Author Topic: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!  (Read 3585 times)

oldtoyota

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Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« on: November 14, 2016, 07:58:25 AM »
I've not spotted a thread for consultants and entrepreneurs to gather. Consider this our water cooler!

What training have you found useful as an entrepreneur?
How did you get your first clients?
What was a big "a-ha" moment you had as an entrepreneur?

What training have you found useful as an entrepreneur?
For me, I found training about how to launch online products enormously useful so that I could morph  my business from dealing with proposals and consulting to offering products to individuals. I'm no longer writing proposals, so anyone who wants to hire me as a consultant will get an evergreen document of what I do.

I have a business and marketing background yet it was still handy to go through my numbers in a group setting. I could envision my business for the next year and how I planned to earn revenue and what I needed to do to get there.

How did you get your first clients?
Referrals from previous coworkers + public speaking + networking. I'd like to use LI more to do this. I have a colleague who uses LI and that is is main source of business. Public speaking is a lot of work, so I may want to do less of it in the future or replace it with podcast interviews so I don't have to travel.

What was a big "a-ha" moment you had as an entrepreneur?
One was about the numbers. Another was the power I had to create a thing that would help people and get it into their hands. One person said my workshop helped her figure out the entire focus of her new business, and that made my day!



Smokystache

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2016, 12:27:40 PM »
What training have you found useful as an entrepreneur?
How did you get your first clients?
What was a big "a-ha" moment you had as an entrepreneur?


Training: I brought a lot of specialized education and knowledge - but I didn't know much about these things:
- how to effectively network at a convention/exposition and what materials/marketing I would need
- taxes, billing, accounting
- how to build long-term relationships that may eventually turn into paying clients after 1-5 years

First Clients:
- I started by keeping my day job (which I still have) and creating products and services for a specific client, knowing that I could also provide those same products/services for other clients. In essence, my first client paid for my products and outside help (graphic designer), and then I could begin profiting after clients #2, #3, etc.
- I met that first client because it was my co-worker's spouse that owned a medium sized business

First A-Ha!
- the first and most painful moment was at the end of my first convention/expo and I hadn't made a single sale - how did these cretins not recognize the genius of my product?? =)   I completely undervalued the importance of a trusting relationship (at least in my field). I thought that if I simply explained how much better my product was than my competitors that they would instantly see the light and become my customers. For better or worse, that isn't how it works in my field. They want to see you several times, they want to hear that others are using your products, and then they may eventually come around it buying 1-5 years later (or never).
- the second aha came when I realized that I was beginning to create a positive brand within the field and that all of the work could pay off. Sometimes you are building trust, goodwill, and brand recognition and then it pays off big. I'm on the threshold (after working at this for about 4 years and barely breaking even) of partnering with a large company that could take my profits x10.
- 3rd aha: Speaking and writing effectively in front of your target audience is key to building your brand/company.

In short, people/businesses are slow to change (unless you can completely simplify and/or cut costs for a procedure that is required for a business to make money; my products enhance a business but aren't required for day-to-day profitability).

You can be building value, even if you don't immediately see the profits.

oldtoyota

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2016, 12:30:47 PM »

First A-Ha!
- the first and most painful moment was at the end of my first convention/expo and I hadn't made a single sale - how did these cretins not recognize the genius of my product?? =)   I completely undervalued the importance of a trusting relationship (at least in my field). I thought that if I simply explained how much better my product was than my

Oh, yeah. I agree about the trusting relationship. The more people get to know more, then the more I end up selling. That was a key learning for me, too.

Smokystache

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2017, 06:58:42 PM »
What training have you found useful as an entrepreneur?
How did you get your first clients?
What was a big "a-ha" moment you had as an entrepreneur?


First A-Ha!
... the second aha came when I realized that I was beginning to create a positive brand within the field and that all of the work could pay off. Sometimes you are building trust, goodwill, and brand recognition and then it pays off big. I'm on the threshold (after working at this for about 4 years and barely breaking even) of partnering with a large company that could take my profits x10. ...

Interesting that this thread was revived today due to the creation of the entrepreneur sub-forum. I just made a large sale of my products to the company I mentioned back in November. This isn't huge money - just about the equivalent of a month's salary from my full-time gig. But it is so nice to see something that I created a couple of years ago finally get to the point where it can beginning making a difference.

So hang in there you 'treps!!

