Monthly Archives: August 2014

How To Start a Consulting Business

Article by Belinda Fuller

How To Start a Consulting BusinessStarting any business can be daunting but with the use of consultants by more and more companies in Australia, it can be a rewarding and lucrative path. According to the dictionary, Consultants are people who provide expert advice professionally. But being an expert doesn’t guarantee you the work.

As a consultant you need to find your own clients directly, or sub-contract to a larger company that provides the same services as you do. Typically you will need to have multiple clients which means working with a broad range of people and personalities – perhaps with a requirement to suit specific needs of individual clients. So what should you consider before starting?

Legality: Depending on your area of specialisation, there may be certain requirements. These could include certifications, legal or insurance requirements. There are also tax rules around working as a consultant. Research all the legal requirements before you start and engage a lawyer and/or accountant to make sure your business complies with relevant regulations.

Qualifications: Do you need any special qualifications to provide your expert advice? This can be the case in the financial and other regulated industries so find out before you get started. You should also look at industry accreditations or professional memberships as a way of establishing credibility and keeping up to date with what’s going on in your industry.

Lifestyle: Is your lifestyle ready for this change? How organised are you? If you’ve been working in a large organisation, it may be a shock to the system to suddenly be in charge of everything from fixing your email glitches to paying the bills (and making sure the money is coming in). You also don’t get paid for any time off any more – no sick leave, no annual leave and no superannuation. Consider whether your personality and lifestyle can cope with these factors.

Target Market: The best services in the world are no good to anyone if there is no market for them. Work out who is going to pay you for your expertise. Is it individuals, small companies, large organisations, or global corporates? Decide whether the target market that is accessible to you is viable. This might not be a major consideration if your services can be offered online, however if you need to provide a face to face service, this step is vital before you do anything else.

Uniqueness: What is it about your consulting services that will make you stand out? What can you provide your clients that other consultants or organisations cannot? As a consultant, you need to be able to articulate very clearly – both verbally and in writing – why someone would use your services. This includes developing collateral such as websites and brochures as well as deciding on your core offer and messaging.

Company Structure: You may want to start small – with just you in a home-based office. Check your own local laws about operating a business from a domestic location, but think about your structure up front. Are you going to hire staff down the track? If so where will they work and what will they do? Can you hire someone to do the administration work while you provide the specialist expertise or would you rather hire another ‘specialist’?

Networking: Networking is key to success as a small business owner. As a consultant it is even more important. You need to make sure you have a consistent flow of work – for that to happen, you should build and maintain relationships with current and potential clients.

Billing: Decide on your rates and stick to them. Be careful of charging too little because your business won’t be viable longer term, but likewise if you charge too much, you may not attract any clients. Finding the perfect middle ground can be difficult but one way to decide is to research what your competitors are charging and base your decision around being competitive. Make sure you are comparing ‘apples with apples’. Don’t forget to consider your expenses and if you are going to incur any additional expenses during the course of a project, provide your client with an estimate up front so they are prepared. Consider charging prior to commencing the work or in instalments if projects are going to be lengthy. Alternatively, specify time-frames for work completion with the clients so you’re not waiting for months to get paid. Determine all of this before you start so you can explain your terms of business up front to new clients.

Are you thinking about starting a consulting business but not sure where to start? Are you worried your personality may not be suited to consulting?

If you would like personalised help from a Career Coach to evaluate your options, please see our Career Counselling and Coaching Services which can be provided over the phone or in person in locations across Australia.

10 Tips for Work Life Balance

Article by Belinda Fuller

10 Tips for Work Life BalanceWork is an essential part of life that many people feel drained by. If you are not consistently challenged and energised, it may be time to think about a change. If you think you just need more balance in your life, you may be able to achieve it by altering a few simple things.

If you run your own business, you’ll know it provides the flexibility to work your own hours, but often we end up working harder and longer than ever before. Finding a balance between work and life can be challenging and the perfect situation is different for everyone, however with a little effort, it can be done! Here are some general tips to get you started:

TIP # 1 – Decide what’s important to you. Working less doesn’t mean better work life balance for everyone. So long as you are happy with the amount of time you dedicate to each part of your life, you’ve probably achieved your best version of work life balance. Decide on your priorities. What would you like to do more (or less) of? Think about what you need to focus on and try to eliminate the stuff that doesn’t really contribute to that.

TIP # 2 – Establish working hours. Set boundaries for yourself and others. If you work from home, try to walk away from your office space at a set time every day. And if you work in an office – try not to take work home unnecessarily. Of course, unplanned events do occur but finishing up at a set time every day to spend planned time with family or friends is a good idea. Likewise, make sure friends and family know not to interrupt you at work unless it’s an emergency. For most people, it would take a big personal emergency to reschedule something important for work. Give your personal time the same respect and try not to ‘reschedule’ it unless absolutely necessary.

TIP # 3 – Switch off your phone, your laptop, and your tablet – anything that’s keeping you connected to work so you can spend time doing whatever it is you would like to do. If you’re spending time with your family or partner this is especially important. We need time to focus on personal relationships. Even if you just switch off for an hour or a meal, try to do this every day. Turning off technology allows us to give people our undivided attention for short periods of time which goes a long way towards improving work life balance.

