A member of my mastermind asked me a question the other day, and it made me really think. I’ve been making a lot of changes lately, starting a few projects, and one major thing that always makes me stop and thing is the level of effort that it takes to get something off the ground. This is especially true for something like a consultancy, which is what I’d like to demonstrate here.
What would it take to setup a website that allows people to: buy consultation sessions, schedule them online, pay online, and send / receive private messages through the site?
The Level of Effort Answer
On it’s face the question doesn’t seem like it’s asking very much, until the very last line: “through the site.” Let me start there.
I don’t think this is something you’d want to do through the site. First off, you’re marketing yourself as a consultant. Consulting is, by and large, a very personal business. You should, at worst, capture their email address and email them directly. There’s just something impersonal about sending private messages on a website. Now, you could get around that by opening the site as a community, but at that point you’re building a social network around your brand, and not a consultancy.
Nothing wrong with that, it’s just a different business model.
If you want to keep it as a consultancy, I would focus more on capturing email address during the scheduling process.
Level of Effort
- MailChimp Setup: 1 hour
- Manually replying: Variable, in the nature of .25 to 1 hour per email, depending on complexity.
Buy and Schedule Consultation Sessions
When you get into consulting, especially if you are doing it while not working elsewhere, there is this inherent desire to take on whatever walks through your door. This can work to build a portfolio, but it can also hurt you long term. As a consultant, your job starts before you start getting paid. I firmly believe as a business technology consultant that my #1 job for my clients is to tell them when I’m not right for them. I can’t do that by automating, or opening a self-serve portal, for my schedule.
What you could do is put a public facing appointment calendar up, which will allow people to schedule a getting to know each other session. This session should be about 30 minutes, and for my consultancy it’s at no cost. This is where you will discuss what the potential client wants to get out of working with you. You should dig deep, because generally clients don’t know off hand what their main problem is. It is our job to dig that out for them.
Level of Effort
- Putting Site Up: 5 to 8 hours
- Implementing Calendar Plugin: .5 hours
- Getting to Know Each Other Sessions: .5 hours each
Paying online used to be a difficult process, but these days it has become somewhat standardized. You can use PayPal, WePay, your options are practically endless these days. If you’re technically savvy, you can even work with a payment processor and accept payments on your own website, direct into your bank account. Personally, I use And Co which was specially designed for freelancers. It allows you to set clients up in the platform, and invoice them through their email. It also ties directly into tracking your expenses and income, so you can take care of all of that right there. Plus, up to a certain amount of usage, it is free. Beyond that it costs a nominal fee, which if you ever get to the point where you have to pay, you should be able to afford it.
Level of Effort
- PayPal: 3 hours
- WePay: 3 hours
- And Co: 1 hour (it was surprisingly easy to setup)
I think the question itself betrays some rocky start to the business, but that the sentiment is on the right track. It’s simply a matter of technology at this point. Technology should not be used to avoid a perceived problem, it should be used to enhance a found solution.
Now, if you were to offer digital, or even physical, products beside your consulting offerings, I think a web store is precisely what you want to do. The level of effort for that would be as simple as installing WooCommerce and setting it up (about 3 hours for someone versed in it, maybe 10 for someone new to it.) This can also help you to capture some of the sales that might not have become consulting clients, as all they wanted was a simple solution to a problem.
I’d like to leave you with a last bit of advice, but I’d also like to call on you to leave a comment with your response to this advice, good or bad. Let’s get a discussion going.
If you ever solve a problem more than once, systematize that solution, and offer it as a product. Otherwise you are duplicating effort, and duplicating effort is never a good idea.