Cover Illustration

The Complete Guide to Becoming an
In-Demand, Well-Paid Consultant,
Coach or Freelancer


Imagine going from zero to $10 million in revenue in four years.

Meet Sabri Suby, a marketing expert who knows all about the hustle. With nothing more than a phone and his girlfriend’s laptop, he started out as a work-from-home freelancer and in four years, he launched King Kong — now the fastest growing digital marketing agency in Australia.

Intro Graph

It all started with a website and a phone call, as Sabri jumped head first into the freelancing business. And you can do the same, by consulting or freelancing or coaching for others.

Ready to use skills you take pride in and become your own boss? Yearning to leave your nine-to-five job and freelance full time? Wondering how to become a freelancer online?

You’re in the right spot.

Each of these approaches to business — freelancing, consulting, coaching — can open doors to greater freedom and bigger opportunities. We’re talking about controlling your own time, choosing where you work, and getting paid to do the things you already love to do.

If you’re already a freelancer, though, stay with us: Starting a freelancing business is one adventure. Massively scaling up your company to secure new clients and big money — maybe even growing into your very own studio or agency — is another journey entirely. And in this guide we’ve got the tips on how to make it happen.

Wherever you’re at in your entrepreneurial endeavors, this guide will give you the lowdown on how to start your business, how to build win-win relationships with clients that pay, and then how to scale, scale, scale with big growth that spurs big profits.

We’ll tackle the big questions that trip freelancers up: How much should you charge? How can you create streamlined workflows to save time with client after client? How can you brand yourself for big results? Starting with the basics and working on up, this guide contains the tools it takes to make it.


Who is this workbook for?

Anyone looking to parlay their skill set into a business that makes money will find gold in this guide. Anyone looking to take their talents and work one-on-one with people who need services, consulting, or coaching will get actionable advice on moving forward.

This workbook is for anyone who is, or is aspiring to become, a...



Can you produce content or complete projects? Do you have a marketable skill like writing or graphic design? Instead of doing 40 hours per week for one company and one salary, go full mercenary with your skill to work with a range of clients and rake in the cash.



Do you have experience in a certain sector or industry? Do you have special knowledge that companies need but don’t have on staff? Recognize the full value of that skill set and charge for access to your advice. Research your clients, run workshops, identify their problems, and offer killer solutions that will keep them coming back for more — and recommending you to their network.



Are you interested in mentoring people and fostering personal growth? Can you teach a valuable skill or connect one-on-one in unique ways that make magic happen? Become a coach to give people the individualized help they need to level up their business or life, all while leveling up your bank account — and earning the freedom to control your own schedule.

And if you’re interested in leaping from a one-person show to a bona fide agency or studio, hiring employees to offer services at scale? We’ve got the lowdown on that too.

By the end of this workbook you will learn how to…

In a nutshell, you’ll learn how to become a well-paid, in-demand consultant, coach, or freelancer who knows how to attract and land high-paying clients. And you’ll be equipped with extra resources to take you even beyond what this workbook has to offer.

Whether you’re a designer, writer, videographer, social media manager, web developer, business coach, life coach or freelancer… we’ve got something for you. Whether you haven’t started (yet!) or you’re well-established but looking to scale, we’re here to help, drawing on the expertise of interviewees and partners that Foundr has worked with over the years.

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Chapter 1

Is Consulting, Coaching or Freelancing Right for Me?

Certainly, there’s a lot to like about going into business as an independent contractor. As a consultant, freelancer, or coach you can focus on some skill you have that drives your passion.

You also have far more control over your time than you do as an employee of someone else’s business. Working for yourself offers a new level of independence and self-reliance. Consultants and freelancers also have the potential to make more money than a typical employee, and those dollar signs alone draw a lot of people toward these ventures.

But starting a business like this has its challenges. The journey to become a consultant or freelancer who can make a living from this work demands dedication, discipline, and patience. Sure, you control your time. But that means you have to manage your time. No one is looking over your shoulder to keep you on track. Sure, you can make more money. But you have to find that money. No one is sending you a stable paycheck every two weeks.

