The Definitive Guide to Starting a Career as a Freelance Consultant was originally published on Vault.
There will come a time in your career where, for whatever reason, you will be without a job. It happens to everyone. You might be lucky to have planned this moment, or it could have been forced on you unexpectedly.
Assuming you’ve been working for more than a few years in your field, you will have an established network of professional contacts. You will also have a skill set that companies value. In this guide, I’m going to show you how to leverage and grow your professional network, and how to pitch potential clients.
What I’m covering in this guide is a form of accounts based marketing. The idea is to generate a list of qualified leads, which you then try to sell your service to. Let’s get started.
What is a consultant
A consultant is a person who gives professional advice to an individual or a business. It’s important to differentiate between consultants who work at major consultancies like McKinsey, Bain, or any other top consulting firm, and the consultants we’re discussing, which are best thought of as freelancers or independent contractors. Below are nine common types of consultants:
- Sales Consultant: these consultants either help companies generate more leads, or develop systems that help businesses generate more leads
- Marketing Consultant: these consultants understand what motivates customers. They can help businesses develop marketing material to generate more leads
- Business Consultant: these consultants help develop business strategies. This typically revolves around advising how to reduce costs or maximize profits
- Digital Consultant: these consultants specialize in online marketing. They can help businesses increase revenue from a website
- Technology Consultant: these consultants provide insights on how to use IT systems to achieve their business goals
- Legal Consultant: these consultants offer legal advice to businesses or individuals
- Accounting Consultant: these consultants help analyze financial information and provide clients with advice based on their findings
- Human Resources Consultant: these consultants advise clients on the administration of their human resources and gives guideline and policy advice
- Public Relations Consultant: these consultants provide companies with information on how to manage their public relations, especially in times of crisis
How to grow your professional network on LinkedIn
To use LinkedIn to generate leads for your consulting business, you need first to define your ideal customer profile. The image below covers some of the things you’d want to think about when doing this.
For example, if I was going to set myself up as a digital marketing consultant selling SEO services, my ideal customer persona might look something like this:
- SaaS companies
- At least five employees
- Revenue of $100,000+ a year
- Founder/ Head of Marketing
A clearly defined ideal customer profile is an essential first step for your LinkedIn marketing. Next, you’ll need to do some initial market research to create a suitable list of suitable leads.
A quick search of “50 best landing page builders” or similar would generate a suitable list of companies to target. You could repeat this process across a host of different verticals.
If you want to provide services to local businesses, then Google My Business is a suitable resource.
I recommend you transfer this initial list of leads into an Excel sheet.
With this list, you are ready to start your LinkedIn marketing. The first thing you should do is optimize your profile. Your profile should highlight your professional strengths and end with a clear call to action.
The next stage of LinkedIn marketing is growing the number of connections you have on the platform. You’ll need your Excel sheet open on one tab, and LinkedIn open on another:
- On LinkedIn, search for the name of the company
- Under the company profile, click on the People tab
- Enter the name of the position you are targeting
- Send a blank invitation to the person
If you send out 50-100 invites a day, you’ll gradually expand your network. As your professional network grows, people will be more likely to connect with you because you’ll likely have one or several second or third-degree connections.
The connections I’ve made using this strategy helped me land guest posts on large marketing sites, which has helped me make money from my blog.
One of my colleagues, Nick Brown, used this same strategy to generate 25,000+ professional connections. He used this list to set himself up as an SEO consultant and is now running a seven-figure agency with his business partner.
“LinkedIn has been one of the best sources of qualified leads for the company. The leads we’ve secured through LinkedIn have generated six-figures in revenue for the company this year.”
Nick Brown, Cofounder Accelerate Agency
For more tips on LinkedIn marketing, check out this article that I wrote for Quintly.
How to set up your website
A suitable website will be the cornerstone of your strategy. The website will be pretty straightforward and act a bit like an online business card.
The website you create only needs three pages:
- A homepage that provides an overview of your services
- An about page that contains a bit of information about you
- Potentially a case study to reassure people, but this isn’t obligatory
I recommend creating an email address associated with your new website—something like firstname.lastname@example.org. Communication from a branded email address provides a better impression than using an address like email@example.com.
How to do cold outreach to a potential client
Generating a list of leads and starting your outreach will take a bit longer than creating your website. However, within the space of a typical working week, you will be able to start pitching to clients.
I suggest you make your initial pitch on LinkedIn. The pitch should be direct and to the point. Below is an example template I’d use for selling a digital marketing service.
It’s nice to connect with you on LinkedIn. I’m a [CONSULTANT]. After reviewing your website, I can see several opportunities to generate extra revenue for your business. With the last client I worked with, I [RESULT – E.G., DOUBLE REVENUE] in just [TIMEFRAME – E.G., 2 MONTHS]. Do you have 10 minutes to spare this week for a quick call?
It’s essential to get your key points across in the minimum amount of words. Test different versions of your message and see which one gets the most replies. Pitch people with whom you are not connected on LinkedIn via a different channel of communication, like email.
The template you use for your email can be similar to the one you use for LinkedIn. You can expand your template slightly if you wish to fit a more common email format.
Subject Line: Problem with your website
I work as a [CONSULTANT]. After reviewing your website, I can see several opportunities to generate extra revenue for your business. I’d be happy to share some of the easy fixes you can implement on your own in a Skype call.
Just to give you a bit of context, the last company I worked with, I helped [RESULT – E.G., DOUBLE REVENUE] in just [TIMEFRAME – E.G., 2 MONTHS]. Do you have 10 minutes to spare this week for a quick call?
When conducting cold outreach, make sure to send multiple emails. Follow up emails will increase your response rate. Make sure to test the hook that you use for this follow-up email. For example, you might choose to offer a report rather than a video call.
Below is an email template you might use as a follow-up email.
Subject Line: A minute of your time
I emailed you on DATE. I realize that things can get busy in the office, which is why I’m sending you a follow-up email. Do you have 10 minutes to spare this week for a quick call?
P.S. I’ve attached a case study about how I [RESULT – E.G., DOUBLE REVENUE] for a company in a similar niche in just [TIMEFRAME – E.G., 2 MONTHS] to this email.
How to pitch your services
One of the biggest struggles for most marketing agencies and independent consultants is turning a qualified lead into a paying customer. It’s understandable that this is a pain point for so many people, especially those seeking to start a career as an independent consultant. Here are a few things to keep in mind when pitching to a new client:
- Discover their pain points: use a survey before the call to identify specific pain points that the company is facing alongside KPIs that are important to them.
- Use props in your call: create props in your call to convince the client. For example, I’ve used tools like SEO ROI, which shows what a company can get from ranking in the SERPs, to sell marketing services
- Practice your pitch: the best way to make a competent pitch is to practice. Do it in the mirror, or with friends or colleagues.
- Set a date in the calendar: make sure you end every call that you have with a date in the calendar and a clear outline of next steps
You’ll find plenty more tips online about how to convert a lead into a sale if you search online.