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Bootstrapping as a coach or a consultant

Great insights on bootstrapping as a solo practitioner from Seth’s podcast last evening. One of the fans asked the pivotal question for folks (the support professionals) like us — “How would an executive coach bootstrap?”

Seth’s response was pretty straightforward — Coaches and consultants aren’t bootstrappers but freelancers. They have to fight for each and every client and repeat once the project gets delivered or the pipeline dries up

So, what could be a better way to scale? Group coaching which allows you to serve 6-8 people at one go instead of investing 6-8 hours with each one of them. That’s some scaling. It’s also one of the fastest ways to reach more people in less time if you do care about making an impact.

Likewise, for consultants, instead of pitching in their services to potential clients (one at a time) they’re better off inviting them to a workshop that lasts for 2-3 hours priced at a fraction of what they usually charge. And throw in an added benefit that “they are free to have someone else implement the strategy” and are under no obligation to just work with you. The benefit? Quite a few:

  1. A low priced offer is a great “foot-in-the-door” since the level of commitment is much lower. And so is the risk. (Remember, people are inherently afraid of change. Even if it’s good for them!)
  2. The ones who show up are potentially super-interested in making things happen and what you have to say. Chances are 90% of the attendants would sign up. Think from a productivity point of view — it couldn’t get better than this!
  3. If they like it! They’ll take care of the buy-in. Of course, you’ll still have to make a pitch to the decision-makers.
  4. A 2-3 hour workshop is a great business! $100 x 8 = $800! That’s a great ROI considering the amount of time you’ll spend convincing the same people with nothing to show for!

And that’s how you bootstrap as a consultant. You’re focusing on scaling things up. Sure, you just may end up hiring helping hands but then you may not if you’re big on systems and processes. You’ll figure things out.

The point is this — most freelancers can bootstrap if they’re open to going the extra mile. If you’re a designer, you must be thinking that’s just not possible in your case. You’ll be so wrong. (Listen, I’m not a genius, but this just popped in my head!)

Picture this — you reach out to a few people within your network (and some outside your network, especially the CMOs) and pitch them about your 3-hour long Design Thinking workshop. Price: $100! Can you imagine how many takers there would be for something like that? Many!

I personally know of companies that shell out thousands of dollars to get that knowledge! From people who’re basically just certified and don’t have much of an experience. But you do! Get 10 people on board and you’ll make not just money but enough referrals for more business. And if you find a way to make this strategy a part of your overall business. You’ll never have to beg for work.

All of the above assumes that you’re beyond just a competent coach, consultant or designer (or whatever profession you are in). If not, get good first. Both in your craft and the way you communicate ideas.

That’s it! Simple, isn’t it? Easy? Of course, not! But you’ve got to try it to know how it works and what else can you do.