The no-nonsense guide to business development as a freelance consultant

The no-nonsense guide to business development as a freelance consultant

Posted: Fri 27th Aug 2021

Business development is all about the activities that help you sell your services. As a freelance consultant, it should be a top priority.

Developing your business is a key part of staying profitable and relevant. By setting clear goals, building a loyal client base and developing a strong network, your business has the best chance of success.

We spoke with two Enterprise Nation advisers who are experts in business development to get their advice.

Goal setting

Goals play a vital role in shaping the future of your business and how you approach business development. Clearly defined goals will help you make important decisions about budgeting, marketing and time management.

Despite its importance, goal-setting is something that many people struggle with. Ensuring your goals are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound – is a good place to start.

It is important to set long-term goals, for example hitting X turnover in 12 months. However, you should also set smaller objectives that will help you reach your main business goals. For example, increasing customer spend or driving traffic to your website. These supplementary goals have a shorter time frame.

Make sure you refer back to your goal and supporting objectives on a regular basis. Setting time in your schedule to review goals is essential.

“If you want to hit X turnover, what does that translate into? How much will you have to sell? How many people will you have to call?

“Make sure you have clear measures to make sure goals are on track,” said Melanie Bryan, founder of WhyNotChange. “If you set yourself a target of making a certain amount of phone calls per week, for example, to achieve your goal, it’s an easy way to check if you’re on track.”

Build a client base

One of the challenges when working for yourself is creating a steady income. The best way to achieve this is by building a strong and loyal client base.

Start reaching out to contacts such as previous employers or colleagues, as they know you and the quality of your work. Ask if they know anybody who might need your services.

Attending networking events is a good way to build connections and generate leads. Start with events that are close to home and within your industry.

If you already have clients, they can help you to generate new work.

  1. Ask them for referrals. They might know others in the sector who need similar services.

  2. Ask what challenges they face in reaching current objectives – do you have additional services that could help?

  3. Finally, ask them for testimonials and public reviews as this can help potential clients to see the value you provide.

Other top tips to build your client base include ensuring your website is search engine optimised, joining conversations on social media, listing yourself in professional directories and scouring job vacancy boards, as these often indicate companies with a greater need.

“Not networking enough is a common mistake among freelance consultants,” said Rachael Howourth, business coach at My Sales Mentor. “Networking is not necessarily about finding clients, it’s about finding people who can support you and it needs to be done with a mindset of ‘giving value’ so that those people want to support you.”

Discovery calls

A discovery call is often the start of a relationship between a small business owner and an adviser.

It offers the opportunity for a consultant and a potential client to have an informal chat and decide whether they make a good match and Enterprise Nation’s platform provides an opportunity for small business owners to book calls with consultants.

When a prospective client is scheduling a call, ask what stage they’re at, what’s going well and what’s holding them back. Read their answers carefully and spend time researching their business online.

“When the call begins, I make clients comfortable by reassuring them that I’ve read their pre-call question answers, I’ve researched their business and understand what they do. I then ask them what their biggest problem is and what they would like to see happening differently,” said Rachael.

“Then I explain the solution and talk about the results. Not the method. Most people don’t care about the method, they want to know whether they can trust you with the results.”

After the call, send an email to recap everything you discussed. Summarise their challenges and reiterate how you’d help them to achieve their goals. Be sure to provide your telephone number and email and invite them to contact you with any questions. If you haven’t heard anything after around four days, follow-up with a polite reminder.


Chris has over a decade of experience writing about small businesses and startups. He runs content agency Inkwell, which works closely with Enterprise Nation. You can find him on Twitter at @CPGoodfellow.

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