Are you someone who values freedom and wants to be able to work when and how you want?
Do you want to be your own boss instead of answering to other people?
Do you want to increase your earnings and remove time as an income factor, meaning you can earn more but work less?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then read on to learn why becoming a “virtual consultant” could be the perfect occupation for you.
“Virtual consulting” has become an essential part of my business. My life (and my wife) has literally transformed since starting down this career path. This is a blog post I’m really excited to write and I’d like to help as many people as I can to replicate my system and create their own “lifestyle business”.[toc]
What is a “virtual consultant”?
A “virtual consultant” is my term for someone who makes money by selling their expertise through 1-on-1 consulting via the internet. A “virtual consultant” is time, location and financially independent.
A “virtual consultant” is different from a regular consultant in that they can work from anywhere. Their physical presence is not required in order to deliver their service. For example, I work as an “Asana Consultant” and train teams on how to use Asana via Skype. I’ve run these training sessions from home in New Zealand and did it on the road while we were traveling Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan and Sri Lanka. However, someone who works as a Retail Design Consultant likely can’t work remotely if they need to be able to visit a client's retail stores.
For example, virtual workers include Graphic designers, language coaches, software trainers, digital marketers, personal trainers, social media gurus and nutrition experts.
Here's me running a virtual training workshop from New Zealand for a team in San Fransisco via Skype. A lot of clients “beam me in” to their conference rooms so my computer is displayed on the TV and with a conference room camera, it's like I'm in the room!
The benefits of “virtual consulting”
One of the key advantages to working as a “virtual consultant” is that by working virtually you can be much more efficient with your time. For example:
- There’s no commute time between home and an office. You also don’t have to travel to see clients and attend meetings. In fact, I often take calls from home, 10 minutes after waking up. By being more efficient, you can take on more work and increase your overall earnings.
- By working with clients via Skype, you’re forced to be more efficient. I’ve tried both and I don’t know why this is, but Skype sessions always seem to be more productive compared to in-person meetings. Maybe it’s because we’ve agreed on a set duration for the call, whereas it’s easy for physical meetings to run over. This is classic Parkinson’s Law (i.e. work expands to fill the available time); I’ve spent entire days sitting with clients helping them and because we allocate a day, we fill a day with work. But when working virtually and putting constraints on our time, we’re 10X more productive.
- By being more efficient, you can provide better value to clients. With these time efficiencies, you don’t have to charge as much to justify the commutes or in-person meetings, therefore you can deliver more value, at less cost to the client. And let’s not forget, people are busy… if you can take up less of your clients time to deliver your service, this is only a good thing.
- With these time savings, you can take on more work and increase your earnings. I can literally jump from a Skype call with one client straight into another call with a different client. There’s no downtime or commute in between. This efficient use of time means a “virtual consultant” can handle more capacity, meaning more income.
With these time efficiencies, this helps you to increase your “effective hourly rate”. In other words, the equivalent hourly rate you are earning based on time spent working vs. income generated.
Working “virtually” also means you can:
- Work when you want, even across multiple time zones. And because you’re not restricting yourself to serving clients just in your physical area, you can seek out and work with higher value, better quality clients from all over the world. For example, even though I’m in New Zealand, most of my clients are in the United States and I’ve worked with clients in the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia.
- Work where you want, live anywhere or travel the world. In fact, I worked online while simultaneously traveling South East Asia with my wife. I now work in a co-working space in Auckland about 15 minutes from home. We have a stunning view of the Hauraki Gulf and get to walk to work along the beach. Not bad…
- Create the freedom to live on your terms. Meaning more time to spend with family, pursue other projects and hobbies or just kick back and relax.
Here's my wife and I working out of the Dojo coworking space in Bali:
All this is great for you and it’s even better for the clients and companies you get to work with (check out the hidious sweat patch!):
- It’s often more beneficial to work with consultants and freelancers instead of hiring new staff. This is because virtual workers cost less (because you’re not paying for computers, office space or benefits) and there’s less of a fixed commitment compared to employing someone full-time.
- Technology has made it easier than ever to collaborate virtually. With an internet connection and a Skype account, you can share screens and it’s like being in the same room.
- Companies can employ the best talent from around the world, instead of being restricted to their hometown or city. This is compounded when you offer a unique and specialized service. For example, there aren’t many people offering Asana Consulting services like I do. If you’re looking for someone with a specialized skill, you may well not be able to find what you’re looking for in your city alone.
