Nowadays, putting your business online is a must for several reasons. The most important is global digitalization. According to the United States B2C Ecommerce Country Report 2017, 88 percent of consumers worldwide search for goods and services online whether they’re making an online or an offline purchase. Another reason is that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused lots of troubles and lost profit for many businesses.
Offering services online provides numerous advantages to business owners and enables companies to adapt to unstable market conditions. Launching an online consulting business is challenging. However, the process won’t get that complicated if you follow the tips in this article. Read more to learn six things that are critical to do before starting your online consulting business.
Analyze market demand
A well-shaped service offering should be defined from the client’s viewpoint. It helps if you have an idea of what outcomes your prospective clients are trying to achieve and concentrate efforts on helping them get there. Be as client-oriented as possible.
To understand what exactly your target customers need, go to those places they are likely to go. Read some field-specific blogs and forums, analyze what thought leaders write in the comments, see what questions provoke the most heated discussions, etc. If it is possible, ask your prospective clients what services they would like to get. It’s the easiest and the most true to fact way to survey customer expectations.
Analyze your target audience
You have to clearly understand who your target customers are in order to guide your business toward a specific goal. A clear profile of your audience will allow you to easily adapt your services to your customers’ needs.
It’s critical to know exactly who your prospects are, what their typical day looks like, what problems they want to solve, what their values are, etc. This information will allow you to view the service you offer from your client’s perspective to make it more client-oriented.
Below, you can find a sample of a target audience profile.
Conduct a SWOT analysis
Apart from analyzing market demands, you should define your competitors. To have an edge over them, conduct SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths and weaknesses (internal ones such as your company’s property, staff, location, etc. that you can change over time) along with opportunities and threats (external ones such as legislation, competitors, etc. that you can’t influence).
Knowing what services already exist on the market, how they’re delivered, and how much they cost will enable you to define your unique value proposition to fill a gap in market needs. Both parties will benefit from this. Your clients will receive a service they lacked and you’ll gain profit. Below, you’ll find a template with questions that can help you perform a SWOT analysis.
Set the price
To understand how to quote a price for your online consulting services, audit your competitors. It would be perfect to keep your pricing within the same range your competitors ask and offer a unique value to stand out from them. As a rule, consultants tend to price their services in one of three ways:
- A project rate means clients are charged a flat rate for a fixed service regardless of how much time it may take. The work scope, deadline, and cost are determined before the work begins. This helps to prevent any discrepancies or disagreements.
- An hourly rate means a client pays for the time devoted to providing a service. When using this approach, consultants should track the hours they devote to clients. The biggest advantage of this method is that it helps both parties test the water before diving into long-term cooperation.
- Retainer billing means a client commits to using the services you provide and pays for them in advance. This payment method enables clients to predict their expenses and allows you to plan the cash flow.
Legalize your business
To start delivering online consulting services, decide on the business entity type you’ll register. This will influence many things, from taxes to national or local requirements you need to meet. Devote some time to choosing the proper business structure. Focus on both your current needs and long-term goals.
To become a legitimate business, you’ll have to do the following:
- Choose your business name. There are four different ways to register a business name in the US. You can check them out on the official website of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
- Provide a business address and phone number. It should be a convenient place for you to receive official correspondence.
- Obtain permits and licenses. You may need to get licenses and permits from the corresponding regulatory agencies depending on the business’s purpose and location. If you aren’t sure about the requirements, ask your lawyer or visit the official website of your state of business registration.
Find a reliable technology partner
To put your consulting business online, you’ll need various tools, namely video conferencing software, a messenger, a file sharing service, a scheduling and booking system, a CRM, and a payment system. All these will enable you to provide the best customer experience and work efficiently.
However, using separate services and platforms is inconvenient, time-consuming, and expensive. That’s why it’s better to consider using an all-in-one solution that will allow you to focus on your clients’ needs and avoid juggling various tools. There are some crucial criteria you need to consider when choosing the most appropriate consulting software:
- Ease of use. Choose a service that’s convenient for both you and your clients.
- Security. Consulting software should assure data integrity and privacy for both you and your clients.
- Payment system. This will enable you to get paid securely.
- Video and audio calls. Find reliable software that supports high-quality calls to make your customers feel as comfortable as they would during an offline consultation.
- Scheduling system. You’ll need an online calendar to manage all your appointments and events and automatically convert time zones to avoid schedule inconsistencies.
- Automated booking process. Your clients should be able to book consultations with you without having to contact you or your assistant.
- Live chat. You should be able to maintain real-time instant communication with your clients to solve crucial problems as well as instantly share files on the go.
- Customer relationship management. CRM systems allow you to track communications with your clients, ensuring access to client data and the whole history of each consultation in one place.
When starting an online consulting business, you should bear in mind lots of information and follow the above-mentioned steps. To make the process easier and less stressful, we’ve prepared an extensive guide on how you can use consulting software to start your online career and achieve your goals.