I came across this list of consulting tips on "the [non]billable hour" which lead me to the original post by a guy known as ‘Joe’ on Google Groups. The original post made for really interesting reading and came at just the right time for me (as things often do) as I was considering handling some of my activities as a consultant.
Here are some of the highlights for me:
So, what do I do to get this fast growth?
First, I’m not your typical computer geek. In our town which is
predominately NASA and tech companies, most out of work geeks are just
that – geeks. Very little social skills. I worked retail
management for 6 years and business to business sales for 7 so I’ve been
forced to interact with people every day, and I have sales experience.
I always take the approach that no problem or question is stupid. And I
make sure the client knows this.
I always give a verbal summary of everything I’ve done in as plain of
English as I can when I finish a job.
I always leave two more business cards with a client when I finish, and
explain that I’d appreciate any referrals they could give me.
I do NOT do cold-calls. I don’t do cold-visits. I DO targeted customized
letters to business owners, but that only accounts for about 15% of my
business. The rest is referrals and repeats.
I particularly like the last one. I have a block against cold calling (mainly because I am unsure of myself and my ability to do something other than the work I have been doing the last 6 years – a habit I intend breaking).
The list goes on:
I always call to follow up the day after a major job.
I do NOT charge for phone support.
I do NOT charge for travel time.
I do NOT charge for a follow-up visit the day after a major network change
(for instance I installed a W2K server last week, and thought I was done
to find the next day that the backups didn’t work. The return visit to
fix that problem was no charge.)
I send thank-you cards after payment is received.
I give NET-10 terms to businesses, and COD to individuals.
If I’m not doing client work on a given day, I dedicate that day to
marketing efforts (letters, press releases, networking, etc.)
I do NOT rely on web marketing, however I do have a crisp website.
I e-mailed everyone I know and told them what I’m doing and asked if they
knew anyone I could talk with who might need my services.
I associate with others. I’m in the local Linux group, which doesn’t
generate clients, but does generate LEADS. I help out at the kid’s
schools. I’m active in Church. I make a point to let everyone I know what
I do, without sounding like I’m selling something. I just tell them that
I’m a self-employed computer consultant for small businesses and maybe
that I specialize in networks. If I’ve had a wonderful week and I’m
chatting with someone I might bring up "Wow, last week I got a call from
Atlanta! Can you believe that?" or "I cleaned up about 15 thousand
viruses this week" – it just drives home that I’m a computer jock for
hire. I try to have lunch with another professional at least once a month.
I stay in touch with the media. I’ve even been quoted on the 5:00 news by
a local TV station when they were discussing the anti-spam legislation.
The thank-you cards are a really nice touch. There is a lot more to the post than just these tips. I like Joe’s attitude (he thanks his previous employer "for not only spinning me off on my own but for financing my startup 😉") and his honest approach to his work. His advice is simple and it gels with my preferred approach to people I deal with.