Starting a consulting business isn’t for everyone. The type of person who can succeed here is ready to take risks and willing to make mistakes. You have to be OK—not excited, but OK—with hitting roadblocks and finding your own way around them.

In figuring out how to be a freelancer, the highs are high and the lows are low, but with the right strategies and a good bit of gumption, there’s a path. Are you ready to take it?

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Become a Consultant, Freelancer, or Coach

Still not sure whether starting a consulting business is what you want to do? Or are you interested in pursuing something like this but confused about the details? This chapter outline brief answers to your most pressing questions. In later chapters, we dive into more detail.


Let's do this!

What kind of skills can I market?

Admittedly, the terminology we’ll use in this guide can be all over the place: consultant vs. freelancer vs. coach. But in all cases, we’re really just talking about offering up a practical skill that people will pay money for.

Maybe you have a “creative” skill, a talent that individuals or businesses would love to draw on, that could make for a powerful career as a freelancer. Some examples:









social media

Social Media



video production

Video Production

Maybe you have experience in an area that, while not quite as artsy, could help businesses build revenue or individuals achieve their goals. Some examples:









Organizational Diversity

Organizational Diversity

Information Technology

Information Technology

Human Resources

Human Resources

business strategy

Business Strategy

Maybe there’s a domain where you have good advice to give and a passion to help other people. People have made money coaching others in all sorts of areas:













college admissions

College Admissions

Do I have sufficient skills that people will pay for?

Skill, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Can you provide value? That’s the real question. If you’ve ever had a job, you clearly have skills that someone was willing to pay for. If you can find a way to translate that into value for clients, you’re off to a good start—and you can only go up from here.

Do I need to be an expert to consult or freelance?

No, but you do need enough skill to deliver results for people. One of the biggest barriers people face when starting a consulting business is a lack of confidence. That’s understandable. But if you can do the work and believe in yourself, you have what it takes.

Can I do this part-time on the side while working at my day job?

Yes! People sometimes think consulting vs. a day job is an either-or. But it’s not. You can start small, working with just a few clients, then scale up from there.

Indeed, you almost certainly won’t be able to conjure up a full load of well-paying clients on day one. But as you grow, you’ll eventually reach the point where the money is starting to come in, but the workload is too much to be done on the evenings and weekends. Then it’s time to ditch the side gig, and give your consulting business your full attention.

When should I quit my day job?

Not right away. As satisfying as it might be, you can’t simply stomp up to your boss and scream, “I can make more money and have more fun doing this stuff as my own business!” and then stomp off. You need a plan.

Risk-taking is all fine and good, but those risks need to be calculated risks. The best way to approach this whole thing is like… Tarzan. Sure, Tarzan’s a fictional character, but hear us out. He swings through the jungle from vine to vine, a risky venture for sure, but he never lets go of one vine until the next one is firmly in his grasp, ready to keep him from falling—SPLAT!—onto the forest floor below. This is the "Tarzan technique” described by Derek Sivers.


If you can provide value, you can become a consultant or freelancer. Even tiny Tarzan can swing from vine to vine!

What you need to do is figure out how much money you need to make to survive as a consultant, freelancer, or coach, then make your moves based on this number. We’ll talk more about this in chapter four.

Can this really be a lucrative career? Can I make a full-time income?

Yes. Thousands of people do this full time in a wide range of industries, from things you’d think of as big money—finance, law, business strategy—to markets you might think are oversaturated, like photography and writing. With the right strategy, you can turn any marketable skill into a full-fledged business with a full-time income.

Can I scale this business to six or even seven figures?

People are sometimes skeptical about whether you can really scale a service business (you only have so many hours in a day), but the truth is that it’s entirely possible. We’ll go into a little more detail on this in chapter eight, but yes, there’s a way to do it.

What is consulting? vs. freelancing? vs. coaching? Can I call myself a consultant?

