If you want to start a consulting business, then you need to write your consulting business plan.
Or do you?
I’ve watched countless starry-eyed entrepreneurs “start” their business with a 50-100 page business plan.
They spend weeks — or even months — toiling away at their desk after their 9-5 detailing everything about their future business.
After they’ve written it, they beam with pride.
“This plan is the key to my success in consulting! With this plan, I can’t fail.”
Then, they take their plan out to the real world.
The real world isn’t as perfect and pretty when starting your business.
And that golden business plan? Well, it almost always doesn’t work the way they’d hoped.
All of the projections they made? Naw, not even close.
So they scurry back to their desk to revise the plan — and the cycle continues.
Here’s the truth about consulting business plans…
You don’t need to a long, complex business plan.
If your business plan is more than 5 pages, every extra page you write is almost certainly wasting your time.
All you need is a 1-3 page document to cover the foundations of your business.
By the end of this post, you’ll write your 5-part entrepreneurial consulting business plan — and have everything you need to start a successful consulting business.
Let’s begin with the first part: your consulting business model.
1. Consulting Business Model
“What kind of consulting business do you want to build?”
That’s the first question you want to answer for your consulting business plan.
Understand what type of business you want to build first before you start building it.
That way, you’re building a business to support your lifestyle and not the other way around.
At Consulting Success®, we believe that your business shouldn’t consume your life.
Your consulting business should enrich your life and create a fulfilling lifestyle for you and your family.
For your consulting business model, you have 4 options:
1. Solo Model: The classic independent consultant. Your business is just you (and maybe a few contractors). From delivering projects to marketing and sales, you are responsible for every part of the business.
(To see the pros and cons of each model, see our post on The 3 PROVEN Consulting Business Models.)
2. Firm Model: The typical large consulting firm. Your firm consists of consultants, associations, junior and senior people. Your role starts off as doing a bit of everything — but eventually, your role becomes hiring, training, and managing your team.
3. Productized Model: This model comes out of one of the above models. You identify a particular problem your clients have, and you build your business around solving that problem with a focus on efficiency. This model is all about systems, efficiency, and scale.
4. Hybrid Model: The hybrid model is a mix of the models above. For example, you might offer a productized consulting offer — but also do some solo custom consulting. Once you’ve mastered one of these models, the hybrid model helps you add new products and services to create more revenue.
Pick one of the models above. If you’re unsure about which one to use, start with the solo model. You can always change it in the future. Chances are, your business will evolve in the future anyways.
With your consulting business model selected, let’s move to the next part of your consulting business plan — clarity around your ideal client.
2. Ideal Client Clarity
“Who is the ideal client my consulting business will serve?”
That’s the second question you’ll answer with your consulting business plan.
This is all about how you’re going to specialize.
As an entrepreneurial consultant, specialization is crucial.
You can’t offer everything to anybody.
You’ll have to begin by choosing a specific type of client to serve — your niche.
A niche is a certain subset of people whom you might potentially serve — SaaS companies, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, etc.
To find your ideal client, you’ll have to test out different niches.
This is why we teach the Niche Scoring Method in our Clarity Coaching Program.
Using this scorecard, you score each potential niche from 1 to 5 based on the following factors:
- EXPERIENCE. How would you rate your experience with this niche?
- EXPERTISE. How would you rate your status as an expert within this niche?
- RESULTS. How would you rate your confidence that you can deliver results for this niche?
- POTENTIAL. How would you rate this niche’s growth and how willing they are to hire consultants?
- INTEREST. How would you rate your interest in this niche?
- ACCESS. How would you rate your ability to speak with ideal clients in this niche?
In the Clarity Coaching Program for Consultants, we also teach you about the different layers of specialization, how to find and validate your ideal client’s potential, how to do outreach to potential clients, and more.
By going through these exercises, you’ll figure out which niche is best for you to start with.
Picking a niche and defining your ideal client is the foundation on which you’ll build your business — and get clients.
You shouldn’t move on with your consulting business plan until you’ve defined your ideal client.
Once you’ve done that, you can move on to the next part: Magnetic Messaging.
3. Magnetic Messaging
“What message will get my ideal client’s attention?”
That’s the third question you’ll answer on your consulting business plan.
You’ve picked your business model.
You’ve defined your ideal client.
Now, you’ll write a message designed to get your ideal client’s attention.
We’ve created a formula to make writing this message as simple as possible: Magnetic Messaging.
Here’s the formula:
I help [WHO] to [solve WHAT problem] so they can [see WHAT results]. My [WHY choose me]…
Let’s break each part of the formula down.
- WHO: Who you serve.
- WHAT (Problem): What problem you solve for them.
- WHAT (Result): What result you create for them.
- WHY: Why they should choose you.
Why does this message grab your ideal client’s attention?
- It speaks to who they are.
- It mentions what problem they have.
- It showcases what result they can get.
- It differentiates you from others who might provide a similar service.
When your message contains these 4 elements, it will draw interest from your ideal clients. They’ll want to learn more.
They’ll browse your marketing materials, read your articles, sign up for your email list, and reach out to you for conversations.
Effective messaging is the foundation of your marketing: what you communicate to the marketplace to get your ideal client’s attention.
You won’t write the perfect message on your first try.
But you do need to write a first draft — and actually put it to work in the marketplace.
Once you’ve written down your first magnetic message, it’s time to start planning your strategic offer.
4. Strategic Offers
“What can I offer my ideal client — and at what price point?”