I hope the new subforum will help facilitate more discussion by self-employed folks (including consultants). I have so many questions and so much to learn.

KMMK

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2017, 07:27:09 PM »
Following. I may post a longer version later. I haven't had many clients yet but they were all from some kind of personal or trust relationship. That is definitely what I am continuing to aim for.
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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2017, 03:28:13 PM »
What training have you found useful as an entrepreneur?
Nothing has trained me better than by being in the trenches and taking action.  I messed around for 3 years reading forums and books before I ever actually did anything.  It all made way more sense when I was taking action.

How did you get your first clients?
Retail - I first launched my products on Amazon during the crazy holiday season time of year. Got 40 sales the first day in stock. Sold out in a week.

Wholesale - Someone from corporate for a big chain of stores reached out to me through the "contact us" on the website. ALWAYS HAVE A WEBSITE!  You never know who's going to find it and reach out to you!

What was a big "a-ha" moment you had as an entrepreneur?
That you can make money while you sleep.  Or poop.
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village_local

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2017, 12:19:38 AM »

What training have you found useful as an entrepreneur?
For me, I found training about how to launch online products enormously useful so that I could morph  my business from dealing with proposals and consulting to offering products to individuals. I'm no longer writing proposals, so anyone who wants to hire me as a consultant will get an evergreen document of what I do.


Would you recommend a specific online product training? I find there are so many and it's hard to know which ones are authentic.

oldtoyota

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2017, 08:51:08 PM »
Months have passed. Sorry! I was not on the forum a whole lot for the past few months.

Are you looking for a course to help you learn to create a product?

Smokystache

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2017, 07:11:42 AM »
Just as another update. I recently closed my first "real" consulting agreement which included uncovering the clients needs, providing a proposal that incorporating the needs, and creating several options/pricing tiers. The client took the top/full option and mentioned that they'd like to do even more. So instead of teaching a summer class, I'm working on this project that will net me 7x my usually summary salary.

As an aside, I've found The Irresistible Consultant's Guide to Winning Clients by David A. Fields to be invaluable. I've just finished reading it for the 2nd time in a month. It really changed my view of how to approach clients - and most importantly, what projects I try to tackle. The title is a little hokey and he has a very conversational style, but I've found the information to be right on the money.

FIREby35

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2017, 07:42:40 AM »
SmokeyStache - If you like reading business books I have to recommend the E-Myth by Michael Gerber. It may or may not impact you based on your current position in the business growth/life cycle. But, if you are now landing consulting contracts getting paid multiples of what you were expecting it would be a good book to show your future. Eventually, we hope, you'll have more business and business opportunities than you can personally handle and you may want to have people and systems in place to continue the growth without feeling overwhelmed or delivering lower quality of work based on having so much work to do.

Anyway, read the book. It's my all-time business favorite. Reading it was my "ah-ha" moment.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2017, 08:02:16 AM »
A few months late to the party....

Training that was useful.

I recently took a couple of seminars that have made a big impact. The first was about Value Pricing - it's hard to get out of the mentality billing hourly as an accountant, but the services that I use Value Pricing with are by far my most profitable, and the clients who have embraced it are my happiest/easiest/most satisfied clients. Weird how that works.

The second one was about living your dream - it talked a lot about setting your ideal calendar, time management, making sure you have your priorities straight, and valuing your services appropriately. It's hard to convey, but the speaker was amazing and the seminar happened to speak to all of my weaknesses.

First clients

I used Elance (now Upwork) to bid on jobs. At first I bid way too low. I figured as long as I made my previous hourly wage plus benefits, then I'd be good. But it was too low - it attracted a quality of client that wasn't ideal. It did build me a good base of reviews to make my profile stronger, though. I have two of those first clients still - one at a significantly higher price than the original work, and one I just like. All of the others had to be weaned off because they were not high quality clients or because they wouldn't accept a bottom-dollar price.

Big A-ha

My first big A-ha was when it occurred to me that my lowest paying clients were also my most stressful - they were ultra focused on price and as a result were more demanding and had more emergencies. Clients with a history of using low-priced accountants tended to have a lot of errors in their prior tax returns, a lot of problems with their accounting, a lot of letters/notices popping up from prior years, and also resisted providing me complete information because they didn't want to pay me for my time. And then at the end of the day they rarely listened to my good advice - they just didn't value it!