Consulting, freelancing, coaching. This guide addresses all three because, while they’ve got important differences, similar business strategies work for each of them. We go into more detail on this in Chapter 2.

The exact content of each kind of job does differ. Freelancers provide specialized services on an hourly or per-project basis. Consultants advise businesses or organizations in some specific area, helping them solve a particular problem they have. Coaches are closer to consultants, but a little less defined in terms of exact services. And you’re typically giving advice to individuals, rather than businesses.

What are some of the most common fields for consultants?

Management and business strategy are major consulting fields, from huge firms like Bain & Company all the way down to solo consultants. Helping companies get the word out is big, too: marketing, public relations, sales, social media, advertising, etc. are viable areas for consulting.

Finance and accounting is a valuable field, too. Robert Half Management Resources, to give just one piece of evidence, polled over 900 chief financial officers and 57% said that they would “turn to the types of consultants who can optimize their finance and accounting projects.”

Computers and information technology (IT) are other hotspots. Lesser-known fields, too, have room for consultants. Corporate responsibility is en vogue, so fields like environment/sustainability and organizational diversity aren’t just doing good for the world. They’re getting people paid.

How much/how do I pay taxes as a consultant?

This one is tough. The specifics will differ depending on your country, and even your state/territory or city. Most U.S.-based sole practitioners make quarterly payments based on estimated income, and then settle at the end of the year based on actual income. The big key, no matter where you live or what kind of work you do, is to carefully track your income so that when it comes time to file taxes, you don’t have a huge mess on your hands.

How much should I charge?

In a lot of ways, the sky’s the limit. But the answer is really, whatever people will pay. The best way to tackle this when first starting out is to figure out how much you can charge that first client, then continue leveling up. (More on pricing in Chapter Four!)

Chapter 2 Illustration

Chapter 2

What Service Should I Sell?

The top question new entrepreneurs need to answer when looking to become a consultant, freelancer, or coach is simple: What can you do that other people will pay money for?

It has to be viable as a way to make money, which means it needs to be in demand by businesses or individuals. If there’s demand, there’s profit to be made.

This section will go over how you can come up with a viable service to sell.

Consultant vs. Freelancer vs. Coach


Freelancing is typically about providing specific, tangible services or end products, usually on an hourly or per-project basis. It can encompass disciplines like writing, editing, designing, marketing, web development, etc. A distinguishing feature of freelancing is that you generally control when and how you do the work. What the client wants is a solid deliverable at the end.


Consulting is focused on providing advice to businesses, in the form of research findings, workshops, trainings, and discussions with organizational leadership. Compared to freelancing, consulting involves teaching others what to do, rather than doing it for them. As a result, you may have to coordinate more with clients’ schedules.


Coaching is sort of like consulting for individuals. Instead of providing detailed feedback and analysis to companies, you’ll work one-on-one with people to answer questions, offer advice, and troubleshoot their problems, all while being a fountain of motivation. You will find a lot of coaching in the fitness and health industry, for example.

The differences between these are important in figuring out what you want to do. If you don’t like to meet in person or get on the phone to teach people, consulting or coaching may not be the right fit. That said, those sorts of things shouldn’t limit you. Tons of shy people and introverts are creative consultants.


Assess Your Current Skills

Part of choosing your business model is looking at what skills you already possess. You don’t have to be the world’s leading expert, but you should have enough knowledge and practical experience in your area to offer your service to others, or teach them how to do it.

Take an honest evaluation of your skills and choose which ones would be best to offer as a service. You should also think about what you naturally gravitate toward or are passionate about.

Find Your Consulting Skills: Applicable Exercises

When figuring out which of your skills would make a good basis for a freelancing or consulting business, you want to find the intersection of what you like to do and what others might pay for.

Here are some simple questions you can ask to get a better idea of what might be up your alley:

What are you Googling?

Online search terms and subjects can give you a big hint, or at least confirm what you already know about your interests deep down. Take note of what kinds of things you’re typing into search engines. For Google, you can use My Activity, a free tool that lets you see search history for every search you’ve done while logged into a Google account.


