How not to completely fail as a digital consultant

It’s 10pm on a Wednesday evening and your phone starts buzzing. No, it’s not one of your friends sending a nice and cheesy “Sleep tight!” text that will make you smile. It’s the owner of the new business that you’ve taken up as a digital consultant.

You know the best choice right now would be to ignore that message because it’s too late, because it’s not the way you agreed to communicate and because you have other, better things to do. But you still read it. And now, you have to answer it, because you think it would be rude to simply ignore it.

Been there? No worries, there are a few steps you can take to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Almost everyone trying to start a consultancy business has been through something similar, you are not the only one and you definitely won’t be the last one.

But what do you do to avoid these midnight texts and calls, that in most of the cases are some questions about metrics that your clients don’t understand and think that you’ve started wasting their money.

Listen and understand the people you’ll be working with

The first and most important step when trying to take up a new client, is listening to their needs, their knowledge and their ideas. Act like you do with your performance campaigns and don’t assume anything. Ask questions and learn about them, their business and the people you are going to be in touch with.

You might find yourself in lots of different situations, but the average client persona can be summed up into these three types:

  • Those who understand the digital landscape and all the work that goes into it
  • Those who know a thing or two about digital but do not have the entire overview
  • Those who just had a revelation and found out from some friends that the key to success is having your business online

If you’re just starting as a digital consultant, chances are that you will bump into the last two types. Listen and understand your future client and try to discover in which of those three types they fit.

I’m here to prepare you for the last one of them, because even if you’re experienced in digital marketing after working for an agency or a corporation, nothing can prepare you for handling these clients all by yourself.

Start off by educating your new clients

You’ve taken that new client that doesn’t quite get what digital means or does and you’re willing to help. You would really like to make a difference in their business and also enjoy working with them while at it. But how do you start?

The second step to a long and fulfilling collaboration is educating your client. Make them understand what you are actually doing for their business, show them some examples of campaigns that you think of rolling out, go meet them face to face and answer all their questions. It’s their business, it’s their money and it’s you who they have placed their faith in to invest it wisely and bring in more clients or opportunities.

Trust comes with responsibility and you should be aware of that. Also, keep in mind that your client may want to know at first how every cent was spent and what it’s ROI was and you should be prepared for this.

He’ll find out more about digital as times goes by so don’t over-promise, otherwise in the future, you will not be able to explain why campaigns did not perform as well as you said.

Set boundaries and respect them

At first you’ll tell yourself that you’ll never answer phone calls after 6pm, never talk with your clients on anything else but email or the regular video calls. But there goes the first week and your client calls you at 8pm on Friday asking why aren’t some campaign delivering, or why is the CPC so high, although you’ve just pressed “Publish.”

Setting boundaries is very important when starting up with a new client. Respecting those boundaries is even more important.

A lot of your clients will start calling after-hours or will start DM-ing you via Twitter or WhatsApp at 9pm just to ask for some random info about those cool visuals or campaign you are planning.

If you have already setup a schedule for your communication, don’t answer until the next day. Otherwise, if you’ve done this once, your client will realize you are willing to bend the rules and will continue texting you in the middle of the night or whenever insomnia strikes. You don’t want that, do you?

Set some weekly or monthly reports delivery days, where you’ll show them everything you have worked on and the results. Explain everything to them during those sessions, ask them for all the things you need to do your job then and answer all their questions in detail. Make sure the rest of your time is spent actually working, not answering questions.

Keep in mind that that setting these boundaries is as important for your business as is for your peace of mind. Take your spouse to dinner and forget about CPCs, CTRs and other WTFs.

Make sure you deliver

If you don’t deliver, nothing will get you out of the hurricane of phone calls and text messages demanding explanations.

Remember what I told you earlier about over-promising? Well, doing that will get you to this point, after you led the client to believe he will be so successful that he even hired someone new to be handle all the extra workload. But his store is as empty as it was before. Who do you think he’s going to call?

That’s right, you! Because in all your effort to sign and educate them, you started throwing out all those high numbers to impress but you never reached any of them.

In the end, it’s you that is accountable for this, and remember that starting with a new client has its benefits and you should take advantage of them by promising only what you can deliver.

Work with a clear goal in mind, don’t over-promise, set boundaries and communicate efficiently. Not just with your clients, but with everyone you meet, and your new consultancy business will start winning.

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