How to Start an Online Consulting Business

In today’s increasingly digital economy, there are many more ways to take your innate skills and turn them into marketable, profitable endeavors online. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the consulting industry. Some of the areas in which consultants are finding the greatest success online include:

  • Accounting
  • Legal
  • Public Relations
  • Technology
  • Marketing
  • Education
  • Emergency Preparation
  • Policy and Governance
  • General Business

Consulting is an industry that was once dominated by large firms and individuals who had built up access to the most powerful people in their industries, but today it’s possible to start an online consulting business from scratch and be successful by combining the right toolsets and creating a name for yourself.

Building the Backbone of Your Online Consulting Business

Step one is to have a plan.Click To Tweet More importantly, you need to know who your target customer is and what they need that you could provide assistance with. Most likely this will relate directly to your professional experience and education but there are some other factors to consider in this decision. The more professional a field and the higher paid the top tier of talent tends to be, the harder it is for the people in those fields to find quality employees to match their needs. That’s where consultants come in – short term help to address major organizational concerns or issues.

At the same time you should have a business plan in place for how you will approach your industry, what factors are involved in these individuals choosing a consultant, and what your competition looks like. This plan should include the costs of starting your business, your marketing plan, the technology you will be using as part of your business, and any other tools or systems you’ll need on both the sales and implementation side.

Build Your Online Consulting Base

To be an online consultant, you need two things – credibility and authority as an expert in your field, and a collection of digital platforms from which to build that authority.

The first step then is to build your website, create your social media profiles, and start generating content that will populate those platforms. Here are some of the things you’ll need out of the gate:

  • Website – Research best practices in web design in relation to your industry (contact a web design professional if this is foreign to you). Create a site that reflects that professionalism and allows you to showcase your expertise.
  • A Blog – Your blog is an opportunity to write about problems common to the people who need an expert in the field and approach you. It is also an opportunity to start driving new traffic to your website.
  • Social Media Profiles – Depending on your industry you’ll want to be active on 2-3 social platforms at the very least. For professionals, this usually means LinkedIn, Twitter, and one other – either Facebook or Google+. For consumer-focused fields, you may be active on more, including sites like YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. We recommend keeping the number below 4 so you can invest heavily into each platform and build loyal audiences.
  • Video Content – One of the core necessities of a good consultant is that they are able to meet face to face with their clients and build a relationship of trust. Online, this is harder, so supplement your sales efforts with video in which you convey your expertise directly to the viewer. Video content comes in many forms, which we’ll cover soon, but educational and how-to content related to the problems you know your audience has will go a long way.

The process of building up the content needed to generate the type of consulting business that can self-sustain online will take time, but with quality content related to your expertise, it gets much easier.

Automating Interactions with Your Audience

The above actions will serve to get your name out there and engage with potential customers and clients, but it won’t do much more unless you integrate the automated platforms needed to capture user information and follow-up with people on a regular basis.

There are a couple of ways to do this with the ultimate goal being to create new customers:

  • Attract Followers – Every person or business you attract on social media or your blog is someone you can interact with each week when you post new content. These have value, albeit smaller value depending on the reach of your social channels.
  • Get Email Addresses – Email marketing is substantially more effective than social media outreach because it has a higher open, conversion, and interaction rate. Getting people on an email list with free content or offers is a must as a consultant. Almost any form of content, especially video can be used to do this.
  • Create a Customer Funnel – While the ultimate goal for online consulting is to land recurring, high paying clients, you can get them into your system as buyers of lower cost products that also solve problems, then move them up the value chain. A $5 pay-per-view video can eventually turn into a monthly consulting contract if you build a relationship effectively.

Getting someone into a funnel where they will receive recurring communication from your brand is vital. Once you do that, the next steps become that much easier.

Monetizing Your Efforts to Become an Online Consultant

When you reach the point of having a solid platform built and the content that will eventually attract people to your business, the next step is monetization. This is where you create the mechanisms that will attract people to buy your services.

One of the most effective ways to do this is through video. Consulting at its core is a face-to-face interaction. Video conferencing, therefore, is a vital component of the online consulting business model but it goes beyond a simple Skype connection. You need something more.

  • Automating One-to-One Video Consulting – When choosing a system, look for one that provides marketing tools to help you build your client base. Yondo, for example, offers booking widgets that can be embedded on your website or in the signature of your emails. This allows your clients to book time on your calendar without the need for a personal assistant or personal email back from you. Combined with custom-checkout fields that gather the information needed to start your consultation, you can remove a lot of the barriers to getting new clients through the door.
  • Creating a Value Chain – While the ultimate goal as an online consultant is to get someone on the other side of your video chat, the value chain you build will allow you to create other recurring streams of revenue and entry points that can lead to greater consulting contracts down the line. Video on demand libraries allow you to offer pay per view and subscription-based access to your content while webinars and group classes or training allow you to promote larger event-style engagements for your audience.

The goal as an online consultant is to attract clients as well as a trusted user base of people who will engage with your content. By creating not only a funnel of free content but also a paid portal that people can access your content through at lower rates, you can attract a much larger spectrum of potential customers to your brand.

If you are interested in starting an online consulting business, these are the first steps in the process. A platform like Yondo will likely play an integral role in the development of that business as well so be sure to plan in advance for each step of the way.

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