What books are you reading?

Think about the best books you’ve read recently. You can also be a bit more systematic. Look at your bookshelf. What have you read, what has been sitting there? If you use an e-reader, you can usually pull up your reading history (here’s how to do that on a Kindle).


What does your Amazon search history look like?

Think about the best books you’ve read recently. You can also be a bit more systematic. Look at your bookshelf. What have you read, what has been sitting there? If you use an e-reader, you can usually pull up your reading history (here’s how to do that on a Kindle).

What do you like best about your work?


If you like your job, what’s the best part? Even if you don’t like your job, what are the parts that you do enjoy? Or, if that’s not helpful, what might be fulfilling if only it were liberated from your boss’s grip and placed in your control?

What do you do in your sp_re time?

What do you find yourself doing in your free time, regardless of whether you're getting paid?


What do friends and family ask for your help with?

Computers? Graphic design? Snapping photos? Workout advice? Sometimes this can give you a clue as to what strangers might be willing to pay for.

What do others think?

We’re not always great at self-evaluation. Ask a few friends or a significant other what drives you, what things you love to do. Obviously, an answer like “video games,” “amateur softball,” or “day drinking” won’t do. So hone in on work-related things. Do you ever get excited about work projects? What do they see and hear you talk about? When do you seem happy?

Of course, the most common route, in large part because it’s the easiest, is simply to do what you already do for your boss, just for yourself.

You can do something else (and if something else is your passion, you should!), but it’s tougher because you have to establish yourself in a new niche. That can take longer, and might require starting out at a lower rate of pay.

The bottom line? Companies need to make money and if you can help them do that, you too can cash in.


Determine Your Unique Value Proposition

After you figure out what service you want to offer, the next step in starting a consulting business is to identify the unique value you bring to the table.

If you’re a marketing consultant, what makes you different than the hundreds of others vying for the clients in your industry? What special benefits are you offering? The question clients will be asking is, “Why should I get that service from you specifically?”

Here’s an exercise to help: Write down a short list of the unique things you have to offer a client in your industry. There are probably more things you can list than you’d think. When we talk about differentiating yourself from others, you don’t need huge differences, and you don’t need to just have more knowledge or expertise than others (although those are all good). You just need a little something that makes you unique. That something, to add a dash of jargon, is called a unique value proposition, or UVP.

A good UVP is specific and tangible. Throwing some copy up on your website about how you’re “a hard worker who returns projects on deadline” is something anyone can do. You’ve got to offer something concrete.

A good UVP also has to provide value. That’s the second letter, after all. Being unique is not enough. A freelance writer could submit every. single. project. in yellow text and Comic Sans. That would be unique! And it wouldn’t be remotely valuable (or even sensical). It’s important, as you think about your UVP, that you don’t just come up with some gimmick.


Low cost is a UVP, but it’s probably not one you want to pursue. Besides not being particularly unique, always selling yourself as the cheapest option will leave you with the kinds of clients looking for a deal (not fun) and not much money to show for it (super not fun).

You can take a look at your competitors. What are other consultants or freelancers in your industry offering? Note the commonalities in their services and pricing, because that will help you identify the differences between them.

Specialization is one kind of UVP. Freelance web designers? There are tons of them. Freelance web designers with expertise in ecommerce websites? Now that’s a bit more specialized, and more unique in a way that potential clients will be drawn to if it meets their needs.

One part of your UVP, which can be important especially in some kinds of coaching and creative freelancing, is your own personality. By embracing a specific perspective and personality, you can set yourself apart.

Abby Grace Photography is a solid example. A freelance wedding photographer, she has cultivated her brand’s personality and aesthetic around the idea of tradition:

Abby Grace Abby Grace

For an industry like wedding photography, personality is a huge differentiator, so this part of her UVP is important. And it’s more effective than trying to be everything to everybody.

