In a service business, your clients are buying your areas of expertise and skill set. It can be harder to identify if and how you need to grow your practice. One of the advantages of running a solo consultancy is the ability to scale your business to your personal needs. You can choose your hours, client roster, types of projects and you can scale up or down as you choose.
Time to Grow?
While there is no one-size-fits all answer as to if and when you should grow your solo business, there are common signs that indicate it is time to make a change.
- You are in demand. If you are routinely turning away business, congratulations, you have succeeded in delivering high value work.
- You have tapped into a new market or unmet need. In the course of getting things done for your clients, you may have uncovered a need that was not being met, or utilized a skill set that you never identified as a service. Both of these circumstances can indicate an opportunity to grow your business.
- Your clients are growing. As clients grow they may need a wider range of communication services. If there are additional areas that you can serve on your own or through strategic partners, growth can be a viable option to keep pace with client needs.
- Your quality is suffering. Independent consultants work hard to deliver excellence. If you feel that you are not giving your best, it may be a sign that you have too much on your plate.
- The industry is growing. Industry growth is a great sign that you can grow your business. This applies to your industry and those that you serve.
- You want to grow. Having a desire or vision to grow is the clearest sign of all, and should not be overlooked.
Plan for Growth
Whether you choose to grow the size of your business or simply want to grow your profits, a strategic plan is key to your success. Your plan does not have to be lengthy or overly complex, but should help you crystallize your vision for your business. As part of the planning process, here are three key questions to ask.
- What kind of business do you want to have? The most important part of your plan is defining what you want. One of the greatest benefits of having your own business is being fully in charge of your career.
- Do you want to be solo forever? Some independents love working solo, while others have ambitions to grow into a bigger agency. There is no right or wrong answer, but it is important to ask the question so that you can have a strategic plan that helps you to develop your business in the way that suits your vision. If you want to grow in size, what structure will support that vision? What are the roles and functions you need as part of your team?
- What is happening in the market? It is important to be aware of the changes and trends taking place in your industry as well as client industries. Is there a different approach to solving client problems? What will motivate clients to buy your services in the future? Are there organizational, legislative or environmental changes that will impact who hires you and/or the work that you are hired to do?
How to Grow
You have a number of options available if you choose to grow your business. Listed below are just a few ideas that fit a variety of chosen work styles.
- Increase projects and/or client roster. One of the most intuitive ways to grow is by simply taking on more work. If you have the capacity, take on more projects or clients.
- Do more for existing clients. Your clients are already sold on your expertise and value, so why not look for ways to deepen your engagements? You may propose additional phases to a project or look for other problems that you can solve.
- Raise your rates. If you are turning away business or have more than you can handle, it is a good indication that it is time for a rate increase. Doing so allows you to grow your revenue without changing your business model.
- Shift your revenue mix. You may have a mix of clients or projects that are high value, medium value and low value. You can try to move the low and medium value clients into higher tiers with additional services or higher rates when it is time for renewal. The goal is to have fewer on the low end and more in the medium and high tier. Shifting your mix will grow your profit without adding hours or capacity.
- Expand your services. You can grow your solo business by expanding your service offerings. Adding on to your service menu is a great way to grow your business and may open up a broader diversity of clients.
- Solo but not alone. Working with strategic partners is a good way to grow without taking on employees. You can team up with solos to go after bigger books of business or expand the services you offer. You can also partner with businesses who have a complementary skill such as graphic design or advertising.
- Expand your geography. You can expand your business by expanding your reach. Expand to other areas or take your business global.
As a solo communications consultant you can decide how to shape your business. If you choose to grow, there are many approaches that you can take from becoming a bigger business to modifying what you offer clients. It is your business and you get to do it your way!
Have you found creative ways to grow your business? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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