From Professor to
Q: I hope to combine 10 years of
college teaching experience in the areas of interpersonal skills and
communications with my interest in training to move into the field
of image consulting. I am comfortable with my credentials and
previous experience but lack direction and information on the best
way to market my consulting services nationally. I would appreciate
any suggestions and guidance you can offer.
A: Before attempting to market your
services nationally, polish your material and presentation on a
local level. Just like the comedians who work their way up to the
Tonight show, people in training and development need to build their
“acts” before they break into the big time.
Starting a service business is
relatively inexpensive, but you will need to spend money on business
cards, letterhead, a high-speed phone and data line, website and
answering service. If you plan to work with individual clients,
you'll probably prefer seeing them in an office rather than your
home. Some executive suites offer office and conference space,
Wi-Fi, mail collection, typing and answering services for one
overall fee per month. As an image consultant, you must present
yourself as someone who understands the importance of looking
professional in a business environment and on-line. Creating this
image is a critical part of your marketing plan.
Generally, your resume will suffice in
lieu of a brochure at the beginning. Wait to develop your marketing
literature until you have a solid idea of the programs and services
basic to your business. These often change dramatically in the
first year, rendering obsolete your expensive brochures describing
Every business should have a website,
which has the potential to build your credibility and visibility
around the world. Few people have the knowledge of search engine
optimization, programming and graphic design to develop a website
themselves. Working with a recommended pro will cost money, but so
do those Dana Buchman outfits you wear to impress potential clients.
They are both investments in building your image.
Also develop a following on Facebook,
Linked-in, and Twitter and consider blogging. Update your comments
at least once per week. Set up links with other websites or blogs
you and your readers will find useful.
To mix with other career communicators
and trainers, consider joining the International Association of
Business Communicators, Women in Communications, the American
Society for Training and Development, or your local professional
speakers association. Their members may become clients or
colleagues who can provide you with business contacts.
Develop several “meaty” speeches to
present at monthly meetings of professional organizations. Ask
someone to recommend you. Contact your library or Chamber of
Commerce for names of groups in your target audience. Send letters
to their presidents or program chairs; they are always looking for
good speakers. For best results, follow up by phone. Your personal
contact undoubtedly will be more effective than a letter alone. Be
prepared to speak for free at the beginning, until your reputation
commands a fee.
Put together an adult education program
that colleges and universities can offer in their continuing
education catalogs. Usually they have many excellent seminars
taught by real-world consultants who appreciate the increased
visibility. Your former college would be an excellent candidate for
your first non-credit course in person or on-line.
Writing a column about image and how to
improve it can also build your audience. Using your own blog or
making comments on well-known websites and blogs would be good
places to start. If you take this approach, write regularly to build
your audience. While it may be difficult to get space in a large
daily newspaper, weekly papers and tabloids often need good copy.
Once you're established locally, contact
the American Management Association, the American Institute of
Banking, or the traveling continuing education branches of
universities to serve on their part-time consulting faculty. They
will advertise your courses and possibly send you around the country