Starting A Consulting Business: 5 Key Steps to Establishing Credibility as a Consultant

Starting a consulting business is an exciting time that can be filled with some challenges along the way, such as building your clientele and presenting yourself as expert in your field. The key to making it is to establish yourself as an expert, who knows what you’re doing—and that’s accomplished by mastering your presentation.

As a consultant, you are your business. Thus, how you behave will be the primary indicator of your expertise and capabilities. To put your best foot forward, follow the five guidelines listed below.

  1. Practice Professionalism

Your first task is to give yourself the appearance of a professional. This is a two-part process: looking the part, and acting the part. Few clients, if any, will want your business consulting services if you show up to the meet-and-greet wearing a basketball jersey and shorts. Dress in a manner that demonstrates respect and esteem for both yourself and your potential client. This is important even after you begin working with them, as they will feel deceived if your regard for a professional look is set aside once an agreement is reached.

Once you’ve dressed for success, you need to keep your behavior in line with your attire. As you meet and work with clients, incorporate the following attributes into all of your interactions with them:

  • Vision
  • Communication
  • Proactiveness
  • Flexibility
  • Action oriented

Be confident. It’s understandable if there are specialties that you haven’t yet mastered, but never communicate to your client—in word or deed—that you feel underqualified for the task at hand. Failing to trust your own abilities will result in a lack of trust on the part of the client.

Once you look the part as an expert in your field, it’s time to give your business the same professionalism. Rather than work out of your home, or pay for an expense office lease, try a virtual office or coworking space. These alternatives to traditional office spaces will cost you less (because you only pay for what you use), while still providing your business with a professional space to meet with clients, investors, and partners.

  1. Establish Your Expertise

Once you have the appropriate appearance, you need to “walk the walk,” so to speak. Looking like an expert will only take you so far if you have no way to support the claim. New business consultants are a risky investment because it’s hard to tell if their opinion actually holds any merit. As you begin to pursue clients, take steps to establish yourself as a credible and reliable source in your field of expertise. This can be done in a number of ways, such as:

    • Write a book
    • Record a podcast
    • Create informative blog posts
    • Host webinars
    • Explore guest appearance or interview opportunities
    • Publish a white paper
    • Post educational videos
    • Contribute to other publications
    • Teach a course

As you begin to establish yourself as an expert, your potential clients will find it easier to trust your expertise.

  1. Stay Relevant

No client wants a consultant who is behind the times. Stay abreast of industry trends and best practices, be sure you have a knowledge of news and current events in your field, and be the first to know when something in the industry changes. The closer you can be to the cutting edge of your industry, the more attractive your expertise will be to potential clients.

  1. Be Prepared

Your clientele may vary wildly in terms of specialty, organizational culture, values, challenges, and so forth. Rather than forcing your client to educate you on what they do and how they do it, it’s in your best interest to familiarize yourself with the client, their industry, and their needs before meeting with them.

Do your research to prepare yourself for the discussion so you can keep up with the terms and jargon they use. Have relevant information, statistics, and estimates on hand to prove you’re not ignorant of the issues they face. When possible, learn names beforehand, and try to associate faces with them at the earliest opportunity. Learning names quickly may not always impress, but failing to remember names will almost always count against you.

  1. Engage

As you interact with your clients and potential clients, always listen carefully and take notes on important information. Prove that you’re listening and clear up any ambiguity by asking relevant questions. Be sure to take a look around—you can learn a great deal regarding what you might be able to offer the company by “consulting by walking around.” Take every opportunity to show that you care about the client and their success.

As you work to prove your worth to clients, remember that the first step to being a professional is acting like a professional. The way you carry yourself and interact with clients will speak volumes, often more than any referral could.

If you’re ready to take your consulting business to the next level, download our How to Establish Credibility As a Consultant checklist and start preparing yourself for success today.


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