Learn more about what it means to be in business on your own account with our handy video guide.
The right mindset
- Remember you are building a business. You have a brand (which may just be your reputation), you have overheads, you have commitments. You even have opportunities to invest – will you get an ROI by investing in training and certification, or by buying new hardware & tools? Think like a business owner, not an employee.
- To stimulate thinking, imagine if someone offered you a cash investment to scale up your business into a boutique consultancy firm, what would you spend it on? Can you invest in those things yourself, now?
- Contract clauses that prevent working with other clients
- Long-running, sequential contracts with very little bench time.
- Naming your company in your own name. It’s not a significant factor, but it’s useful from a practical perspective to have a more generic name.
- Not pushing for, or taking advantage of the opportunity to use your own equipment, software or resources.
- Invest in branding. It’s cheaper and easier than you think. Use a site like fiverr or 99designs to get a logo and stationary designed. Remember, if you get a brand designed that you love, you’ll want to use it everywhere.
- Register your new name and logo as a trademark. It’s quick and cheap.
- Use your brand everywhere: email signatures, electronic documents, laptop stickers, lanyards, etc. There are lots of branded promotional products available beyond pens and mugs, many with low-volumes. Don’t necessarily think about giving them away, think about how you can use them overtly by buying things you want. For example, USB drives, phone cases, stickers, Moleskine notebooks, high-quality laptop bags, water bottles, keep cups, subtlely embroidered professional workwear, etc.
- Buy a domain name. Use it for your website and your email (get rid of your Gmail/Hotmail address).
- Build a website – it’s easier than you think. Consider getting headshots done by a professional photographer, or better still a photoshoot of you at work.
- Set up a social media presence. It could be just a LinkedIn page, or even a YouTube channel talking about your area of expertise. Invest in cameras, lights and software if it interests you.
- Get a business mobile and/or a business broadband connection. Make sure they’re in the company’s name.
- Build a branded pitch deck.
- Use a company credit/charge card where possible.
- Get insured – professional indemnity, key man, etc.
- Rent a dedicated office, space in a co-working hub or set up a dedicated home office.
- Join professional bodies (such as IoD, IPSE, etc) via your company
- Look for other revenue streams apart from consulting/contracting. Recording online training courses is a popular route many take.
- Invest in yourself. Spend money on CPD, training and certifications, via your company.
- Retain funds inside your company for potential future investments, don’t empty your company bank account each month.
- Look for opportunities to build intellectual property. It doesn’t have to be patentable, but consider building tools, techniques, apps, training packages, online tools, newsletters, etc.
- Seek opportunities to work with multiple concurrent clients.
- Start looking for opportunities to work directly with end clients, without using an agent. Build your personal network, learn to become a master of LinkedIn.
- Invest in equipment: desks, chairs, computers, software, tools, online subscriptions – anything that gives you a productivity advantage.
- Can you think of a way to bring together hardware, software, tools, resources, people, etc in such a way to gain an advantage compared to your client’s employees?
- Consider engaging in substantially fixed-price contracts, which last for a month or longer.
- Consider reading business books. There are plenty in circulation, and many are very accessible. It will help you to think laterally and master business techniques and terminology.
Day to day activities and influence
- Your hiring manager should know your company name. Make sure you make it easy to see, regularly. Put it in your email signature, use a branded notebook, when Zooming from home using a branded mug, add it to your screen name.
- When introducing yourself to new people in meetings, consider adding “I’m a consultant from ABC ltd”. You might feel odd at first, but you need to build your company’s brand awareness. Similarly, give your business card out in internal meetings, with a line such as “just in case, let me give you my personal number”.
- Invite your hiring manager and people you meet to connect/follow you on social media, even if it’s just your LinkedIn profile. Make sure your social media pages are branded.
- Be conspicuous about any means you have to be more productive or informed than your client’s employees. If you’re bringing your own laptop, buy a high spec one with the latest apps. If you have your own subscriptions to premium resources which your client doesn’t (e.g. news sites, technical resources, management resources, etc), let your hiring manager know and offer to research things for them as a favour, or send them interesting articles.