Behind the Scenes: Business Consulting
If you didn't know already, I'm a small business consultant! I coach entrepreneurs and side-hustlers on marketing and productivity in their business.
I love helping people get their business started and help them navigate a quick path to their first paycheck. It took me almost six years to get to where I am today, and that process would've been much faster if I had a coach help me out at the beginning.
Today I'm going to give you a behind the scenes look at my consulting process, as well as the tools I use to keep my clients organized and scheduled.
(If you're interested in a consultation, click HERE.)
One of the most common questions I'm asked is "How do you find clients?"
Finding people interested in your services, who need help, and would work well with you is not easy. Business coaching and consulting is a HUGE niche and there's a ton of people doing the same thing as me. When I first started out, I relied on my family and friends to refer people to me.
After working with a couple ladies, they spread the word. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the ball rolling. I also offered my consulting services for discounted rates as I found my stride and worked out the kinks in my process.
Word of mouth is great, but that method relies on other people. I wanted to do something that would actively grow my potential client list. The first thing I started doing was blogging. When I started Nora Conrad, I narrowed my focus. I blog about the topics I consult on. This brings people interested in my topics right to my site, and if they want to learn more or want more detailed steps, I have services ready for them.
Another way I market myself + my services is on social media. Joining groups and talking to people are how I get more eyes on my stuff and build potential clients. I'm extremely active in 3 Facebook groups for businesses (You can join my group, The Boss Lady League, HERE). I help people with their questions, refer them to people if I don't know the answer, and offer my services if they are looking for them.
Finding clients is all about putting yourself out there and helping as many people as you can. I have a ton of free resources for small businesses so that whether people pay for my help or not, they're getting value from my site and my work.
Having a great system for managing your work is key to being profitable and productive. I use 17Hats (affiliate link) to manage my calendar, email clients, track my time and send clients files. 17Hats is a fantastic resource for anyone who offers services.
I'm going to go through and give you a little tour of my 17Hats account, as well as a couple examples of my workflows, contracts, and questionnaires.
Everything I do in 17Hats is run through a workflow. You can create workflow templates in the account settings, and then use the workflow on any project. I'm going to go through my workflow step by step for a regular client consultation to give you an idea of the process.
On my "Work With Me" page, the contact me links take you to a contact form. This form feeds info directly into my "Hot Leads" contact list in 17hats.
When I get a new lead, 17Hats sends me a notification, so I know I need to look at the questionnaire and begin the next steps in my process. To set this up in 17Hats, click on your "Leads Tab" and then click on "Lead Capture" in the upper right-hand corner.
This page is where you can create a questionnaire for your potential clients. You can see my form HERE. You can add whatever questions you want to the form. You can also "map" answers to automatically be added into the contact information. For example when someone add their email to the form, that email address is added to their email in their contact card.
Once you've created the questions, you can edit the form details. Here you can set up your notification settings, which page your users are redirected to after submitting, and an automatic email. I personally don't use the automated email setting, because I prefer sending a personalized message after I read their response, but if you have a lot of clients or only one service, you could use this option to send a welcome packet, thank you message or even a contract,quote or invoice.
After reading the client's response to the lead form and figuring out which service they'll need, I begin a workflow by adding it to a project. First I go into the Leads tab, then click on the client I'll be working with, from this page I can click on the "Add" button to add my workflow. (Photo 1)
When you activate the workflow, it'll ask you to choose a base date. I use the meeting date as my base. (Photo 2)
Once you add the workflow, you can see, edit and review all the steps. When I click on the review button for the first step, I can verify or change the questionnaire. Then I can send it to the client. (Photo 4). When the client gets the email (Photo 5), there's a button for them that takes them directly to the questionnaire. (Photo 6)
Once the questionnaire is completed, I get a notification to view it. At this point, I can decide if the client is someone I can help or if I should refer them to someone else. Once I've reviewed the answers, I move on to the next step in the workflow.
BOOK THE MEETING
Within the questionnaire, I have a link to the client to book our meeting using SetMore.com - I also have a link in the email delivering the questionnaire to them. I'll dig deeper into Set More later on in this post.
Estimate + Contract + Invoice
Once I've reviewed the client questionnaire, I review my next step in the workflow. This action sends the client an email with the estimate (or quote) attached (Photo 1). They can see what services I'll offer, how much it'll cost and when the payments are due. (Photo 2)
If they accept the quote, they'll be taken right to the contract that they can digitally sign + submit. (Photo 3) For most of my consultations, the first 50% of the invoice is due upfront, so after the contract is signed, the next page is the invoice. (Photo 4) Clients can pay right away with a debit or credit card. The payment processes through Stripe.
You can also set the price to $0 if you want to test your workflow or have proof of pro bono work.
After they are all done, I will get an email notification letting me know the paperwork is complete. I can review the information, add the invoice as an income and sign the contract. (Photo 5).
The date of our meeting will also be added to my calendar in 17Hats, which I have set up to sync with Google Calendar, more on scheduling later. (Photo 6)
I allow my clients to choose between 4 platforms; Google Hangouts, Skype, Facetime or a regular phone call.
Google Hangouts is my favorite platform for meetings because there are so many free features I can use during the call. I set up a private Hangout by going to my YouTube video manager and choosing "Live Event". (Photo 1)
I set the event to private and schedule it for the meeting date. I can add the client's email into the event, and they will receive email reminders about the event. Then I hit "create event".
