What’s the saying… If you fail to plan you plan to fail?

While there is some debate on the origin of the phrase, there’s no doubt about the truth of the statement – especially when it comes to running an online consulting business.

If you don’t plan for your business’ success, you’re planning for it to tank.

Yes, running a successful online consulting agency is about talent and skill – maybe even a skill that you’re naturally good at – but talent and skill alone will NOT make you a success.

You need a plan. Specifically, you need a BUSINESS plan.

Wait! Stop! Before you freak out and hit the “back” button in your browser or try to leave my site by Googling “Is Tiger King real?” in your search bar, stop for a minute and consider what I’m saying.

If you want an online consulting business, one that actually MAKES you money, you NEED to make a plan!

Don’t procrastinate. Don’t put it off any longer. Start somewhere! Start right now! Let me help!

Here are 3 simple steps to making a starter business plan for your online consulting business!

Step 1. Write down where you want your business to be in yearly intervals.

Be specific. “I want to be rich in 3 years” won’t cut it.

Separate your goals into three goal categories: monetary-based, structure/product-based, people/reach-based. You need to do this for the next 2-5 years. Seem daunting? Do it anyway. If you want a business, you gotta think long term, because success comes from sticking with it for the long-term.

For example, a new creative strategy consultant might have the following goals broken up by category:

  • Monetary goal: “In three years, I want to have $10,000 in revenue from my business every month;”
  • Structure/product goal: “In two years, I want to expand my services to include communications and marketing;”
  • People/reach goal: “In one year, I want to have 5 customers per month.”

Why should you break your online consulting business goals down this way?

At their essence, these are the most essential parts of business:

  • Money – without it you’re just a starving artist.
  • Product – what are you offering? How can you improve it? How can you better meet the needs of the market?
  • People – if people don’t know about your business, you don’t have one. See starving artist reference.

Step 2. Put your goals on a calendar and work backward to today, by breaking down your goals into smaller steps.

Break them down into three-month interval goals so that you have specific goals every quarter. You’ll also need to consider how your goals relate to each other. At this point you may discover that you need to increase your timeline or increase your productivity in order to reach some goals. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments.

For example, our lovely creative consultant realizes that in order to reach $10,000 per month, she needs to sell X amount of products to Y amount of people, which means she’ll probably need to reach Y-cubed amount of people. And right now, she’s just starting out.

Seem overwhelming? It is! And that’s fine. This is why it’s important to break your goals down into measurable, yummy little bite-sized portions so you can easily digest them.

You can do it!

Our little creative consultant can too! She determines that for the next three years, she needs to solidly connect with 20 people a month to tell them about her business, while actively seeking to maintain previous relationships she nurtured.

How does she do this? Well, my dears, you’re getting ahead of me, but read on.

Step 3. For each 3 month goal make daily, weekly and monthly actionable steps.

Break down ways to actually reach your goals! Really, break them into tasks you can accomplish.

For example, our hard-working, ambitious creative consultant decides that in order to produce 20 “solid” contacts a month, she’ll need to reach a lot more than that.

She makes the following actionable steps, for example:

  • Connect with five people/businesses every day via three separate social networking streams. (that’s 15 connections a day)
  • Send an email to 10 businesses a week about her company.
  • Contact five complementary businesses a month to build relationships (Our brainstorming consultant figures if she can connect with a PR agency or website designed, she could build relationships with their client base.)
  • Outside of regular business operations, our creative consultant plans to talk to seven additional people a week about her business.

Everyone’s favorite creative consultant also has a website that she updates regularly with pictures of her work and information about her business. She also encourages everyone she speaks to or connects with to sign up for her email newsletter, which she decides to send out every two weeks with specialized content about her craft. This allows her to update people she’s met in the past on what she’s doing – and, in a way, she’s still nurturing those relationships.

Did you write all of this down? You should have. I’m a firm believer that writing down plans and goals is the fastest way to accomplishing them.

Once you’re done with these steps, you’ll have an actionable roadmap away from being a newbie consultant and toward a sustainable business.

And, remember, this is just a start. Your business plan should be a living document that you reference frequently and update as needed.

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