Finding Clients Who Are a Good Fit for You
Most likely you will begin in the field in which you have already worked, but that is not necessarily where you will remain. If you have been doing sales training in the financial services industry, those skills will be equally applicable for high-tech, publishing, or manufacturing businesses. You are limited to the twenty-four-hour day, however, so be picky about which assignments you go after. If you are in Southern California and get a special thrill from the entertainment industry, make every effort to get entrée there and leave the aerospace industry to someone else.
Be honest about the type of work you prefer. If you want short workshop engagements where you are in and out, actively pursue this work. If you need the stimulation of longer, more complex projects that may require subcontracting, take your business development efforts in that direction. The joy of having a consulting business is that you can construct the model that best suits you.
You may start out with a contract that falls in your lap. To be successful, you will need to be more purposeful in going after future gigs. The single most reliable way to get more work is to do a good job with a current client and get additional contracts with them. The time you spend preparing proposals, meeting with prospects, and trying to win a competition is time for which you are not being compensated. Ideally 80 percent of your business will be with repeat customers.
Word of mouth is your best endorsement for future business. Ask your clients to refer you to their colleagues. Social, professional, and industry networking are all necessary to keep the pipeline primed.
Your words are very helpful in raising your profile, too. Write journal articles, be a speaker at civic organizations, present papers at conferences, and lead workshops. The more places people encounter your name the more confident they will be in your ability to deliver the services they need and you want to provide.