I began SQM Communications after spending 20+ years working for some of the top businesses among nonprofits, law firms, and healthcare systems. I was excited to become my own boss and the kind of consultant I’d always loved working with – someone who becomes an invested partner and a colleague. The process can be tricky, so here are a few tips to consider before you make the big leap from in-house PR pro to consultant.
- Have a business plan and budget. A solid business plan will help you develop a strategy for marketing and business development, financing, and operations and will help you manage crucial aspects – industry trends, opportunities, target market, and competitors.
- Set up your administrative department. That department is mostly you. But you’ll need help from an accountant, preferably one who works with “solo-preneurs” and is familiar with quarterly taxes and deductions for home offices. You’ll also want to create standard materials, such as a sample proposal, letter of agreement and invoice, for example. And, you’ll need to either buy or subscribe to meet your other administrative requirements.
- Develop your brand. The presentation is key to making a good impression and establishing yourself as an experienced professional. Work with a graphic designer who also understands branding. Professional design for your logo, letterhead, and envelopes, note cards, PowerPoint template, and website will go a long way.
- Create your professional social media presence. Your social media accounts should reflect your professionalism as well as the type of clients you’re trying to attract. If you’re already on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, for example, you should set up separate accounts to promote yourself. Clients don’t need to see photos of your kids and vacations. And, make sure your privacy settings are ON so clients and potential clients don’t stumble upon your personal social media accounts.
- Select a workspace. It’s very important that you have a dedicated space in your home where you can work. Treat your workspace at home the same way you would treat your workspace in an office building. It needs to be organized and free from as many distractions as possible. And, don’t drift – only work in your home office and avoid picking up your laptop, etc. and heading to the living room couch.
- Market yourself. Your contacts and the people they know will likely be your best sources for work and referrals. It’s important that you have a networking plan that addresses your existing contacts, as well as taking advantage of opportunities to make new connections.
A Final Thought.
Unless you’re attending a networking event or meeting clients, you can keep the business suits in the closet. When you’re working from home, you can dress casually, but presentable enough to answer the front door, or (gasp) take that last minute Skype call from a client. Yes, pajamas and yoga pants are comfy but aren’t necessarily going to make you feel like a boss.
When you decide to become a consultant, keep in mind that you’re creating a business. Here are a few resources you might find helpful. Good luck!
- Citi Small Business Information Guide
- Legal Tips for the Independent PR Pro
- Solo PR Pro
- PRSA’s Independent Practitioners Alliance (IPA) Section
(Image: Rawpixel on Pixabay)