That’s the 4th question you’ll answer on your consulting business plan.
With clarity around your ideal client and a message that grabs their attention…
…you must create an offer — a service — that solves their problems and gets them the result that they want.
The classic custom consulting service is the “full engagement.”
After you engage in a meaningful sales conversation with your prospective client, you’ll send them a consulting proposal.
In your proposal, instead of including one option, you’ll include three:
Option 1 – $
- Basic offer
- Minimum effort required
- Provides value
- Lowest investment
Option 2 – $$
- Help them reach results quicker than option 1
- Provides more value than option 1 (ideally, without having to spend more time)
- More value
- Higher investment
Option 3 – $$$
- If money isn’t an issue
- Best results
- Shortest time to result
- Most value
- Highest investment
Map out the different options you’ll offer your prospects.
Take a look at the marketing consulting example below for an idea of how the 3 different options might look:
However, we recommend you start with a discovery offer.
A discovery offer is a smaller service (priced at $1.5K to $15K). You design it to get your client a quick, low-risk win.
Your discovery offer helps get your “foot in the door” with the client. Once you get them that quick, low-risk win, they’ll trust your expertise. This will open the door for larger projects with the same client.
Discovery offers are easier to sell, create, and deliver.
Here’s our discovery offer checklist:
- Align with what the buyer wants
- Is a logical first step
- Leads to the next steps
- Ranges between $1.5K to $15K
- Provides tangible benefits (growth, clarity, etc)
Of course, you’ll also have to set your consulting fees.
You can use the hourly method, the fixed-rate method, the value-based method, or the retainer method.
Pricing is an incredibly complex and deep topic. But you’ll have to pick a price to start with and adjust it based on the feedback you get.
Never sell yourself short. Remember: pricing is marketing. If you can deliver your clients results, then charge what you’d feel good about.
Once you’ve mapped out your 3 engagement options and a discovery offer, you’re ready to take your offers to the marketplace — and start winning consulting business.
5. Marketing Engine/Sales Pipeline
“How am I going to create conversations with my ideal client?”
This is the final question you’ll answer on your consulting business plan.
And it’s where you start to see real results: winning clients, delivering projects, and earning revenue.
However, according to our How To Become A Consultant Study, marketing and sales are where consultants struggle the most.
Your Marketing Engine is what you’re doing every day to get in front of your ideal clients.
Your Sales Pipeline organizes all of the leads who come into contact with you.
Let’s start with your pipeline.
Your pipeline is organized into 6 columns:
- LEAD. You’ve identified the prospective client and have begun reaching out to them to set-up a conversation.
- CONVERSATION. You’ve had a sales conversation with the prospective client.
- PROPOSAL. You’ve sent a proposal to the prospective client.
- WIN. The prospective client has accepted your proposal and you won the business.
- LOSS. The prospective client has declined your proposal and you lost the business.
- NURTURE. Most people you reach out to won’t be ready to buy or make a decision right away. In fact, even people who say ‘No’ to a proposal now, may buy from you later as long as you stay top of mind through your nurture process.
All of your prospective clients fit into one of these 6 categories.
Using a CRM to create and organize this pipeline will help you organize your marketing and sales efforts.
Marketing is what fills up your “lead” column.
Without marketing, you won’t have any leads. And without leads, you won’t have the chance to win new business.
We organize marketing for consultants in 3 different categories:
- Outreach: Reaching out to your ideal clients to initiate conversations.
- Follow-Ups: Following up with your ideal clients to initiative conversations.
- Authority Building: Creating content for your ideal clients that demonstrates your expertise and adds value — and helps create conversations.
A basic Marketing Engine will have you doing a mix of these different methods every day.
Every day, you want to be reaching out to new clients, following up with your leads, and creating content that demonstrates your expertise and adds value.
The type of marketing you focus on also depends on the stage of your business.
If you’re a newer consultant, you’ll rely more on outreach. You don’t have as much of an audience for authority content to work yet.
But if you’re a later-stage consultant, you’ll rely more on content. Your content has a farther reach, and can generate leads at scale.
For your business plan, focus on setting up a pipeline that is easy to track, and creating the right marketing habits to fill up your leads column.
At this stage, your plan is done.
It’s time to start taking action.
Imperfect Action: Write Your Entrepreneurial Consultant Business Plan
By answering these 5 questions…
- “What kind of consulting business do you want to build?”
- “Who is the ideal client my consulting business will serve?”
- “What message will get my ideal client’s attention?”
- “What can I offer my ideal client — and at what price point?”
- “How am I going to create conversations with my ideal client?”
…you’ll write a consulting business plan that enables you to take action.
We’ve included dozens of articles, studies, and guides on how to answer these 5 questions.
However, in consulting, execution is more important than your plan.
For every hour you spend on planning, you should spend 4 hours on putting your plan into action.
So, use our resources to help answer these 5 questions — and go build your consulting business.
Ready to Take Your Consulting Business to the Next Level?
Apply to join our Clarity Coaching Program, the place where dedicated consultants go to get a personalized plan, strategy, coaching and support to grow a successful consulting business.
If you’re committed and serious about growing your consulting business, then this customized coaching program is for you.
We’ll work hands on with you to develop a strategic plan and then dive deep and work through your ideal client clarity, strategic messaging, consulting offers, fees, and pricing, business model optimization, and help you to set up your marketing engine and lead generation system to consistently attract ideal clients.
Schedule a FREE growth session today to apply for our limited capacity Clarity Coaching Program by clicking here.