Some of these UVPs can feel big. But a UVP doesn’t have to be. In fact, sometimes the best ways to stand out are small and specific. What small details can you tweak to set yourself apart? What little distinct approach can you take that will create a different experience as potential clients are shopping for who to work with? The possibilities are endless.

Consultants outside of creative industries can find a UVP, too, of course. A good example here is Christina Scalera. She’s an intellectual property lawyer. That phrase alone gets lots of people dozing off (all apologies to the attorneys reading this), but she sets herself apart by making things easy and casual. She has a simple and short video explaining, in terms everyday people can understand, what a trademark is and why viewers might need one.


Then she offers sign-ups for a 20-minute, no-cost, no-commitment chat. That’s it. Her casual, direct approach differs from so many trademark lawyers who lead with their expertise and resumes instead of focusing on accessibility.


Getting started now

The biggest thing you can do to achieve success? Don’t get too bogged down in figuring out things like how to become a freelance writer or how to start a consulting business. Use resources like this guide, sure, but don’t let that get in the way of mission number one: Start. Start now.

Instead of getting frozen considering options and decisions forever, pinpoint the minimum infrastructure you need to build. Then build it and launch.

Start Only With What You Need

Instead of trying to build out every little detail of your hypothetical freelancing/consulting business before launching, you can instead just start off with a minimum viable offer (MVO).

Your offer is whatever services you provide: writing, business strategy advice, health coaching, whatever. A minimum viable offer is an offer that gives clients the smallest number of benefits needed to make a sale. Put in other words, it’s like a prototype that people are willing to buy.

Creating an MVO lets you get feedback on your core service before filling in every detail of your business. Focusing on your MVO gets you out there taking action and getting clients right away, rather than overthinking until your idea is perfect (spoiler alert: it never will be).

Worried that people will bypass you because you’re not advertising the full extent of what you can do? There are two answers to this:

  • If you hide in the “planning” stage, everyone will bypass you because you won’t be out there promoting yourself.
  • You can add copy to your website or contact form explaining that people who are interested in talking about more (or different) services can feel free to get in touch.

Instead of trying to build out every little detail of your hypothetical freelancing/consulting business before launching, you can instead just start off with a minimum viable offer (MVO).

Your offer is whatever services you provide: writing, business strategy advice, health coaching, whatever. A minimum viable offer is an offer that gives clients the smallest number of benefits needed to make a sale. Put in other words, it’s like a prototype that people are willing to buy.

Creating an MVO lets you get feedback on your core service before filling in every detail of your business. Focusing on your MVO gets you out there taking action and getting clients right away, rather than overthinking until your idea is perfect (spoiler alert: it never will be).

Worried that people will bypass you because you’re not advertising the full extent of what you can do? There are two answers to this:

To Specialize or Generalize?

This is a common discussion among consultants and freelancers. Should you drill down and offer services in a specialized area? Or should you present yourself as more of a generalist in your chosen field?

It’s a question filled with tradeoffs. A generalist freelance marketer, for instance, might have a larger pool of potential clients. Becoming too specialized too early could cut this freelancer off from a lot of work. But in pitching themselves as a generalist, they won’t command the highest rates. Also companies will often prefer to go with a marketer they feel understands their specific industry.

Generally speaking, more specialized work is more valuable, for simple market reasons. That means, to really thrive, you’ve got to specialize to some extent, even if that means specializing in a few different things.

How to find the right balance? One option is to pitch services in your ideal specialized area, while also offering services in a more general area where it’s easier to find clients. Eventually, you can transition to doing your ideal work 100% of the time.

Here are three examples of how to go from a generalist to a specialist:

Freelance writers can offer these specialties:

blog writing

Blog Writing



web copywriting

Web Copywriting

content marketing

Content Marketing

social media

Social Media

resume writing

Resume Writing

technical writing

Technical Writing

Business and corporate financial consultants can offer all these specialties:

risk management

Risk Management



financial regulation

Financial Regulation

investment strategy

Investment Strategy

mergers and acquisitions

Mergers & Acquisitions



real estate

Real Estate

Health coaches can offer all these specialties:

fitness coaching

Fitness Coaching

body positivity

Body Positivity

athletic training

Athletic Training

weight loss

Weight Loss

diet coaching

Diet Coaching

holistic health coaching

Holistic Health Coaching

wellness training

Wellness Training

Chapter 3 Illustration

Chapter 3

Getting Started

Once you’ve decided what service to sell, you’re on the path to becoming a consultant, freelancer or coach. The next step is to get your business up and running to a point where you can take in clients.

