Marketing 101 for your Career Consulting Start-up

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By Sharon Graham.

If you are thinking about starting a home-based career consulting service, with over 17 million Canadians in the labour market, there has never been a better time to take the plunge.

All is not what it seems, though. Many overzealous practitioners hang up a shingle and expect that people will be knocking down the door. When they realize that the clients are just not there, disillusionment quickly turns to frustration. Eventually, their confidence wanes and they find themselves back in the job market.

If you do things right, before you start your business, you’ll have a much better chance for success.

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Pricing your career consulting service to maximize ROI

Before you start, you’ll need to determine the right target market. There are many free services for job seekers, so you’ll need to establish what distinguishes your offerings from theirs. Identify the demographic you want to support and the services that you will provide.

Not all practitioners are looking for a full-time job. Some run their home-based operation as a part-time venture. Others use the business to supplement their retirement income. To determine your income and the profitability of your business, you must seriously research the potential for revenue and all costs involved. Ask yourself:

  • What is your annual revenue target?
  • What annual income do you require?
  • How many hours do you want to work?

When it comes to pricing, you need to be extremely cautious and calculating. Here’s a reality check:

Suppose that you are able to write outstanding resumes – far superior than what most job seekers can do by themselves. You’ve determined that you want to provide top-notch resume writing services.

Let’s say that it takes you 10 hours to write a resume from scratch. This includes interviewing the client, writing the content, designing the structure, formatting the document, and ensuring that the proofing is impeccable. If you are charging $100 per resume, then your time is worth $10 per hour.

Assuming that you would like a 40-hour work week, you can only take on four clients; that works out to $400 per week. Add the hours you spend doing business administration, marketing, sales and other activities. Then add the cost of your home office and equipment. You’ll soon find that you are virtually working for free.

This may seem like a shocking example. However, many well-qualified career practitioners have left good jobs to start a home-based business without first doing the homework necessary to ensure a meaningful return on investment (ROI).

It is certainly possible to earn a very good income writing resumes or providing other career services, as evidenced by the many successful independent career service providers across Canada who are members of Career Professionals of Canada. It is feasible for a certified consultant to earn $80,000 per year in revenue, and some earn upwards of six figures.

Promote your career services like the experts

To market yourself well, you need to offer a strong value proposition. You’ll need to clearly outline the features and benefits of your services. There is a “training” component for prospective clients. For example, if you are a resume writer, you’ll need to explain the benefits of getting a professional resume rather than a “homemade” one. If you are a career consultant, you’ll need to help your prospect understand the value of career development.

To promote your business over the internet, you’ll need a website that offers much more than hype. Rather than putting together an aggressive sales pitch, write great copy. If you have a blog, provide interesting information that will engage. If you can convince your readers to trust you, eventually they’ll buy whatever it is you’re selling. To market your services like the experts, you’ll also need to learn and apply the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Use your strengths to sell your career services

If you are going into business for yourself, you need to become comfortable in selling your value and closing deals. You can approach your selling in person, by phone, by email, or virtually through e-commerce on your website.

To eliminate price shoppers, some consultants put their pricing right on the site. Others prefer to first meet with prospects; they want a chance to talk to the individual to explain the value of the services. Then, they can determine the amount of work involved and provide an appropriate price for the services. You’ll choose the format that works for you.

Employ diverse strategies to build repeat business

The most successful career service providers have repeat business that they garner through name recognition. Use diverse advertising, promotional, and marketing strategies to reach your target market. An integrated marketing plan builds visibility and staying power.

To get the word out, you’ll need to have very strong online social networking and relationship-building skills. For this, it is crucial to learn the ins and outs of sites like LinkedIn.

The best way to produce referral business is to build trust with your clients and your network of connections. By building solid relationships within your targeted industry and business community, you’ll start to make a name for yourself.

It’s best to have a broad range of marketing strategies. Career Professionals of Canada offers various tools to help you attain visibility. You can have your profile listed for job seekers to view in the Canadian Career Professionals Directory. If you are a strong writer, you can get featured as an Expert Canadian Career Blog Contributor. You can even increase your exposure by being nominated and receiving an Award of Excellence.

Once you’ve decided to give it a go, learn about some practitioners who have built successful businesses:

  • After leaving her role within a not-for-profit organization, CPC member Maureen McCann built a successful home-based business from scratch.
  • CPC Member Carrie Wakeford has been wise enough be able to identify and create a multi-dimensional home-based operation.

Join me for a special event for career practitioners, and Build a Profitable Career Business. Our next 4-week fully interactive program starts soon. Looking forward to helping you establish a profitable career consulting service.

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