Consulting As An Online Business Model

I’m just about to launch a new consulting service and I thought I would write a little bit about the pros and cons of consulting as an on-line business model for anyone considering consulting as a profession.

I’ve not done a lot of consulting in the past year or so due to the time pressures of building my team up, but now the team is in place and bedded in I have more time to offer these types of services and I’m really excited about getting back in the saddle.

I love getting on skype with people and talking through their problems rather than being at the end of an email, but if you are considering this for your online business here are the pros and the cons.

What Do I Mean By Online Consulting?

On-line consulting rather than in person means getting on the phone / Skype and solving peoples problems with your own experience.

Clients find you on-line via your website, become accustomed to your knowledge perhaps through blog posts or free reports.  They like what you have to say then realise they can go deeper with you via a consulting session where you can address their very specific issues for a fee.

They book a slot and you get together and talk through your clients issues.

There may be recordings or follow up reports.

You bill the client, everyone is happy.

The point is it is all done remotely, no onsite meetings  no need to change out of your Scooby Doo jammies (or is that just me?).

Here’s how I like to conduct a consulting session:

We book a slot that is good for us both, we call up using Skype.  I like skpe because I can make calls anywhere for free and  because it has screen sharing functions that we can use to look at your website and point at areas where there are problems.

I record the session and create a PDF of any action points to pass to the client as a tangible record of our session (this also means you don’t need to take notes and can focus completely on our session).

The Argument For The Pro Consulting Lobby

Here are the plus points of consulting:

Zero Barriers To Entry – you can setup a consulting practice in a few hours, I wrote about this in my post Recipe: The Three Hour Business there are few costs involved (website, domain name).

As long as you have a Paypal account and Skype you can setup as a consultant.  It’s a great way to make your first online sales.

Zero Time To Market – if you are creating products or other tangibles it can take lots of time.  For example if you decide to get into the ebook market, it takes time to write and edit your ebook, consulting takes no time, you can be earning as soon as your website is live.

Easier Service Delivery – all you need to do is listen and answer your clients questions.   Getting knowledge out of your head is much easier than say, coding up a website.

A quick caveat here, you must have the appropriate communication skills to convey complex knowledge you have gained over the years in a palatable and understandable manner.  If you are a techie that bibbles in binary, consulting may not be for you.

No revisions – unlike say graphic design, once you have delivered an hours consulting that is probably it (apart from sending recordings, and associated reports).  A graphic designer may have to do endless rounds of revision and hand hold clients for a long time to earn their cash.  Consulting has none of that.

And The Argument Against

Here are the arguments against consulting:

Consulting Is Not Very Scalable – you cannot scale selling your time by the hour.  Once you reach a ceiling of x hours per day that is essentially your income limit.

It’s impossible to sell eight hours a day of online consulting, you need down time between calls, you need to follow up and perhaps provide recordings and other materials.  There are only so many hours you can sell consulting 1-1.  You need to look at more passive alternatives where you can leverage your time better to scale as a consultant.

People Don’t Know What Help They Need – If I said I was a WordPress consultant, you would say “ooookay, so what!” if I say “I’m a wordpress consultant that can talk you through the problems of creating an e-commerce store” that is much more specific and people get the help you can offer.

You need to spell out what you offer and how it can help rather than offering your time as a generic “Biz Consultant”.

That’s why I like to offer specific consulting packages with a defined deliverable that people can understand and relate to their own problems.

Zero Barrier To Entry – this is a pro and a con, if it takes no time to hang up your shingle as a consultant there is nothing to stop anyone doing this.  You need some way to differentiate yourself from the competition.

People Have never Hired For What You Do – This makes selling consulting very difficult, if you have never hired a consultant and don’t know what they can do for you, shelling over a couple of hundred quid (or bucks to my American chums) for something as intangible as hiring someone’s brain for an hour is hard to swallow.

You need to convince people how your years of experience can save them time and heartache.    This is not an easy thing.

Closing Remarks

I really enjoy consulting and I’m not trying to put anyone off but it needs to be part of a wider product offering of active consulting and passive products or a hybrid of the two.  This will allow you  to scale and stop you pulling your hair out.

If you can do that then consulting and sharing your knowledge and experience with clients is a great business model

Stay tuned for my new consulting service next week…..

Photo Credit: Vincent_AF via Compfight cc

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