing else.
I’ve had clients where I ghost-wrote social media posts for them.
I’ve had clients where I gave them a document with 50 social media post templates they could use.
You can package your service however you want —you just have to be able to explain the approach and convince clients it’s worth their investment.
7. Don’t waste time with formality.
You don’t need a fancy presentation, or a “professional” website, or a ton of testimonials, or anything like that.
My new client proposals are incredibly simple (and effective).
All you need to build a consulting career is to find one person who believes you can help them and is willing to pay you to do so.
Then, you’ve got to deliver.
If you can do that with one person, you can do it again.
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