How I Got Started As A Community Consultant
This is a little outside of my usual talking points here on All-Things-Community, but I hope this info is valuable and helpful to anyone considering this as a side business or career path! Be sure to read all the way through for a special limited-time offer from my friends at Consulting Success.
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Here are the questions I’m usually asked about community consulting:
What made you want to get into consulting?
Technically, my very first consulting job was many years ago when I was living in Tampa. I took a side job helping a friend who had started her own inbound marketing business. At the time, my primary reason for taking a side job was to gain exposure to inbound marketing practices. Fast forward many years, and I was able to refine and improve on those skills when I accepted a corporate consulting job with Salesforce in 2013. I guess I never sought out consulting specifically, more-so, it found me. Once it did, I realized I’d fallen into an exhilarating career path and I’ve never looked back.
How did you get started with your own practice?
Back in 2015, I decided to try going out on my own. I had quit my job at Salesforce and given myself a 3-month sabbatical. Then, I dove right into contract work without giving serious thought to a business plan or long-term goals. It’s not surprising that I failed in that endeavor. That’s when I re-entered corporate world and joined Lithium Technologies, which became Khoros. I loved every minute working at Khoros, but I couldn’t shake this thought in my mind wondering “If I tried to go out on my own again, could I make it work this time?” I decided to take that leap in Spring 2021, but THIS TIME I WAS PREPARED. I took the time to create a thoroughly detailed business plan. I invested in myself by purchasing a spot in an on-demand course for beginner consultants. (Scroll down to Resources for more info on this plus a special deal for All-Things-Community readers.) I left Khoros on good terms and without taking any of my clients with me. It was important to me to keep a good relationship with Khoros, because I had hopes we’d be able to work together again in the future, and I still had (and have) the utmost respect for the company. In June 2021, I was ready to launch, and my business was truly starting from scratch.
What do you like best about working for yourself?
I LOVE the creative freedom! If I have an idea I want to implement, or something I want to try with clients, it’s completely on me to make time and execute on that. I try to channel a lot of my ideas into my Substack posts so that others can benefit from them. Also, I live for those aha moments with my clients and getting to see them celebrate their successes!
What do you like least about working for yourself?
It’s a challenge to turn my brain off. Even though I’m good with my email boundaries and not checking it all the time, I’m still constantly thinking about my business. I think about it after I’ve shut down for the day, at dinners with friends, on the weekends, when I’m about to go sleep, and when I first wake up. I worry that I’ll never have the time to create everything I want for my clients and my practice.
How do you find clients?
Fortunately, I have clients that want to keep working together, and I appreciate that repeat business, plus the referrals they send to me. I also get inquiries through my website. The majority of new clients come via LinkedIn. (If you’re a consultant, I suggest editing your LinkedIn settings to allow for open profile messages!)
What have you learned since starting Jenny.Community?
I’ve learned how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. There are constantly new situations coming up, ones I’ve never been in before, and I have to learn as I go. I’ve also learned that it’s OK to pivot and try new things. That’s part of the fun of being an entrepreneur!
What advice do you have for people interested in going out on their own?
Running your own business will have more of a mental and emotional effect than you realize. Plan and research as much as you can, but still, be ready to tackle things you had no idea you had to plan for.
Listen to stories from other consultants on how they run their businesses. There’s PLENTY of these on YouTube and various podcast episodes. One of my favorites is Consulting Success.
Find a support network to be a sounding board for your good days and your bad ones. This is critical. You need people in your corner to motivate you and to challenge you. In addition, CELEBRATE the fact that you’re taking this step! Hold a business shower and create a registry for it. This is a big milestone that deserves praise!
Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself (like I did with the on-demand course), but be sure to do your research before making such investments. Read reviews, testimonials, etc. Also, be sure that any program or course you sign up for caters to business consulting. There are many free or discounted options out there, however, they are usually led by and cater to life coaches, personal trainers, or other professions, all lumped into one training. Do your due diligence to determine what’s right for you.
In closing, I want to thank a few people who make it possible for me to live out my dream of entrepreneurship:
My partner, John, who is also an entrepreneur and my biggest cheerleader.
Caroline Ma for throwing me my business shower and continuing to be a great friend and supporter through my journey. I’m also grateful for every woman who came to my shower and contributed to my registry. I truly have the most amazing group of friends. ❤️
Every client I’ve had since starting this practice. Thank you for choosing to work with me, which allows me to pursue this dream!
The mentors I had in the beginning, some of whom I still lean on today. I’m not listing their names, because I don’t want them to get bombarded with requests, but you know who you are 😉, and I greatly appreciate you!
Add yourself to the Community Consultants list on Rosieland.
In The Community Club on Slack, there’s a #community-consultants room that, to-date, has 26 members.
VIDEO: Starting a Community Consultancy: Find Your Niche, Get Set & Go! Presented by Ilker Akansel at CMX Summit 2022. (The first time I’ve EVER seen consulting as a major topic at ANY community conference!)
VIDEO: Hiring a Coach/Consultant, via Community Manager Live, in October 2022.
Momentum Consulting Course, via ConsultingSuccess.com
**Special Offer**: The incredible team at Consulting Success is offering readers of All-Things-Community a discounted price for this course! For a limited time, you can register for Momentum for 50% off. This will give you LIFETIME ACCESS. Offer expires on November 15, 2022.