The Bottom-Up Business Plan for Your Solo Consulting BusinessJun 24, 2022
As I begin working with new independent consulting business owner clients, one of the first questions I ask is “tell me about your business plan.”
I often get a “deer caught in the headlights look” in response.
Most of us think about business plans as something we create in college for a business school project or a plan we’re required to write to secure private equity funding or a bank loan.
Because the term “business plan” can feel daunting, most independent consultants skip this important step.
In today’s article, I’ll walk you through the 5 steps to build an effective independent consulting business plan.
Benefits of the Independent Consulting Business Plan
But, before I dive into the 5 steps, let me touch on "why bother?"
Why create a business plan?
A plan gives you a framework you leverage to create the results in your solo consulting business – the financial results where you work on your own terms, creating the impact that feels fulfilling and meaningful for you.
Simply put, the business plan will give you clear direction and a growth path, so you don’t inadvertently create a business you hate working in and running.
OK, with that, let's dive into the 5 steps to create your business plan.
Step #1 - Determine The Timeframe for Your IC Business Plan
If you’re in the earlier stages of your independent consulting business, I recommend you define your business plan for the next 12-24 months.
If you have a more mature IC business, I recommend you map out what you want your business to look like in the next 3-5 years, so you
- Give yourself more space to transform your business from where you are now to where you want to be and
- You set a loftier, bigger goal to stretch into. Think big!
Step #2: Define The Type of Work You Want To Be Doing
Think about your ideal engagements. Are they?
- Long-term, multi-quarter, or multi-year consulting engagements?
- Ongoing, retainer-based advisory work?
- Strategy work that you hand off for someone else to execute?
- A mix of strategy and execution?
What is your ideal client load?
- 5 clients at a time?
- 1 client at a time?
And, why do you want these types of clients and engagements? For example,
- Are you choosing to do longer-term, single client at a time consulting engagements because you want to feel less worry and nervousness around your cash flow?
- But, ideally, your passion is around working with a variety of clients doing shorter-term, less hands-on work?
You don’t have to choose between security and following what you’re passionate about doing.
The goal with your business plan is to CHOOSE what you want in your business. That gives you a direction to head. You can find out how to create security, and peace of mind with the business model you really love.
Don’t choose what you think is easy. Invariably, it isn’t as easy as it seems AND on top of that, you feel doing miserable doing whatever you settled for.
There’s no reason to settle.
So many independent consultants approach this backward.
By backward, I mean, are you accepting what comes to you and building your business off of that type of consulting work?
Does your business plan consist of making the best of what comes to you?
This isn’t sustainable as a business model or a way of life.
You can have the business you want, that you love working in and on every day.
It starts with being honest with yourself about what it is you want and why.
Begin with the end in mind.
Step #3: Integrate Your Ideal Schedule Into The Independent Consulting Business Plan
So, with step #2, you’ve mapped out WHAT you want in terms of type and nature of work.
Next, build your ideal schedule into the plan.
Ask yourself, what the ideal consulting year looks like:
- Do you take off December?
- Do you take off July and December?
- Do you take off the last week of the month?
- Do you take off every Friday?
- Do you work 6-hour days?
What does the ideal look like for you, without worrying about how much money you could be leaving on the table or if the plan is realistic?
Step #4: Fold Your Financial Goals Into Your Independent Consulting Plan
Now that you know what your ideal engagements, clients, and schedules look like, do the math.
Figure out. what you would need to be charging per engagement to hit or even exceed your financial (revenue, profitability, and income) goals within the constraints of your ideal schedule
This might come out to be a large number, a big increase over what you’re charging now.
That’s not a problem.
You can get there if you start.
You can get there if you begin working toward it.
You can get there if you’re committed to it.
For more on how to increase your consulting feels, listen to episode 067 of the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast where I walk you through the 3 Prereqs to Raising Your Consulting Fees.
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | My website
#5: Get Clear On WHO You Need To Become
The fourth component of your independent consulting business plan is who you need to become in order to make achieving this business plan inevitable.
Your current results are a reflection of your current mental models:
- What you think is possible for you and your business?
- What you think you’re capable of (and not capable of)?
- What you think your client value (and don’t)?
- What you think your clients think of you?
- What you think about the value/impact of your offer?
- And how you manage your emotions: your ability to redirect doubting, unsure, confused, incapable into confident, capable, committed on a daily basis
In order to achieve new, bigger and different results, it will require you to think differently.
To accomplish your business model, you’ll need a new, more expanded mental model as a business owner.
Therefore, a crucial piece of your business plan is to get crystal clear about the version of you, your future self, who has achieved this business plan, and it’s on auto-pilot.
Define that future self.
Name that future self.
Visualize that future version of you who has checked off all the boxes on your new business plan, and that these results are a no-brainer for you to achieve on a monthly basis without doing anything out of the ordinary.
- How are you thinking?
- What have you stopped thinking?
- How are you feeling?
- What are you doing?
- What aren’t you doing?
Avoid Making These 3 Mistakes With Your Independent Consulting Business Plan
Put this into action, using the four steps I gave you to create your independent consulting business plan:
- Determine The Timeframe for Your IC Business Plan
- Define The Type of Work You Want To Be Doing
- Integrate Your Ideal Schedule Into The Independent Consulting Business Plan
- Fold Your Financial Goals Into Your Independent Consulting Plan
- Get Clear On WHO You Need To Become
This is an example of the type of work I do 1:1 with my clients.
- I help you apply this process specifically to your business.
- I help you uncover blind spots. I challenge you. I poke holes in your logic.
- I help you create that clarity, direction and plan for what you never thought was possible for you and your business.
To learn more about my one-to-one, private coaching for Independent Consulting Business Owner:
- Click here to learn about the 1:1 IC Business Owner Bootcamp
- Click here to schedule a (no obligation) consultation: www.consultmelisa.com
In the meantime, go take the IC Predictability Assessment to
- Uncover areas like this that are preventing you from making more money, creating more impact, and having more flexibility in your independent consulting business.
- After you answer 26 questions, I’ll provide you with a personalized report that shows you the areas to focus on, to increase your consulting business predictability and peace of mind.
- It includes a specific, ranked plan for you including specific, actionable next steps and resources.