Before You Quit: 5 Steps to Take to Secure Your Consulting Future

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Before You Quit

The goal of this website, and my consulting and books, is to enable you to quit your day job and pursue an independent career doing what you love. For technology consultants that I cater to, it’s transforming their years of enterprise experience into a lucrative career. Goodbye clueless bosses, failing contracts, and long on-call hours. Hello to working on interesting projects and a manageable work-life balance.

Before you quit, though, you have to get your “ducks in a row”, so to speak. Here are five things you must do before you hand in your resignation notice.

Step 1: Gather Social Proof

The first thing you should do is start to gather your social proof. This comes by way of recommendations on LinkedIn, testimonials on your blog or Information Packet, or case studies once you launch. These are essentially other people coming forward and vouching for you, your expertise, your personality, and your work. The more people and variety of projects you  have, the better you’ll fare when you finally go solo. So if you can, give and request for testimonials. And when you do, be sure to guide the people you’re asking. It’s perfectly acceptable to say that you want to highlight a certain skill (e.g., project management or how well you work with clients). Get as many of these as far back as you can.

And if you’re doing side jobs, be sure to get testimonials from them, too.  I’ll write a post on how to structure those shortly. Essentially, these testimonials MUST fast track the trust-building process and act as proof that you’re not some fly-by-night weirdo who put up a blog. You are an expert who gets results, and your testimonials and case studies help prove it.

Step 2: Build an Online Presence

The next step is to establish an online presence that aligns with your future role as a consultant. If possible, do this while you’re still employed. Beef up your LinkedIn profile. Build a Twitter profile that is technical and value-added. Clean up Facebook and build a professional Facebook page. Start guest posting or blogging on your own site. If you can, be a guest on a podcast. If you’re a Microsoft person, try SQL Data Partners. If you’re not a Microsoft person but want exposure, I may have an opportunity for you on my upcoming technical podcast. (Contact me for details.)

If you’re not sure what you look like online, you may want to employ some help. I fully recommend tools like Brand Yourself, which help you sort through and fix your search results. I’ve used their free service with good results. If nothing else, it will help you organize and make sense of optimizing your social media profiles for search engines.

At the least, you want an account on:

Guru Internet marketers recommend SnapChat, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Blab, and others, but they’re not the best for new B2B marketers. Most tech consultants I’ve talked to don’t have time for excessive social media activity. Picking the accounts where you’ll see the most wins is the best bet. Start sharing industry articles, connecting with other professionals, and adding value. Whatever you do, don’t spam everyone with “buy my services!”-type posts. That’ll get you muted pretty quickly. Instead, work to build relationships before you need them. And give back liberally.

You’ll also want to build a basic website. I like self-hosted WordPress sites because I have full control and autonomy. WordPress.com has limitations on affiliate sales and plugins that I don’t like. There are other options, too. One of my clients had a plain HTML+CSS+JS site for a long time. Another used a less common CMS. One consultant friend I know uses Squarespace. I recently wrote a blog post about what to include in your consultant website.

Step 3: Write an Information Packet

If you’re like most technology consultants, a passive online presence is not enough. Even Adwords isn’t enough! You’ll have to do some outbound marketing (e.g., direct mail) in order to get results. One item you can send to prospects is an information packet. I’ll post about that soon. In short, it should have an introductory page, a page with testimonials, a page about your process, a pricing page, and examples/descriptions of past projects or work. I’ll write about a post about it soon, I promise.

Step 4: Nail Down Your Market

One mistake I see new technology consultants make is to try to sell to everyone. They want to offer the kitchen sink when it comes to services. They don’t want to turn anyone down. The problem is that marketing to everyone is really, really hard. You can’t meet everyone at the price point and timeline they need, nor do you have the experience (or personality!) for every job. So why try? Instead, you need to evaluate your experience, personality, and market and figure out what makes you happy. Would you prefer working for big corporations or small shops? Would you rather spend time teaching and speaking, or working in the trenches? Do you want to do work that requires travel or work that can be done in your pyjamas? Figure this out beforehand and structure your services accordingly.

And repeat after me: “I am a specialist who does… ” and then fill in the blank.  You are an expert in X, not a generalist. Got it? 🙂

Step 5: Get Comfortable with Your Value

What value do you bring as a consultant? If you’ve been an employed technology professional for a long time, you probably think in terms of features and technological additions. STOP RIGHT NOW. You’ll have a heck of a hard time pricing and marketing effectively if you stay in this mindset.

Remember that the value you bring is more than just the technical expertise. Think about it: what does your technical expertise do for companies? If you’re a programmer, you’re building software that increases revenue or saves money (via time, lost sales, automation, etc). If you’re a security expert, you’re preventing expensive data breaches or fixing past security flaws. If you’re a database administrator, you’re making applications run faster (saving money) and improving security. You’re likely also organizing the data better which could mean increased revenue if you’re talking sales trend data.

As an independent consultant, you’ll have to market and price based on the benefits of your service, not on the market value. No one cares about your technical expertise per se. They care about how your certifications reduce the risk that you’ll eff up their entire operation. They care about how your decades of experience will mean that you can get the job done faster. It’s a mental shift you need to make NOW before you end up client-less and penny-less.

Conclusion

The prep work required to move into consulting isn’t hard and can be fast tracked if necessary. But starting before you quit will give you a leg up and help you avoid costly slow times that’ll eat up your hard-earned savings.

Summary:

  1. Gather Social Proof
  2. Build an Online Presence
  3. Write an Information Packet
  4. Nail Down Your Market
  5. Get Comfortable with Your Value

Now go thee forth and make more money!

via GIPHY

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