Lower paying clients were viewing me as a way to get a job done quickly and cheaply. Higher paying clients were viewing me as someone they had a valuable relationship with. With that in mind, I try to do my best to remember that the relationship is a high priority - I make sure I remember their kids' names, and ask about their business, and talk about their problems, etc. I touch base with them to make sure they're doing alright if I don't hear from them in awhile.

Smokystache

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2017, 09:03:48 AM »
A few months late to the party....

Training that was useful.

I recently took a couple of seminars that have made a big impact. The first was about Value Pricing - it's hard to get out of the mentality billing hourly as an accountant, but the services that I use Value Pricing with are by far my most profitable, and the clients who have embraced it are my happiest/easiest/most satisfied clients. Weird how that works.


Although I think his writing style can come across as pretty arrogant, I think Alan Weiss's Value-based Fees really helped me wrap my mind around this. I don't think every consultant or business can use his process/techniques exactly as he describes them, but the core message of charging based on value is well worth x1000 the price of the book.

SmokeyStache - If you like reading business books I have to recommend the E-Myth by Michael Gerber. It may or may not impact you based on your current position in the business growth/life cycle. But, if you are now landing consulting contracts getting paid multiples of what you were expecting it would be a good book to show your future. Eventually, we hope, you'll have more business and business opportunities than you can personally handle and you may want to have people and systems in place to continue the growth without feeling overwhelmed or delivering lower quality of work based on having so much work to do.

Anyway, read the book. It's my all-time business favorite. Reading it was my "ah-ha" moment.

I'm always interested in business books like this-looks very thought-provoking. Thanks for the tip, its on the way to my door.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2017, 09:08:22 AM by Smokystache »

FIREby35

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2017, 01:07:20 PM »
I'm an attorney. I rejected the billable hour and only work on flat fees. I assume that is echoing the value based pricing. I think it helps avoid fear from clients about calling us because they think, "For a 15 minute phone call he charged me 75$! Can you believe that shit!." Can you blame them? Billable hour encourages constantly making money the focus of the relationship. With a flat fee, they agree to pay and make the payment. Money is now arranged and removed from the relationship. Together the parties can work on solving the problem.

As an aside, of course I look for the most efficient and profitable solution - which is the solution billable hours people are supposed to search for.  But do billable hour people search for the most efficient solution? Most clients find themselves pondering that question, fair or not, and that is the problem with billable hour systems. Money is always the focus.

Ditch it!

oldtoyota

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2017, 10:09:26 PM »
I'm an attorney. I rejected the billable hour and only work on flat fees. I assume that is echoing the value based pricing. I think it helps avoid fear from clients about calling us because they think, "For a 15 minute phone call he charged me 75$! Can you believe that shit!." Can you blame them? Billable hour encourages constantly making money the focus of the relationship. With a flat fee, they agree to pay and make the payment. Money is now arranged and removed from the relationship. Together the parties can work on solving the problem.

As an aside, of course I look for the most efficient and profitable solution - which is the solution billable hours people are supposed to search for.  But do billable hour people search for the most efficient solution? Most clients find themselves pondering that question, fair or not, and that is the problem with billable hour systems. Money is always the focus.

Ditch it!

Yep. I totally agree about value-based pricing. I still do some work hourly and I don't like it for that very reason. The only reason I did that is because I thought the scope might creep by a lot, but it didn't. Live and learn!

With value-based pricing, it's important to make sure prospects understand what they'll get in terms of $$ so that the money they pay you is an investment to get that return. It can be tricky as I can't personally promise a return. However, it is likely they will get a high return when they work with me.


FIREby35

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2017, 06:46:09 AM »
"I can't promise you an particular result. What I can promise you is that I will do everything possible from beginning to end to influence every moment in your favor."

That is what I promise.

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2017, 06:50:44 AM »
A few months late to the party....

Training that was useful.

I recently took a couple of seminars that have made a big impact. The first was about Value Pricing - it's hard to get out of the mentality billing hourly as an accountant, but the services that I use Value Pricing with are by far my most profitable, and the clients who have embraced it are my happiest/easiest/most satisfied clients. Weird how that works.


Although I think his writing style can come across as pretty arrogant, I think Alan Weiss's Value-based Fees really helped me wrap my mind around this. I don't think every consultant or business can use his process/techniques exactly as he describes them, but the core message of charging based on value is well worth x1000 the price of the book.

