When I first started my consultancy business in 2012, I really did want to help everyone! I would say yes to as many people who needed me.
It literally took me years to work out how to best serve my clients with consultancy options that delivered results to them and a sense of satisfaction to me.
1. Identify your ideal client
What I learnt very quickly was that I had to become laser focused on who my ideal client was.
- I was looking for fashion start-ups who were serious about planning, starting or scaling a fashion business and understood the importance of investing in their own development.
- I wasn’t looking for clients who were not motivated, passionate or could not afford to invest in their own development.
2. Value your time and knowledge
I think it can be very difficult to articulate the value in a service-based business like consultancy. You are asking someone to give you their money in exchange for something that is initially intangible. It is difficult to prove that you can deliver the outcomes you are promising your clients.
So in the early days, (even with over 20 years fashion industry experience) I would very rarely charge my full consultancy rates. I struggled to articulate my value and it took time to build up client testimonials and my own confidence, proving to myself that I could deliver.
What I realised was that it was NOT me that had something to prove to my clients. I had the industry experience, the drive, the passion and the networks that would literally be a game changer for my clients pursuing their new venture. What I needed to do was change MY mindset and really look for clients that were willing to prove to me that they were committed to their own future.
So please, value your time and your knowledge.
Yes, you need to build up trust, your profile and testimonials, but put some deep thought into your consultancy rates and packages. Ensure you feel good about the fees you charge and the value you bring to your clients.
3. Be transparent
Transparent communication is key to successful consultancy.
No one likes to feel their expectations have not been met or receive an invoice for an amount they were not expecting.
ALWAYS put a consultancy agreement in writing.
The best investment you could make is seeking the professional services of a lawyer to help you set up these contracts from the start.
Include your standard terms and conditions and then have a provision for the scope of work and fees specific to each client.
Ensure both parties (you and your client) agree and sign off on these PRIOR to the commencement of the consultancy relationship.
Your terms may include:
- Part of full payment in advance.
- Payment terms and methods.
- Confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement.
- Scope of work including beginning and end date.
- Timesheets and records to be kept for each client
At any stage, if the consultancy is looking like going over the original agreed scope of work, advise the client immediately and have confirmation of addition hours approved in writing.