How to Hire a Consultant

There are many experts out there who want to share their knowledge with you. Hiring a consultant for your business may be a good idea, but don't pick up the phone just yet. Here are things you'll want to do to get the most out of the experience.

It seems like everyone’s an expert on something and maybe one of those experts can help you build your business. Here are eight steps to hiring a consultant and getting good value for your money.

1. Identify where you want to grow. To find the right consultant for you, you need to get to the root of the issue. Hiring an SEO consultant because you think you need to build up your website’s Search Engine Optimization may not be a good idea for your new business. SEO is not necessarily the goal you want to achieve at this stage in the game. Building up your customer base is, however. When you think about it like that, it might make more sense to hire a consultant who can give you an over-all picture of how to grow your customer list. They may make SEO suggestions for your website, but they might also have some other ideas to develop your business as well.

2. List what you already know. Once you get to the root issue, list what you already know you should be doing (even if you don’t know how). In the building a customer list example, you might know that you need to develop an effective advertising campaign, build up your website’s SEO, and try to generate more referral business. Admittedly, you’re not going to come up with a huge list of ideas, but this is a good place to start. List them in columns across the top of your page, like this:

Building a customer base
Advertising Campaign SEO Improve referral business

3. Identify the gaps in your knowledge. Once you have a list of the issues you want to explore in greater depth, do a little leg-work first. If you have some experience in the areas you have listed, start to create an action plan for each of the areas you’ve identified as helping to improve that root issue. Like this:

Building a customer base
Advertising Campaign SEO Improve referral business
1. Create a brouchre
2. Develop an email campaign
3. Improve business cards

4. Do your own research first! Now you should have a list of things you’d like to explore to help improve that root issue. Some of those things will have your own experience and the beginning of the action plan. Others will be completely blank. Do a little research for each of the column headings so that you know more about what opportunities are out there. From this research, you may end up developing more steps for an action plan. Fill in the gaps as much as possible. After all, consultants aren’t cheap, so don’t let them do the work you already know needs to be done. Pay them to do some advanced level thinking. At this point, you should have a fair amount of detail in most columns. It may not include action plans for each one, but it should include some research notes, at least.

5. Now it’s time to call the consultant. Don’t call the first consultant you find in the phone book. Spend some time searching for a few consultants who specialize in the root issue you are trying to address. Ask for bids from each one and make sure the bids are detailed and include a timeline and estimated cost. Be sure to ask for a detailed cost breakdown, not just a blanket cost. You’ll want to pay particular attention to the possible reasons that you might get a bill for more than you were expecting. Ask for a portfolio or links to other businesses they’ve helped. Ask for references and be sure to follow up with one or two of them. Finally, don’t go for the cheapest bid, try to assess who is going to give you the best value and hire them.

6. Before they show up send them the information and action plans you have already started in the earlier steps. When they get to your office (or call you for an initial phone interview), have a detailed outline of what you want to cover and the amount of time you need to cover it in. This is especially important if you are paying a consultant by the hour.

7. Be willing to change your mind on some of your ideas, if necessary. Consultants provide advice but it’s only worthwhile if it is followed.

8. Be a good client. Pay on time. If you are happy with their work, tell your business-owning peers; then be sure to let your consultant know that you have been referring them to others.

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