SmokeyStache - If you like reading business books I have to recommend the E-Myth by Michael Gerber. It may or may not impact you based on your current position in the business growth/life cycle. But, if you are now landing consulting contracts getting paid multiples of what you were expecting it would be a good book to show your future. Eventually, we hope, you'll have more business and business opportunities than you can personally handle and you may want to have people and systems in place to continue the growth without feeling overwhelmed or delivering lower quality of work based on having so much work to do.

Anyway, read the book. It's my all-time business favorite. Reading it was my "ah-ha" moment.

I'm always interested in business books like this-looks very thought-provoking. Thanks for the tip, its on the way to my door.

+1 to the Alan Weiss books. (He has numerous books...)

The one that has made us, literally, hundreds of thousands of dollars is "Million Dollar Consulting".

A good first book would be "Getting Started in Consulting", although a lot of the material is common between the both books.

In the 12+ years since I bought his books just about everything he said has come true.

(Note: I did not find his writing style arrogant. It is, however, very straightforward and honest. There is no-self deprecation. Most struggling consultants would do well to adopt his attitude.) 

 
Six is having problems adjusting to his clone status.

Smokystache

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2017, 09:36:12 AM »
My latest, favorite consulting book (as in, I finished it and then started reading it again immediately because I knew that I needed to really absorb this!) is the Irresistible Consultant's Guide to Winning Clients by David A. Fields.

6 step process from beginning to end and lots of additional information and sample documents on his website. This was especially helpful for me  (as an academic) to constantly avoid the trap of "I'm pretty sharp, I can figure out the products and services that they will pay for". He really emphasizes taking the customers perspective and reminding consultants that you need to focus on:
a) urgent and expensive problems,
b) experienced by clients who have the resources to pay for solutions, and
c) how to get yourself connected with those clients

He uses value-based fees and talks about ways to structure the offers to ease client concerns and increase acceptance.

I think he takes some of Weiss's concepts about not rushing to provide a proposal, but really investigating what the clients needs/concerns are and he really breaks this down (although I haven't read all of Weiss's books and he may cover this in more detail somewhere else).

Some of these topics may be second nature to experienced folks, but it really helped has helped this newbie.

LPG

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2017, 04:49:27 PM »
Hey guys,

Wanted to chime in that I am loving this thread! I'm currently a salaried employee in a consulting company, fully planning on working independently as a consultant in the next few years. Reading through these posts gave me a fresh list of books to read, that will certainly be valuable as I prepare to make the transition.

Here's my 2c on the original questions:

Useful training

Graduate school in energy efficient building design, and several years in the field are what's giving me the chance to consider this path. I started working to bring in my own projects about a year ago, and discovered that people were excited to work with me based on reputation alone. This is a long winded way of saying that if you want to work as a knowledge expert, get whatever training you need to be a knowledge expert.

Emotional intelligence, team building, leadership subjects.
-As far as I can tell, consulting is 25% about what you can do, and 75% about whether or not people like working with you. I found Emotional Intelligence 2.0 useful for that, though it can basically be summarized with the lines "Don't be a jerk, and be aware enough to see when you're accidentally being a jerk."
-A lot of my consulting work is done in collaboration with other researchers. In those situations, I'm the proposal writer which makes me the de facto leader of the projects. Understanding how to keep people happy and engaged, and how to manage projects effectively makes my life a lot easier. For that, I really enjoyed reading Harvard Business Review's 10 Must Reads for New Managers. It's a serious of 10 articles meant to help out specialists making the transition to management, and covers a lot of topics around the more inter-personal side of work life.

First Clients

Answering this one is a bit weird since I'm still an employee rather than being out on my own, but so far my clients have all come from previous work relationships. My main client is an organization that has done work with my company previously. I showed up, we formed a good relationship, now I pitch projects to them when I have an idea and they approach me when they have questions they need answered. Other clients came from attending conferences. I listen to presentations, hear what people have done and the challenges/limitations remaining in their work, and approach them if I think I can offer a solution. Since I've been in the residential hot water energy efficiency industry for a few years now, it's never weird. I can approach them as a known face & name with a reputation for collaborating, rather than being some weird person coming up and seeking money.

First Partners

In a similar vein, it's valuable to think about how we found our first collaborators! Things are often much harder independently, after all.

I found my main partner similarly to my first client; I started at this job, and was assigned a project studying a new energy efficiency technology (Drain water heat recovery for the nerds in the thread). I was in charge of test plan development, data analysis, and algorithm development. I was collaborating with somebody else who was in charge of laboratory testing. Turns out, that we got along splendidly and now collaborate on as many projects as we can.

