Being your own boss can feel like a dream. You set your own schedule. You decide how to spend your profits, and you don’t have to ask anyone else to approve your vacation time. If you spent years honing a skill set, then you can proudly use your expertise to open a consulting business. However, you don’t want to make mistakes in your first year that could set you back. Read about these five key strategies for starting a consulting business so that you can set yourself up for early success.
- Set Up a Customer Feedback Mechanism
Your clients and customers will be your number one priority, so it makes good business sense to start your business off with a customer feedback mechanism from the very beginning. Whether you choose to focus on customer satisfaction or a high NPS, there are plenty of approaches to choose from.
You don’t have to use an old-school survey to accomplish this, but you should have some way of tracking the customer experience digitally. You’ll want to collect all the data you can, within reason and relevance, to improve your business practices and products. The majority of consumers today choose to work with or purchase from a business based on the reported customer experience.
- Start New Relationships With a Contract
If you are the sole proprietor and employee of your business, you have to remember to start every new client relationship with a contract. When you work alone and run a business by yourself, it’s easy to slip into casual working relationships, but it’s a dangerous path to tread. Without a contract, you have no way to defend yourself in court and no way to get paid if things go awry.
Even if your clients are family and close friends, it’s better to work under a contract than by verbal agreement. You can never truly know what to expect when you run your own business. Making a contract protects both you and your clients, and it’s standard practice in every industry.
- Choose Your Customers Carefully
When you’re starting out, be careful about choosing your customers and clients. If your services are in high demand or your pricing is very competitive, you could end up flooded by requests in the first few months. It might be tempting to say yes to every project, but that strategy has consequences.
First, if you say yes to every customer and have no selection criteria, then you could experience burnout within your first year of business. Feeling burnt out will make it difficult to enjoy the work that you used to love. Then, there’s also the possibility that you could have a bad experience or work with a client who is not reputable, which could ultimately damage your reputation. Before saying yes, create selection criteria and do proper research into who you are working with.
- Understand Your Tax Burden
Another vital step in opening your own business is understanding your tax burden. Taxes are an important part of running a business, and you need to start off on the right foot so that you don’t incur damaging fees and have to pay back taxes. You may find that there are tax incentives for your consulting business and other ways to save and manage money while paying your fair share to the government. State and federal taxes may differ depending on your industry and location, so be sure to speak to a tax expert before you take on too many clients.
- Stick to Standard Working Hours
Working as your own boss offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to your work schedule, but it’s not a good idea to stretch yourself beyond standard working hours. No matter how excited you are to grow your business, you still need to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Keep your projects and work hours separate from family time and personal time so that you can always enjoy what you have.
Not everyone has the determination and skills it takes to start a business. Celebrate your successes each step of the way and keep these strategies in mind for long-term stability.