Being More than a One-Man ShopWinning clients, getting results, and building a solid track record and bank of referrals, will always be top priorities when you’re starting out alone. And in order to secure work and be a player in the marketplace, you've got to be the solo consultant with the presence of a much larger organization. So, how do you do it? Appearing as professional as a large firm is hard when you're on your own and trying to keep costs down. Luckily, there are small changes you can make to the way you run your consultancy that will have a big impact on the way you come across to prospective clients.
Branding is everythingWhilst you won’t be able to afford your own marketing team like a large consultancy firm, there’s a lot you can do for minimal cost to help improve the look of your one-man set up. Choose a distinctive colour scheme and typeface, design a logo (or have this done for you), and implement your brand new visual identity across everything from your website to your business cards.
Consistency is keyKeeping your brand consistent across everything that represents you is crucial. Clients should be able to recognise your services regardless of whether they're looking at your LinkedIn profile or your letterhead. Small things, like using your company name on your bank account, make a big difference, as that's what will appear on your invoices and cheques. it’s also important that your website, email address, and any social media channels you're using relay the same message, in the same way. Don't use a personal handler like Gmail or Hotmail for your email address: '...@domainname.com' (e.g. email@example.com) looks far more efficient.
The importance of a websiteYour website will often be the first port of call for potential clients, so it needs to be slick and professional. If you don't want to splash out on hiring a developer or designer, you can look into free templates, such as those available on host sites like WordPress. These are easy to update and use, and can be modified if you have a bit of know-how (there are many blogs dedicated to teaching you if you don't).
Building relationshipsClients will want to know that regardless of how busy you are, you'll be there to take their calls and answer their emails. Large firms have telephone boards and dedicated members of staff, so you need to ensure you're as quick to reply as they are (and maybe more personal). Rapid responses, and not shuffling smaller clients to the bottom of the pile, will make a big difference when it comes to your reputation.
The finishing touchesThe tiny things that larger firms do, which may go unnoticed at first, will have a big impact on how professional they come across. Invest in good-looking, personalised stationery, make sure your voicemail and out-of-office messages are short but friendly and informative, and don’t forget that a handwritten ‘thank you’ notecard can go a long way in this digital age.