TIP # 4 – Track Your Time. Not all the time, but try it for just a few days. Tracking how much time is spent on tasks opens our eyes to opportunities for time savings. Then eliminate things that aren’t productive, delegate where you can or consolidate – often we do things without actually thinking about whether it’s 100% necessary.

TIP # 5 – Try to schedule ‘time off’. This includes holidays and weekends. At a minimum you should try to schedule two weeks off each year and try not to work on weekends. This doesn’t mean you need to book an expensive holiday. Some of the best holidays I’ve had have been ‘staycations’. Stay at home and enjoy what your local area has to offer. We often get so caught up in our day to day work that we miss all the fun stuff right under our noses. Time off helps you feel refreshed and recharged and will contribute to you achieving your best levels of productivity.

TIP # 6 – Schedule something enjoyable every day. For me that’s exercise most days. If that’s not for you, schedule something else you enjoy doing. Even if it’s just a quick walk or coffee catch up with a friend or colleague, some gardening, cooking, pottering in your workshop, or reading a book. It could simply be some quiet time to yourself doing nothing – it certainly doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming.

TIP # 7 – Look after yourself. Not eating well, getting enough sleep, keeping hydrated and making sure you get enough exercise are all factors that affect your ability to achieve work life balance. Getting good nutrition and exercise will help you feel happier and achieve higher levels of productivity in the longer term.

TIP # 8 – Don’t sit still. Aim to get up from your desk at least every two hours. Try to do it before your concentration wanes and your attention flags. Get up, have a stretch, grab a glass of water, take a quick walk around the block for some fresh air – just do something that gives you a break from working and clears your head for the next task.

TIP # 9 – Say no! You don’t need to be ‘available’ for work all the time and you don’t have to say YES to everything. Learn to say NO sometimes and feel more in control.

TIP # 10 – Consider a change. If your job is so stressful and draining that you can’t change the way you’re feeling about balance, it might be time to start thinking about a career move.

Studies show that a poor work-life balance can cause stress, unhappiness, and reduced productivity. Implement some (or all) of our tips and start working to live instead of living to work today.

If you would like personalised help from a Career Coach to evaluate alternative career options to achieve a better work life balance, please see our Career Counselling and Coaching Services.

Dress for Success

Article by Belinda Fuller

Dress For SuccessWhat you wear to work varies significantly these days and has changed considerably since the days when females could not wear pants (with mandatory stockings and no bare legs even in the height of summer) and males had to wear a tie and jacket. Many companies even enforced the jacket rule just to leave the building for lunch!

While business attire has certainly relaxed, whether you’re searching for employment or not – paying attention to what you wear is essential. Of course, it’s especially important during an interview, but can also help you get ahead in your current role.

So what are the rules…….. ?

If you’re preparing for an interview, find out what the company’s dress code is – then dress slightly smarter than that to show you’re keen and you’ve made an effort. You don’t however want to appear over dressed and uncomfortable. If you’re going for an interview in a very casual environment and you turn up in a suit and tie, you may not feel comfortable and confident and that could jeopardise your chances. Instead, wear something smart – for example, a smart pair of trousers and open neck shirt (for males) or a smart dress or skirt and top (for females). We don’t recommend wearing denim or t-shirts, and certainly no thongs or runners.

Building a wardrobe of smart clothes can be expensive. If you’re new to the office environment, you can start from scratch and build your wardrobe with classic basics that will last for years to come. If you’ve got budget constraints and can’t afford to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, just start small and begin to build a wardrobe that will make you feel great.

  • Focus on classic basics and stick to colours that will not go out of fashion.
  • Consider price vs quality – in some cases price determines quality however there are many chain stores that offer great quality pieces at lower prices. Do some research on brands you like and subscribe to their emails – that way you’ll be first to hear about sales. Care for your clothes – dry clean or hand wash when required – read labels and follow the instructions.
  • Spruce up your basics with a few fashion items each season – scarves, jewellery, a colourful top for women; or ties and less expensive shirts for men.
  • Make sure your clothes fit well. No matter how expensive clothes are, if they don’t fit they can look cheap. If necessary, invest in alterations to make all the difference.
  • Avoid man-made fibres – again check labels and where possible, opt for natural fabrics such as wool, cotton, linen, and silk – avoid polyester which will wear quicker and may look cheap to start with.
  • Choose clothing that coordinates and can be worn in different seasons. This doesn’t mean sticking to all black or one solid colour, but try to select pieces (especially the more expensive basics) that coordinate. The website ‘Pinterest’ is great for inspirational ideas on wardrobe basics that mix and match to make several outfits.

It’s not just your clothes that need attention, there are other things you can do to ensure you look professional and well put together. Some suggestions for women include:

  • Moderate shoes, not 15cm spike heels
  • Limited jewellery – stick to smaller, more conservative pieces
  • Neat, professional hair
  • A little make-up & light perfume
  • Manicured nails

And for men:

  • Dark socks
  • Professional shoes that are clean and polished
  • Limited jewellery
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • Not too much aftershave
  • Neatly trimmed nails

Whether you’re looking for a new role, or just hoping to get ahead, a little bit of effort goes a long way. That may mean dressing a little more conservatively than when you’re heading out for a night on the town. Regardless of whether you are dressing for a job interview or you already have a job, appearances can help you get ahead. Employers may think less of you if you consistently dress inappropriately and first impressions are very important in an interview.