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The One Thing All Businesses (Even Yours) Can Offer: An Online Consultation.
No matter your industry, the one resource that you accrue throughout your career that is both replenishable and never ending is your own expertise.
Do you design websites, brands, or logos? Draft presentations or speeches for big corporations? Maintain payroll for your company? Contractor? Tattoo artist? Cake decorator? T-shirt designer? Blog post writer? How often have friends or junior colleagues asked to pick your brain about something in your career track or industry?
Literally everyone who’s been in their game for a few years can offer their advice and expertise in the form of a consultation. In this post we’ll lay out how you can do it, and support your business with extra income while encouraging others to respect your time as well.
The difference between a Freelancer and a Consultant
A freelancer does work. They use their expertise to produce a set product or outcome. A consultant helps others do work by giving advice, instruction, or an outline to get them started. For a consultant, their expertise is the product, and they excel at making their expertise communicable and transferable.
But it’s also important to note that the boundaries here are often blurry. Usually the first step in any freelance gig is a consultation, where you determine the client’s needs and establish the scope of work to be done. For a website designer, this means figuring out things such as: does the client’s website need an intake form? Which browsers and devices must it be compatible with? And so on.
So how do you make the jump from freelancer to consultant? We actually already tipped our hand here – you have to package your expertise as the product.
What’s a heuristic? You already know & use them everyday
Heuristics are a set pattern of doing something in an efficient manner, usually developed through experience and trial-and-error. It’s just a fancy way of saying how you learned to do something and be good at it. So for consultants, their expertise is the product, and your expertise is made up of heuristics: all the neat tricks and techniques that make up a particular skill.
Making crispy, fluffy pancakes is a skill. But the heuristic required to make them might be things like, using a tablespoon to separate egg yolks from egg whites, or folding the batter rather than stirring it. Knowing that a cast iron pan will give you a better crisp than a teflon pan – that’s a heuristic. (Ok, who’s hungry?)
To be a consultant means you’re sharing your heuristics with your clients. This is what we mean when we say learn to package your expertise and make it transferable. Here’s some practical ideas to get you started:
- Offer Q&A sessions where clients can ask you questions. (Better yet, record these sessions and make them available online.)
- Film & upload YouTube videos designed for general audiences.
- Create an outline that answers some of the most common questions people have.
- Offer vetting sessions where you can check on people’s projects and give them personalized clues about how you, as an expert, would handle it to enhance the outcome.
The difference between a Consultant and a Consultation
It’s important to note that we’re not talking about a total change in job title here. The idea behind this post is to realize that the skills you’ve acquired in your field mean that you already have the potential to be a consultant, and that any business can therefore offer consultations as a service. Here are some instructive examples of how consultations play a role in typical, day-to-day business:
- Specialists like tattoo artists can give consultations as an added service, paid or not. Most tattoo artists, for example, charge anywhere from $100 for the initial drawing of the art before the actual tattoo. This also helps determine the scope of work to be done for a one-time project or service.
- Car mechanics usually comp the inspection fee if there’s work to be done, or if the customer declines services, they still have to pay for the inspection. Comping the inspection fee helps soften the blow of “sticker shock,” given that most customers coming in for auto repair are doing so in response to an unexpected problem.
- Therapists usually offer a free 15-minute consultation to any first-time, prospective patient. While there’s no guarantee of future business, it helps establish rapport and lays the groundwork for a long-term relationship. Many patients stick with their therapists for years.
These examples are instructive because they help you understand what type of consultations to use in each situation. Trying to establish long-term partnerships that could last for years? A free 15 minute call may be all you need. Have clients who are responding to sudden emergencies? Offer to waive the consultation fee, or pay it forward to their first project with you. Clients coming in for a single, ad hoc project? Get paid for that initial hour, it’ll help secure the client for a return visit.
Giving yourself a bigger slice of the pie
By offering consultations, you’re not only adding a new service that appeals to your core audience, you’re also expanding your audience to include people like you who don’t have as much career experience. This is also a great way to help channel requests for “brain picking” sessions from friends and colleagues. You’re providing the people who already admire you a way to respect your time and pay for it too.
You can also apply this principle in reverse – who are the experts you admire? Whose YouTube channels are you watching to enhance your understanding of your chosen specialty? There’s any number of free (and paid) resources available to grow your expertise. And your expertise, your skills, and your heuristics are the things you’re packaging for your clients. Constantly working to make them more insightful only increases their value, and consequently, how much your time is worth.
How Setmore can help
Now the obligatory self-promotional part of the post where we talk about Setmore’s role in all of this.
Setmore’s free online booking tools make it easy for people to book your time. Offer a service labeled “Online Consultation.” Set it to $50 for an hour (or use your best pricing discretion). Include this service at the top of your Booking Page so it’s the first thing your web visitors see.
Integrate Square or Stripe and have clients pay upfront when they book. This will help make sure they show up, and make it easier for you to focus on the consultation rather than needing to ask about payment at the time of the appointment.
Integrate Teleport to use 1-click video meetings for the consultation. Setmore will automatically email your client a link to join the meeting. This way you can jump on a call anytime you have an empty slot on your calendar, and turn that time into money.
We’ve reached the end of the road. Here are our key takeaways:
- The difference between freelancers and consultants is that freelancers use their expertise to make a product or service, whereas for consultants their expertise is the product.
- Expertise is just a collection of heuristics – the tricks and techniques that you’ve learned in order to do something well. Heuristics can be easily packaged in the form of Q&A sessions, outlines, YouTube videos, mentorship, and more.
- Every business, even yours, can offer a consultation service on top of your regular service offerings. Sometimes this is the first point of contact with clients for a long-term project or relationship, and sometimes it’s just a way to monetize people “picking your brain.”
- Setmore can help by giving you the ability to book consultations online, get paid upfront with a payment integration, and use the Teleport integration to have 1-click video meetings from Anywhere.
Writer, editor and scheduling product expert at Setmore Appointments.