I have gone over to the dark side and done something I never thought I would. I have started my own consultancy business. As someone who is known for being rude about consultants… what a hypocritic.
Ok, wait a second, I’m sorry! But let me explain. I’m not being quite as hypocritical as it may seem at first glance. The type of consultants I object to are the ones where you spend £500 an hour for a recent grad with no business experience to come into your business, confuse you with buzzwords, and tell you to fire half your workforce.
That is a very different sort of consultant to the grizzled veteran with years of experience in a very specific field who can come in and advise on one particular problem. Think a factory manager who has run multiple successful shoe factories for 40 years advising on why a specific shoe factory is underperforming.
Well, I don’t put myself in quite in that second category. But there are certain subjects where I think a chat with me would be useful. And people seem to agree with me.
My writing here, on Quora and on the Expert in a Year blog have all gotten quite popular and I now a get a few emails a day looking for my help. Anything from asking me to look over the projected costings for an Amazon FBA business, to advice on how to take their matched betting to the next level.
I don’t have the time to answer every one, so the obvious solution was to start charging for my help. Or, to make it sound more impressive, start a consultancy business… which is exactly what I did.
Of all the businesses I have started this has been by far the easiest. It cost £0, took about 15 minutes to set up and started earning money almost immediately. If you think there’s someone out there who would pay for your advice, there is no reason not to start your own and find out.
The Research Phase
My requirements were quite specific.
- This is a side business. How much time I spend on it needs to be flexible.
- I travel a lot so need to be able to consult from anywhere in the world.
- I am very lazy when it comes to admin and don’t want to have to spend ages on admin or on sending invoices and chasing payment.
- My service needs to be worthwhile for both me and the person hiring. That means a lot of value conveyed per minute.
After a bit of research, I discovered a service called Clarity:
Clarity is a service that helps you find, schedule and pay for expert advice over the phone to help you be more productive and grow your business.
That sounded pretty ideal. I describe it as Skype but where one person pays the other for the call.
Clarity handles all the admin. There is no need to send invoices or chase for payments and there is no negotiation or communication before the call is scheduled and they’ve entered their Paypal details. The call is timed to the minute and when it is done the money just lands in my Paypal account. Even better I can take the calls from anywhere in the world.
It doesn’t get much easier than that. The only downside as far as I can see is that Clarity is a pretty unheard of service. I am sure there are people out there who would be put off by the need to sign up and put in their details. That’s a sacrifice I am willing to take for the ease of use.
Setting Up The Consultancy Business
I signed up a free account. Wrote a few lines about myself and set my pricing.
The whole process took a few minutes and I was up and running and ready to receive customers. I already had a company set up for this blog, so all income from the consultancy business will just go through it.
I didn’t put too much thought into what to charge and just went on pure gut feeling. $3.33 a minute works out at about $200 an hour. From that Clarity take a 15% fee so I should be earning roughly $170 an hour.
That’s an amount that I would get of bed for but is low enough that I think it’s still worth it for the customer. Depending on how much interest I can always change the pricing.
People log onto my profile on Clarity, request a call, write a short description of what they want to talk about, choose an estimate for how long they want the call last for and give me three possible times.
Once the call request is submitted, I get sent a text like this one:
I log on to the website and choose the best time. If none of them work I can suggest three new ones.
When the time comes, we both dial into a conference call from wherever we each happen to be in the world. As soon as we are both present the income starts accumulating.
When one person hangs up the timer stops and the client gets charged to the minute.
Launching And Getting Some Customers
I decided to go for a very soft launch. I put links to my Clarity page on: the contact-me page of this blog, my Quora profile, my LinkedIn page and at the bottom of my post about starting an Amazon FBA business.
That was it. Those few links were all the marketing I did for the new business. I didn’t even email my blog’s subscribers list. Before really pushing it I wanted to be 100% sure I could offer a useful service.
Then I waited.
That was a couple of months ago and so far I have had three clients. I know, that’s not very many but it was with zero attempts at marketing. Two were about starting e-commerce businesses using Amazon FBA and one was about how best to take advantage of the uncertainty from Brexit.
They went really well and I like to think that the calls were well worth the money. The great reviews seem to agree:
I got to chat with some really interesting people, spoke about some of my favourite subjects, and earned some money. All while travelling the world. It’s not a bad life.
The soft launch has been a success, time to scale.
The Priestley Group LTD (yes that is the terrible legal name of my company…) consultancy business is now officially open. Hit me up with all your business, lifestyle or general chit-chat needs.
At the beginning of this post, I hinted that this business is probably a bit of a surprise. I like to build highly scalable, completely outsourced business. This is the complete opposite. I am literally signing up to swap hours of my life for money. To double my earnings I need to work double the number of hours.
There is a definite cap on how much I can earn. 8 hours a day at $175 an hour would leave me with $365,000 a year. That’s a lot of money but is definitely in employee territory rather than the dizzying heights open to an entrepreneur. Have I just created myself a job?
Well perhaps. But I do believe there are a few options for scaling if it goes well and I end up with more work than I have the time or inclination for.
I can hire or partner with other people to take on some of the work. Or I can continually raise my hourly fee.
But I am also relying on an effect that I am calling seepage. The last few businesses I have started have all been very loosely linked to each other. A satisfied customer from one could easily stray over to another.
Someone who liked my table tennis equipment might then go on and buy my book about learning table tennis. They might then be inspired and read my articles about learning and skill acquisition and might then start to see business as just another skill to be learned. From there they can go and starts an Amazon FBA business or start an online store earning me some affiliate commission or hiring me as a consultant.
Anyway, you get the idea. This is another such business that joins my loose network. I reckon a customer who I have spoken to for over an hour is going to be much much more loyal than someone who just stumbled across the blog and spent five minutes skimming an article.
I also see this as a bit of an investment in the future. Every client I speak to on the phone will now have spoken to and been advised by a real person rather than just an anonymous website. Most will be at the start of their entrepreneurial career, but in a few years I expect there will be a good few success stories among them. People who will hopefully remember me with fondness and want to work with me in the future.
That’s the idea anyway, we’ll see if it happens. For the time being, I’m very happy with my $175 and the opportunity to speak to interesting people.