Building a business from scratch is difficult and yet fulfilling. As an independent business owner apart from delivery of assignment you have to work on overall branding, marketing, building client relationship and managing the backend operations.
We often misunderstand that branding is limited to having a good business name, logo or posts on social media, instead of it as overall identity of the business which includes how we prospect potential clients, take them through funnel and convert them as loyal customer, how we deliver the services and how we manage the finances.
As the digital economy expands and new skill requirements emerge. Independent professionals and freelancers are replacing most of the work earlier being delivered by some of the leading management consulting firms, this has been further augmented by growth in startups as they look for experts who can be quickly onboarded and embedded into a cross functional team to execute some of the key strategic assignments.
The overall management consulting market in India is worth $ 1.4 billion and independent consultants can very well disrupt this market by packaging and offering their services in a much more professional manner.
Tips to give a professional touch to your business
1. Have a website
In today’s digital world, having a website is a must. It’s just like having a business address in earlier days. A simple yet detailed website having a brief about you, key skills, services offered, and past work done is ideal to have.
Create a detailed service catalogue possibly with pricing information, if possible, also give an option to client to book a free discovery call with you. Make sure not have a static website, ensure your website provide adequate information on how to reach out to you.
2. Create a business email account
Business email account with your business name as domain adds to your business identity. A business email account meant entirely for your business is necessary to keep your work organized and separate it from your personal communications.
A business email account can help you in email marketing and be identified when you mail a client. What’s more, a business domain name gives you upgraded email security features that are a must for your business. Hence, choose a reliable email service provider for your business and have a separate business email account.
3. Professional proposals and contracts
A well drafted proposal validates your credential and strong understanding on subject. Good business proposal goes long way to create a good impression on clients. An ideal proposal should not list the services in scope and the pricing but also your approach, industry view and how client can be benefitted by your services, do also include case studies and reference to past work.
Follow-up your proposal with contract, contract should always be balanced covering your interest and your client concerns. A good contract should clearly list down on how you will be managing client information and also cover your interest in indemnifying any loss to client which is beyond your control.
Make sure you make easy for your clients to read through and sign the proposal and contract shared with them. Use online tools to securely send the proposal and contract to your clients and allow them to sign electronically.
4. Don’t hide behind digital wall
Don’t hide behind the digital walls, make sure your clients can easily setup a time with you or even reach out to you when required. Share your updated calendar with client and even prospects, make sure your calendar is listed on your website even.
Prefer to have a video call with your client if you are connecting online, make sure you follow-up with minutes of the call and list of detailed action items post your call. Use online tools to track action items to ensure you don’t miss out any of those and also plan your work accordingly.
5. Send professional invoices
Raising an invoice and collecting payment is one of the major activities of any business, any delay in payment collection may directly impact your cashflow. However, most of the businesses pay little attention in creating a professional invoice with required details resulting in clients seeking additional information to process the invoice and ultimately delaying the payment.
This has been a more common problem with freelancers and independent professionals. Often while working with them, I have come across some of basic information which they miss while generating an invoice.
- Incorrect client name – Most common mistakes, make sure you raise the invoice against the firm name not the contact person within the firm you are dealing with, even though he is founder or owner of the business.
- Invoice number – Make sure if you have a unique invoice number for each invoice you raise.
- Tax details – Most of the firms deduct TDS while making payments, do ensure you mention your or your firm’s PAN and GST if available in the invoice.
- Payment due date – Clearly mention by when you are expecting the payment to be done, ideally it can vary from 7 days to 45 days. Do make sure you agree before-hand with your client on payment terms.
- Payment mode – One of the critical information but missing in most of the invoices I came across especially with freelancers. Do make sure you clearly share your preferred payment mode be it through account transfer, UPI or payment links.
6. Streamline the process
Running a business is set of complex processes interlinked together. It consists of several steps:
- Creating your online presence
- Pitching to potential clients
- Drafting proposals and contracts
- Raising invoice for advance payment
- Onboarding and collecting information to get started
- Delivering interim work and gathering feedbacks/reviews
- Incorporating feedbacks and delivery final work
- Raising final invoice
- Continued engagement for expanding work
It is important that you streamline and automate the end to end process for a smooth run. While you undoubtedly need business management skills to maintain the process, discipline and consistency is the most important key.
Automating the process helps you meet the deadlines and avoid any unnecessary follow-ups by the clients. Use Welance to streamline your workflow? It helps you build, manage, and scale your business. Welance’s comprehensive business management platform allows you to create timesheets and proposals, manage client meetings, and track expenses.
7. Maintain a work-life balance
Professionalism is all about a work-life balance. Your personal life must not harm your business and vice-versa. However, if you fail to balance the two, you will always struggle with meeting deadlines, organizing your schedule, and being productive.
So it would help if you prioritized a work-life balance by:
- Setting a work schedule and sticking to it.
- Avoiding distractions from your personal life.
- Eating healthy with regular exercise.
- Taking breaks, when necessary.
- Taking only the projects under your expertise, and
- Adding fun elements to your life during your time off.
As stated, independent consultants including freelancers have potential to disrupt the massive management consulting market globally. As the world goes digital, a whole new set of skills are required to build, run, and manage businesses online. Barring few big organizations, not all can afford the services of management consulting firms and hence a wide opportunity in the form small and medium enterprises and start-ups are available for independent consultants.