When it's time to start I just l just go back into my live event and click on "Start Hangout on Air". (Photo 2) This opens the regular Google Hangouts window. Here I can add my name and URL using the Hangout Toolbox Plugin. I can also screen share during the meeting. (Photo 3)
After the meeting is over, the recording will Automatically upload to YouTube as a private video. The video can take a bit to process and show up in your video, but once it does you can copy the URL and share it with your clients. (Photo 4)
On the actual meeting day, I send a reminder email to my client to make sure they'll be ready to go at our meeting time. I also include the instructions for our meeting platform. I prefer using Google Hangouts because it's so simple and I can record, screen share & type to the client.
QUESTIONNAIRE + OUTLINE
Once all the paperwork and administrative work is out of the way, I prep for the meeting. I usually do this the night before or day of the meeting, that way the client's site, questions, and personality is fresh in my mind.
Using their questionnaires and social media info, I "stalk" them. No, not in the creepy way. I go through their social media profiles, check out all their website pages, search their name in google to see what comes up and take notes as I do this.
Most of my clients have a few specific questions, but once we get into the conversation, they think of a million more. I create an outline of their questions, things they can improve on, and advice I have for them just based on my research. I also make a list of any resources that might be helpful to their specific needs.
I use this research and outline as the framework for the meeting, and as a base for the post meeting email.
During the meeting, I use my outline to keep the discussion flowing and on-track. I also take additional notes as we work through the conversation. I keep track of any links or resources I mention, as well as additional questions they ask me. If I don't know the answer to something, I make a note of it, find the answer and send them either a short video or email after the meeting. I take all my notes in Evernote, so I can access them from anywhere, and share them immediately after if needed.
SETTING A TIMER
I also use my iPhone to keep track of time. When we get to the last 5-10 minutes, I let them know and ask if there are any last-minute questions. I usually end the meeting with an invite to do a follow-up consult in a few weeks. I always thank them, tell them to email me anytime and let them know they'll be getting a post-meeting email from me within 48 hours.
POST-MEETING EMAIL + RESOURCES
After the meeting, I send an email with a thank you graphic, a link to the recording (if we used Google Hangouts) and a PDF file with some resources and information. I also include a coupon for 20% future consultation services with me.
Right after sending the email, while it's still fresh in my mind, I organize our meeting info. I format and edit the notes I took into an outline. I combine my resource list, research, outline and notes into one PDF that I can send to my client.
I save a copy in MS word so I can edit and add things throughout the day. If there are any questions that I couldn't answer, I research those and add the answers to the PDF. I always send the PDF within 2 days, that way my client can start working on anything we talked about without waiting on me,
Included in the final email is the full outline of the notes, a list of resources relating to our conversation, a link to the recorded meeting and a link to a testimonial questionnaire.
One of my favorite tools in 17Hats is the bookkeeping tab. Because I invoice through 17Hats, my payments are automatically added. I also have my business checking and savings accounts set up, so any money added or removed are imported directly to 17Hats.
You can also manually add income and expenses if you don't want to connect a bank. There are reports you can print off, and you can easily edit the categories to fit your needs.
Earlier I talked about how I have my clients schedule their meeting through Set More. SetMore is an online calendar and scheduling app. I use it for scheduling meetings, but also for scheduling class sessions. SetMore is a simple (and free) interface.
You can upgrade to a premium account to get a couple more features (like 2-way sync with your google calendar), but because I add all my meetings through 17Hats (which does sync with Google) I don't have any need for the premium version.
I keep my calendar as simple as possible for my clients. I only run one class at a time and 2-3 clients per week. This helps me focus on one person for a couple of days, rather than trying to schedule multiple people in one afternoon.
I have my prices and 3 levels of consulting packages listed on my services page. Customers do not have to pay when they book, I save that for invoicing through 17Hats. However, you can connect Stripe with a premium account if you want to accept payments through SetMore.
SetMore has Mailchimp integration, which I use for my classes. I have an email list for each course, so when someone signs up for the class, I can send a mass email to all of them with details about the class and links to the meeting space.
You can see my complete set up on THIS page
Add a form to Squarespace
SetMore allows you to link to the sign up page, or allow your customers to fill out a form directly on your site. However, the default button they have isn't very pretty, so I'm going to give you a quick look on how to customize the button.
You can see an example of this by clicking the button below.
To add a button like this, go into your SetMore profile, click on "integrate" and then "website". Leave all the options the same, except for the very last one, click on "I'll Embed the Code Myself".
You'll get a custom HTML code that should look something like this:
Copy your code into a text editor, like notepad. Now you'll want to separate the coding a bit. Add a couple paragraph breaks before the <img border="none" portion, and a couple breaks right before the </a> code. (Photo 1)
At this point you can do a couple different things. You can change the image to your own button (rather than the ugly default image from SetMore). Or you can use the Squarespace button code to match all your other button styles. To add your own image, just replace the image URL (Photo 2) with your own image URL.
To use your Squarespace button styling (like in my example above), you'll want to delete the whole middle section of the code and replace it with the following:
<div class="lightbox-handle-wrapper lightbox-handle-wrapper--align-center">
<span class="lightbox-handle sqs-system-button sqs-editable-button">
Book an Appointment now
Make sure you leave all the paragraph breaks as they are. You can change the "Book an Appointment Now" to whatever you want your button to read. (Photo 3). Now just copy this code into a markup block (on Squarespace) and you have a custom and prettier button than the default SetMore one.