One way to automate your consulting business is to use a consulting process. Each industry adds it's own twists, but there's a basic process that many consultants use. Use the following outline to streamline your delivery of services, and to provide quality and timely advise to clients:
Define Goals and Objectives
It's imperative that you and your client are on the same page. It's not a waste of time to iron out all the expectations and desired outcomes. In fact, you can waste a lot of time diving into consulting work without first solidifying the objectives. It can lead to redoing work or making modifications, both of which could be avoided.
Negotiate and Sign a Contract
Most, if not all, of your consulting engagement should have a contract. Don't minimize this step in the consulting process, thinking that you'll get more job offers as a result. You'll protect your status as an independent contractor. Signing a contract is helpful for legal reasons, but also for consulting reasons. If there's ever a question as to what the expectations where from the beginning, you'll have a document signed by you and the client that expresses everyone's intentions and expectations. It also protects the privacy of the client, if it includes a confidentiality provision, forbidding you to share information about the company with others that is not public.
In the end, you're a problem solver. You're there to find the answers to your clients' most pressing problems, and that takes some investigative work on your part. You'll have to collect as much data as you can, by asking questions to the clients and staff, and sometimes to their customers and clients. Clients may hand over financial and other records for your review, and your goal is to collect data, so that you can see what the patterns and underlying problems are. You cannot simply rely on what the client says is the problem, although that is your starting point and you want to address that problem head on. However, you have to identity the key problem, which may or may not be in the client's view.
Give the Answers
The next logical step in the consulting process is to give answers or solutions to the problems you find. What you don't want to do is just give a running list of possible solutions, because if given enough time, your clients could come up with that themselves. You want to give a few possible options, and give your recommendation on what the best option is.
Implement the Solutions
Some clients may want you to implement your recommendation or supervise it. Others may want to just take your recommendations and run with it. The client's budget is often the determining factor, but you may lack the skill or staff to carry out what's required.
You and your client should evaluate the success or failure of your recommendations. You should do what you can to ensure that the client is satisfied with your work. If you don't include evaluation in the consulting process, you'll earn a bad reputation in your industry from unhappy clients.
Think through how to implement each aspect of the consulting process in your business before you take on your first client. Write it out, along with questions you're prepared to ask clients under each step.
Daphne Mallory, Esq. is the co-owner of Mallory Writing Services and has written more than 100 articles helping home based business owners and entrepreneurs start and market their business. You can learn more about her here.