On Your Own: Part 3
© Douglas E. Welch 1997
If, despite all I have told you this month, you still have the
inclination to become a high-tech consultant, it is time to start
thinking of your future as well as your present. While nearly
anyone can start a business, it is the savvy ones who plan for
the growth of that company in the long term. This week we will
talk about marketing your business and deciding just how large
you want it to grow.
One of the first roadblocks you will face in your new business
is that of marketing. Few of us actually enjoy this aspect of
our business, but it is probably second in importance only to
billing and collections. While word of mouth is an extremely important
marketing tool, you will have to rely on traditional methods until
you develop a quorum of regular clients that can offer up referrals.
Personal experience has shown me that nearly half of your time
must be spent in some marketing activity. It is only in this way
that you will be able to generate a regular flow of business.
One good resource for small business marketing is the Guerrilla
Marketing Web Site at http://gmarketing.com/index.html. They offer
a wide variety of innovative ways to market your new business.
As your company grows the time required for marketing may decrease,
but it will always be a large part of every day. Neglect marketing
at your peril. You can?t support yourself if no one knows you
People, People, Everywhere...
Every consultant must make a decision about how large they want
their company to grow. Some people have chosen the consultant
lifestyle because they like to work alone, at their own pace,
without the worries of managing other people.
This approach can limit your potential earnings, though. There
are only so many hours in the day and we can only work so many
of those hours. Once you are working your full complement of billable
hours, the only way to increase your income will be to increase
your hourly rates. Eventually, though, you will reach a point
where your clients can?t, or won?t, pay those rates.
One solution to this problem is to bring in other independent
contractors to work for you. While using independent contractors
frees you of some of the burden of being an employer, it also
allows you to expand your billable hours without raising your
rates. Eventually, you might find yourself operating as head of
a fairly large company without doing much actual consulting yourself.
Running your own consulting business requires more than just your
high-tech skills. It requires business knowledge that most of
us have not cultivated. We have been kept safe and warm in the
cocoon of corporate life, but when we strike out on our own we
enter the cold, cruel world of business. Make sure you stay warm
by polishing your business skills as much as your technical skills.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://home.earthlink.net/~dewelch/
He can reached via email at email@example.com