How to become a “virtual consultant”
So, “virtual consulting” is awesome, but how do you actually start?
To help, I have a free “virtual consulting” blueprint and 3-part video series you can sign up for. Or you can check out my How to become a “virtual consultant” program to get the real detailed breakdown.
NOTE: In the HTBAVC program, I share my entire process of finding an idea, getting clients, how to price your service and automate your business.
But, if you want the summarized version, read on…
1. Find (and test) an idea
What is something you can teach to other people? This is probably the hardest part for most people. It’s best to start by brainstorming your current skills and seeing if anything on the list lends itself to “virtual consulting”. Ideally, you also need to identify something that can be used to solve a problem, that people are willing to pay for.
It’s much easier to take a skill you already have and monetize this, instead of trying to learn something new. Generally speaking, it’s also easier to identify something that appeals to businesses (not consumers, or everyday people) as it’s easier to sell to these companies that have higher budgets.
Once you’ve found an idea, you want to start getting feedback from people who need this skill to see if people are willing to part with their hard earned money to learn what you know. When I was getting started, I listed myself as an Asana expert on Clarity.fm to see if anyway needed help with Asana. After taking few paid calls, I was able to validate this idea and prove that people would be willing to pay for this service. That’s when I focussed more of my time on advertising and producing YouTube videos to increase my chances of getting discovered.
2. Get discovered and prompt people to engage in a “discovery call”.
How you get discovered will depend on the skills you’re offering and the places where your target customer hangs out online. For some consultants, this may mean engaging on LinkedIn, for others Facebook ads may be better.
For me, I’ve found great success with Google Adwords (paying to reach people who Google search “asana consulting”) and 2) Making YouTube videos. Even though I give away a tonne of information for free, loads of clients see these videos and decide to reach out to me to help implement the advice. Remember, people are time poor and if you can save people time by lowering their learning curve, this is often well worth paying for.
With all of your outreach efforts, your call to action should be: “Book a free 30-minute introductory call with me”. There’s really no substitute for getting on the phone (or Skype) hearing people out and learning how to help. Some people try to stick to email, but if you want to take this seriously, you’re going to have to get on the phone. Yes, it can be scary, but with practice, it becomes second nature.
3. Give people a high value, low-risk offer
After you’ve had an initial discovery call, it’s time to send someone a proposal outlining the finer details of your service, what you’re going to do and the payment terms.
You want your proposal to communicate:
- High value – In other words, the client should be able to visualise how their business/life will be significantly better as a result of working with you.
- Low risk – Risk could refer to time and financial risk. How can you manage this risk making it easier for the client to sign up and say “yes” to working with you?
One of the best ways to achieve these two things is in your pricing. When it comes to billing, most people opt for charging an hourly rate. But hourly billing actually encourages inefficiency. This often results in mistrust and increases the risk for the client.
It’s much better (for everyone) to charge a fixed price and provide rock-solid guarantees and after sale support. I always include 30 days of complimentary support, so even after I’m done with a project, the client has access to me as much as needed to resolve any issues or ask questions.
4. Close the sale and do the work
Finally, after you’ve sent your proposal, followed up, received a commitment and payment, you can do the work.
This part is on you and how you deliver your service will largely depend on your industry and the type of work you do.
When working with clients, there are a few rules that apply to any type of consulting:
- Maintain excellent communication – You never want the client to be left in the dark or to have to follow up with you to find out what’s going on. Take the lead in all communication. This also helps to maintain project momentum so you don’t take longer than needed for any particular client.
- Do what it takes to make the client happy – Sometimes this means going above and beyond what was agreed, but it’s worth it when you have nothing but happy clients who refer you more work. Not to mention the headache that can ensue if you underdeliver and disappoint clients. Do a good job and keep everyone happy.
- Make life easy (for everyone) – Use services like Calendly for booking phone calls (there’s nothing worse than a back and forth email chain to schedule a call). Use Zapier to automate your processes. Record all calls to share with your client (even if they didn’t ask for it). Summarise every call with an email follow up. Work smart to save time and deliver more value.
So there you have it. I hope that gives you a bit of an insight into the world of “virtual consulting” and how to get started. If you have any questions, please leave me a comment below!