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Starting a successful consulting business using a project management tool can be a great way to improve your efficiency, productivity, and profitability. A project management tool can help you manage your client projects, tasks, timelines, and budgets more effectively, so that you can deliver better results, faster.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started with your own consulting business using a project management tool.
Creating your consulting business using project management
Step 1: Choose a Project Management Tool
The first step to starting a consulting business is to select your project management tool. This may sound like unconventional choice — every article you’ll ever read on “how to start a business” will say that you should start with a business plan.
The reason that you should start with a project management tool because the right one will carry you through starting the business, creating that business plan, developing the client work and relationships and keep you organized before you’re too busy to get organized.
There are many project management tools out there and many of them will focus primarily on task management and are focused on following software development methodologies. Knowing this, you’ll want to work with one that will also allow you to manage clients alongside their projects, help you manage your time with timesheets, and help you keep track of progress with reports to share with the clients.
Some of the most popular project management tools include Asana, Trello and Monday.com.
Here at Leantime, we go a step beyond task management and include features that will also let you track the business development, help you through determining who your customer is, and have an active community of users able to help in our Discord thread. These features are also useful in determining client requirements and can be used as a client management system.
Other things you’ll want to consider when selecting a project management tool:
- Ease of use: Is the tool easy to use and intuitive? Will you be able to get up and running quickly? Is there a learning curve?
- Client management: Does the system allow you to invite clients and share project details with them? Are there read only views? Is the system easy for the clients to use?
- Time tracking: Does the system allow you to track your work time? Does it allow you to share billable hours and reports to make sure you’re getting paid what you should be? Knowing these things will also make your work estimations more accurate.
- Cost: What is the cost of the tool? Does it fit within your startup budget?
- Integrations: Does the tool integrate with other tools you use, such as email, calendar or accounting software?
Step 2: Define Your Consulting Services
After you’ve set up your project management system, you can start to create the tasks that relate to the following steps.
The next step is to define your consulting services. If you’re using Leantime, you can use the Project Value Canvas for this step. You’ll want to consider the types of clients you want to work with, the industries you specialize in, and the services you offer. Some examples of consulting services you could offer include:
- Project management: Helping clients plan, execute, and manage their projects more effectively.
- Process improvement: Identifying inefficiencies in clients’ processes and offering solutions to improve them.
- Change management: Helping clients manage changes in their organizations, such as mergers, acquisitions, or reorganizations.
- Strategic planning: Assisting clients with long-term planning and goal setting.
- Leadership development: Training and coaching clients’ leaders to improve their effectiveness.
The type of client and the type of service that you offer are closely linked. If you worked with enterprises, the process improvement you would do would look different than if you were working with startup organizations. Knowing who you want to work with will set the tone and messaging you present as well.
Step 3: Create Your Business Plan
Once you’ve defined your consulting services, you’ll want to create a business plan. The goal of the business plan here is to outline your goals, your services, your pricing, your marketing strategy, and your financial projections. It’s a good idea to map out what your packages include and their pricing.
Give yourself flexibility in this part of your business development. Once you start working with your customers, you may find that your plan changes — this is good! It’s how it should be but can feel frustrating or overwhelming as you learn.
If you’re using Leantime, again, these things can be easily documented and set up so you can see how you’ve grown and developed the business. In the end, your business plan works alongside project management to help you stay focused and on track as you start your consulting business.
Step 4: Set Up Your Business
The next step is to set up your business. You can, again, break these into tasks and put them in the project management system. Be sure to set a goal and deadline. More than like, you’ll have already picked out a business name. Now it’s time to register your business name with the state, obtain any necessary licenses or permits, and set up your business bank account. You’ll also want to get started on creating a website and social media profiles to promote your services.
Step 5: Define Your Client Process
Once you have your business set up, you’ll want to define your client process. This should include everything from how you’ll find and onboard clients, to how you’ll manage their projects, to how you’ll bill and collect payment. You’ll want to create a clear, step-by-step process that you can follow for each client so that you can provide consistent and high-quality service.
The other benefit of this becomes that you’re creating a repeatable workflow that you can continue from project to project.
Step 6: Start Marketing Your Services
The next step is to start marketing your services. You’ll want to create a marketing plan that includes tactics such as:
- Networking: Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and connect with potential clients and partners.
- Content marketing: Create blog articles, videos, or other content that showcases your expertise and helps potential clients solve their problems.
- Social media: Use social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to promote your services and engage with potential clients.
- Referrals: Ask your existing clients to refer you to their contacts and offer incentives for referrals.
Worth noting: Many people start posting regular content on platforms such as LinkedIn and use that as a draw in as they begin to create an audience. You can use your project management system to help you map out when you need to create postings or tasks around customer outreach.
Step 7: Find Clients
The final step is to find clients. There are many ways to find clients for your consulting business, including:
- Referrals: Ask your existing clients for referrals to their contacts.
- Networking: Attend industry events and connect with potential clients and partners.
- Cold outreach: Reach out to potential clients directly, via email, phone, or LinkedIn.
- Content marketing: Use your blog articles, videos, or other content to attract potential clients to your website. SEO is a powerful companion to finding customers.
- Social media: Use social media to promote your services and engage with potential clients.
When you find a potential client, you’ll want to schedule a discovery call or meeting to learn more about their needs and how you can help. You can use your project management tool to keep track of your client communications, project details, and progress.
At this stage, it’s really important to ensure that you are doing gathering detailed requirements for the project — this helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page, knows what to expect, and so you can accurate price your work. The better your expectation management is, the more successful and empowered the client will feel by being kept in the loop.
Conclusion: Now that you’re on your way to owning a consulting business…
Starting a consulting business and starting with the project management tool can be a great way to improve your efficiency, productivity, and profitability. With the right tool and a clear plan, you can manage your client projects more effectively — ultimately delivering better results and faster. As you do this, it creates value and sets you apart from the competition. Then, by defining your consulting services, creating a business plan, setting up your business, defining your client process, marketing your services, and finding clients, you can be on your way to running a successful consulting business.
Looking for a project management system to get you started? Try us for free! Learn more about using Leantime for consulting agencies.
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