Big ah-ha moment

I'd mention three:

1. When I realized that the independent consultant work flow is more flexible, which fits my need for variety in life (Sitting at the same desk, surrounded by the same people, for the same 40 hr each week is torture for me).
2. When I brought in over twice my salary in consulting projects, convincing me that I absolutely, 100% can do it when I decide to take the leap.
3. Several years ago, when I read Tim Ferris's The Four Hour Work Week. I have a lot of qualms about some of the specific things he did in that book, the the concept of working faster, smarter, and harder to get your work done in fewer hours really hit home for me. This was when I knew I had to go independent some day; in that case, finishing your work faster is rewarded with more time to pursue your interests, and isn't that what FIRE is all about?

Heroes821

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #18 on: June 29, 2017, 08:20:51 AM »
Useful training

Mostly IT military background and my job before consulting/entrepreneurship.

First Client

My first client was and currently is my previous employer that laid off/downsized more people than they should of and immediately hired back several employees as 1099.  I formed an LLC first and contracted my company to them instead of just myself.

Big ah-ha moment

I'm not sure I've had this yet.  I'm still awaiting confirmation that my gig will continue 1 more year, then after that we'll see how it goes.  I really enjoy running my own benefits and dealing with tax withholding etc.  I think its having the control over all of that that I enjoy the most so far.


oldtoyota

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #19 on: August 20, 2017, 07:57:58 PM »


I think he takes some of Weiss's concepts about not rushing to provide a proposal, but really investigating what the clients needs/concerns are and he really breaks this down (although I haven't read all of Weiss's books and he may cover this in more detail somewhere else).


What you say above is key to success. When I dive in deep with people, the process goes much better. I avoid proposals at all costs, though, and aim to provide estimates instead. I want this part not to be about price so much as the results and the investment in those results.

FIREby35

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #20 on: August 21, 2017, 06:57:19 AM »


I think he takes some of Weiss's concepts about not rushing to provide a proposal, but really investigating what the clients needs/concerns are and he really breaks this down (although I haven't read all of Weiss's books and he may cover this in more detail somewhere else).


What you say above is key to success. When I dive in deep with people, the process goes much better. I avoid proposals at all costs, though, and aim to provide estimates instead. I want this part not to be about price so much as the results and the investment in those results.

I just interviewed a bunch of digital marketing consultants. More than a few sent a proposal over the phone before even asking what our business was about. Unsurprisingly, we hired the company that had a couple of meetings with us about what we were trying to accomplish, the process they would use and then the cost.

Smokystache

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #21 on: August 21, 2017, 07:05:31 AM »


I think he takes some of Weiss's concepts about not rushing to provide a proposal, but really investigating what the clients needs/concerns are and he really breaks this down (although I haven't read all of Weiss's books and he may cover this in more detail somewhere else).


What you say above is key to success. When I dive in deep with people, the process goes much better. I avoid proposals at all costs, though, and aim to provide estimates instead. I want this part not to be about price so much as the results and the investment in those results.

I just interviewed a bunch of digital marketing consultants. More than a few sent a proposal over the phone before even asking what our business was about. Unsurprisingly, we hired the company that had a couple of meetings with us about what we were trying to accomplish, the process they would use and then the cost.

I agree - I keep coming back to those concepts.
- Establish a relationship and discover their real needs
- create some rough ideas and check back in
- create a formal proposal that incorporates their ideas, needs, and calms their fears
- provide a couple of options OR a main option with a few optional add-on services

It really makes my fees seem like an afterthought to them. By the end of the process, they know they are getting value and they've even discovered/clarified what they need and what they're concerned about.

vivienneme

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Re: Business Owners + Consultants Unite!
« Reply #22 on: October 07, 2017, 07:35:13 AM »
As an aside, I've found The Irresistible Consultant's Guide to Winning Clients by David A. Fields to be invaluable. I've just finished reading it for the 2nd time in a month. It really changed my view of how to approach clients - and most importantly, what projects I try to tackle. The title is a little hokey and he has a very conversational style, but I've found the information to be right on the money.

Thanks for the book recommendation! I'll definitely check this one out. This is my first month on my own as a consultant, and I've got three potential clients in the works. I feel so fortunate - and am definitely feeling some imposter syndrome. I'm looking forward to learning more from this thread!