How do you set yourself up for success as an independent consultant/small business owner?
In my opinion, success is a multi-layered thing.
It’s not just about how many clients you have, how big your bank account is or how well you manage your time, it’s about the foundational systems you need to develop to see you through the long haul.
While some of these systems will need to be tweaked over time as your business grows and as technology changes, the basics should always be something you can count on.
When you have organized systems and processes, your business will run more smoothly, saving you time and money. Plus, the additional perk is that you will demonstrate your professional business acumen to your prospects and clients.
Let’s look at a few areas where it’s important to focus for best results:
1. Paperwork: The least favourite but most important to set the stage
While having a website and Linked In presence is great for helping you market your business, you also need to pay attention to the documents that help “run” your business.
Do you have client agreements/contracts at your fingertips?
Are you a sole proprietorship, Incorporated or a Limited Liability Company (LLC)?
Have your client agreements/contracts been reviewed by a lawyer to ensure you have covered your bases as a consultant?
Have you got liability insurance?
What’s your return/refund policy?
Every business owner will need a different set of documents depending on what service/product they offer.
Here’s what I have done:
- Spoken with other consultants about business insurance and who they use, and have decided to change providers to get the best coverage and price
- Found a well-referred contract lawyer to review and develop my 2-page coaching terms and conditions
- Conferred with my business coach and other on-line businesses (similar to mine) to get aligned around best practices for refund policy (for all my programs)
2. Stay on top of your emails
This goes without saying, really, when it comes to being accessible to your potential and current clients. But oftentimes harried business owners with too much going on, will let their inbox get out-of-hand. Determine the best way to organize your emails, whether it’s by using folders for “Today”, or “This Week” or checking emails three times a day and responding only to the ones that need attention that day, leaving the others to the next day.
Communication is so important in the digital age, so again, keeping yourself organized here will bode you well and keep your mental stress down. In addition, as you scale your business, consider having a virtual assistant who can help manage emails (and other administrative functions)
Here’s what I do:
- I have 3 email addresses – one for personal, business (private practice) and one for my corporate contract. In order to manage effectively, I use Office 365 and use Outlook – which allows me to file effectively.
- I also have an online business manager who helps with all my admin and manages my emails for me.
3. Filing in the digital cloud (filing papers on the Internet)
Filing your client proposals, pitch decks, signed agreements, etc. should be kept neat and organized in an online storage program such as Dropbox or Office365. You can also be filing general communications as well as financials in these online software programs (unless you work with a bookkeeper or know Quickbooks). This not only helps you have files at the ready wherever you are, and keep them safely backed-up and ready for easy printing, but it will also help you prepare at tax time!
I use Office 365 to keep everything organized!
4. Work with an assistant when you get beyond your bandwidth
When your business grows to the point that you can’t focus on every single level of it (sales, bookkeeping, ordering supplies, managing vendors/partners, or an overwhelming email inbox), it’s probably time to get some help. You’ve likely heard about virtual assistants. These vendors are critically important to the success of a consultant’s business because they typically work by task/by the hour, so you don’t have to worry about handing over everything if you’re on a tight budget. In this way, you can start small and as your business grows, you can add tasks to their plate that will alleviate your overwhelm and keep everything running as it should be.
I have an outstanding online business manager (as I described in tip #3) who handles all those tasks for me and has become invaluable to my business, especially as I’m scaling.
Cool online programs to use to help you stay productive:
17hats: Helps with lead generation, project management, invoicing and more
AI (Artificial Intelligence) Scheduler: Let a digital assistant help you schedule your meetings
Freshbooks: Bookkeeping made easy for small business owners
Camscanner: Great for scanning receipts and other paperwork on the go
Real-time team communication:
Organize your thoughts/notes/share with team:
Social media scheduling:
Virtual meeting platforms
Pipedrive: An excellent program for helping you organize and stay on top of your prospect reach-outs
Organize your online passwords
If you have any comments, tips or recommendations that have helped organize your business – I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below!
© Kim Chernecki
Kim Chernecki is CEO and Founder of Freedom Street, a global training and coaching company that helps high-performing consultants, coaches, freelance executives and other experts land lucrative corporate contracts. She is the creator of the Land Corporate Clients Fast-Track System, and is a top-rated sales performance executive, facilitator, coach, advisor, speaker and strategist. A 25-year entrepreneur, Kim has consulted with executives from 100+ leading North American and Fortune 1000 companies and has, herself, started up and helped grow 8 businesses and business divisions. Kim is also the Founder of the Trailblazer Forum, a Toronto-based, 2x/yearly live event that brings entrepreneurs together for powerful business-building opportunities.