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How to grow a consulting business and reach your goals

Learn how to determine what growth stage your consulting business is in and how to develop a solid strategy to continue growing, scaling, and meeting your goals.

Be your own boss: How to grow as a consultant

If you’ve recently left corporate life to start a consulting business or you’ve been building your business for years, sustainable growth can be hard to unlock. 

In this webinar, we cover the different growth stages that exist for independent consultants, how to determine when you’re in a stage of growth, and the strategies you can use to reach your growth goals. 

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Understanding the different growth stages

In general, every business has three growth stages: 

  • Early stage: You’ve just launched your business and are still working on developing everything from your pricing to your ideal customer profile, your services, and your brand. 
  • Mid-stage: This stage is focused on growth, optimization, and scaling. It’s a time when you’re honing in on your skills, ideal customer, and target audience. At this stage, things might start to feel like they’re becoming unmanageable, which is a clear sign that it’s time to refine and/or pivot your business. 
  • Mature stage: This stage is focused on maintenance, resourcing, and stability. Things are running like a well-oiled machine, and you’re in a good place to be able to outsource work to team members or contractors. You can identify your ideal client easily, and you have processes in place to support your work/life balance. Your business is operating through you, but you don’t need to be uniquely involved in every aspect or client touchpoint. 

Which growth stage am I in?

Your growth stage isn’t always tied to how long you’ve been in business. While the early stage is easier to identify (you’re a new business), and the mature growth stage is marked by stability, you might not always realize you’re in the mid-stage of growth. 

Consider if you feel you don’t have enough time, something’s out of alignment, or your quality of work is suffering. It’s easy to think of these signs as failure, but it’s actually clear that your business is growing and changing, and it’s time for a transition. 

At this point, it’s important to reflect on your business processes and set some clear growth strategies. 

Developing a growth strategy

Your growth strategy should include a clear direction as well as the goals that help you get there.

Think of your direction as the north star or ultimate vision for your personal and business life. Do you want more income? More time back outside of work? More retainer clients per month? From there, it’s easier to determine the goals you need to hit to work toward that vision. 

Keep in mind that your vision can, and should, change over time. As your business grows, you need to pivot and adapt while setting new goal posts for yourself.  

Once you have your direction and goals, use these five strategies to work toward growing your business to the next level. 

1. Identify your zone of genius to outsource and automate 

Your zone of genius is the area of your business that you thrive in and that allows you to stand out from the rest. As a consultant, it could be your talent with building SOPs, auditing your clients’ businesses, or creating and facilitating a coaching program. 

By identifying your zone of genius, you can intentionally outsource and automate the rest of your work so you’re taking advantage of how you work best. Plus, focusing in on your zone of genius ensures you can do what you enjoy and avoid burnout. 

To determine your zone of genius, you can: 

  • Ask the people you know best (friends, family, colleagues) where they see you thrive.
  • Survey your clients through a feedback questionnaire and determine which aspect of your services was most helpful or impactful to them. 
  • Check in with yourself throughout the day to see when you enter your “flow state,” or the times when you find yourself more focused and fulfilled. 

2. Create reliable cash flow

Unfortunately, 82% of businesses fail because of cash flow – either bad cash flow management or a lack of understanding about what it is. 

Luckily, cash flow isn’t a complicated concept, and it can be easy to shift into a money mindset that makes for a successful consulting business.

Pro tip

Your cash flow is the total amount of money being transferred in and out of your business.

Revenue – Expenses = Cash on hand

You can work toward positive cash flow by: 

  1. Optimizing one offering at a time for maximum revenue and cost efficiency: So you don’t get overwhelmed, start slow to determine exactly how much it costs to offer each service, and how much you’re making per client. From there, you can choose to increase your prices or adjust your offering to reduce the cost that goes into it. 
  2. Focus on your existing clients: One of the easiest ways to increase your cash flow is by making the most out of your existin client relationships. Can you push more retainer options in your sales process, offer more recurring services, or up-sell with add-ons and digital products? All of these options help encourage client retention and maximize your clients’ lifetime value, which helps increase cash flow over time. 
  3. Find cost-effective ways to generate new leads and business: This is all about keeping your marketing costs low and reducing your customer acquisition costs. Ideally, you want to spend less money while booking clients with a greater lifetime value. One example is building a robust referral program where existing clients help bring in new clients without any marketing spend on your end. 
  4. Minimize expenses: It’s important to make sure you’re only investing in money-generating activities like marketing, skill improvement, and tools that enable you to offer more to clients. These are your high-value tasks. On the other hand, you can cut out things like unnecessary subscriptions, courses that you don’t use often, and outsourcing on lower-value tasks that don’t bring in money. 

3. Get confident selling your services

Growing your client base and increasing your revenue is another key to unlocking positive cash flow and business growth. As an independent consultant, you might struggle with sales anxiety, but these steps can help you create a more consistent and impactful sales process: 

  • Use authentic problem solving: Gather the information you need from potential clients to understand the exact pain points they’re experiencing. From there, you can ensure you’re positioning your business as the solution. 
  • Proper positioning: Angle your sales pitch toward what your prospective clients are struggling with, and explain how your consulting services will support their biggest challenges. This is where you can really personalize your sales, so it’s important that other steps are automated and take less time (collecting lead information, moving them forward to booking, etc.)
  • Take a value-based approach: Communicate your unique value-add that sets you apart from other consultants. Typically, this is your zone of interest or a specific niche that you’re carving out in your market. 

4. Use systems and templates to improve efficiency

All of the steps above require you to work more efficiently so you can focus on your zone of genius, cash flow-positive activities, and more personalized selling. 

The best and easiest way to work more efficiently is through using systems and templates. For example, with HoneyBook, you can create all of the following as templates:

  • Intake questionnaire that evaluates client pain points
  • Services guide that includes add-on options for upselling
  • Proposal that allows you to easily edit a custom pitch for each client
  • Booking file that enables you to set up recurring payments so you can easily convert retainer clients
  • An offboarding questionnaire that gathers client feedback
  • An automated workflow that connects all of the above

All of these are great examples of how you can create a more confident, structured sales process with less work on your end. You’ll provide a consistent experience to clients while consolidating your work and having greater organization within your business. By templatizing processes, you won’t get lost in what step your leads are in or what you need to do next to close a sale. 

So, how do you determine when to create a template and when to automate a task?

If you’ve done it twice, it’s time for a template.
If you’ve done it more, it’s time to automate.

Every time you notice yourself repeating something, it’s time to build a template or automation. By doing so early and often, it makes it easier for you to optimize and tweak where needed. 

5. Scale and survive market fluctuations with the right tools

Lastly, in order to create sustainable business growth, you need to be able to scaled and sustain market fluctuations. There’s a lot we can’t control in business, but the businesses that make it know how to keep an eye on the market and pivot accordingly. 

Utilize a SWOT analysis to evaluate what strengths and weaknesses you have internally as well as what opportunities and threats exist externally. This allows you to get a bird’s eye view of your business as it’s currently operating, which you can then use to make decisions and adjust as needed. 

We recommend completing a SWOT analysis every three months so you can always stay ahead of major changes and industry trends. 

Pro tip

The more you templatize and automate, the easier it is to pivot when you identify and threat or weakness. You can tweak parts of your process to move fast rather than having to start from scratch. 

Let HoneyBook help you grow your consulting business

HoneyBook is an all-in-one clientflow platform that enables independent business owners like consultants to manage every part of their business. With customizable file templates, automations, and client communication in one place, it’s easier to focus on the high-value tasks in your business and let HoneyBook run the rest. 

Grow your business with HoneyBook

Everything you need to start and scale. 

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