Remember your minimum viable offer. A solid MVO is all you need before you create the basic building blocks of your business. Everything else can come later, and it’ll be easier to create the other stuff if you have money and feedback streaming in from real, paying clients.

Your Business/Domain Name

Your business needs a website. And to create a website, you need a business name.

The first question is whether to use a business name (like Serbaneka Creative) or a personal name (like Ryan Stephens Marketing). Your own name might seem like the obvious choice, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s still worth a thought. If you’re thinking about transitioning into an agency down the road, it may be better to use a brand name.

You can also think about your unique value proposition. If it revolves in some way around your personality, for example, a personal name is probably better.


If you do opt for a business name,
here are some tips:

  • Be memorable and unique.

  • Keep it short.

  • Make it easy.

    One fun exercise is the radio test. If someone were to hear your business name on the radio, would they know how to spell it? The radio test isn’t the be all end all (Foundr itself doesn’t pass it!) but it’s one metric to keep in mind. It’s also a good idea to avoid numbers and hyphens, which can be confusing for people trying to figure out your domain name down the line.

  • Avoid legal headaches and branding pitfalls.

    You don’t want a name plagued with legal issues or a bad rap, so be sure to run some basic searches on names you’re considering. Many countries have online trademark databases. Whether you go with a brand name or your own name, you next need a domain name. To see if the domain name you want is available, try these tactics:

  • Type it into your address bar and see what comes up.
  • Check domain name registrars like GoDaddy,, or Gandi to see if the
domain name is taken.
  • If your desired domain name appears to be taken, look it up using DomainTools to see if you can find information on who owns the name. You might be able to buy it (though this can be costly).

Your company’s name will appear in more than just your domain, of course. To see if you’ll be able to get your desired name on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you can use the tool namecheckr.

NameCheckr Namecheckr

For more on choosing a domain name, read our free article on how to pick the best domain name for your startup.

One final piece of advice on your name: Don’t sweat it. Do some brainstorming and run through these tools, but don’t waste a week stressing about picking the perfect name. Your number one focus should be on just getting out there and bringing in clients.

Your Presence on the Web

This also tends to stress people out when they’re getting started, but here’s the bottom line. To start with a bang in the service-based business world, you need:


A Website


A LinkedIn Profile

Should you have an online presence beyond these two things? Probably, though specifics will differ depending on your services, industry, and strategy. But a website and a LinkedIn presence are the essentials, no matter what. And you can make it pretty far with just those two.


Creating a Website

Your website doesn’t need to be brilliant from day one. Your first goal should just be getting some sort of presence online that answers the crucial questions: Who are you? What do you do? How can people hire you?

Your bare bones website should also have a photo of you. This is a must-have, because it lets visitors see that you’re a real person.

It should be pretty easy to get the rest of the basics onto your site:

  • Contact page or form
  • About Page
  • Explanation of services

You can also add a logo for your brand, although this one isn’t a must. If you opt for a logo, don’t spend too much time creating it, as it really doesn’t make much of a difference. Inexpensive options for logo design include:


If you have some clients you’ve worked with already, add their logos and testimonials to the homepage. This gives you social proof, showing visitors that others have benefitted from what you have to offer.

The key, again, is to just get a website up. Graphic designer Landon Cooper is a successful freelancer who proves the point. His website is simple, with just three pages: examples of his work, an About page, and a Contact page. That’s it.

Landon Cooper Landon Cooper

All you need to land clients are the basics.

Now, these tips will get your consulting or freelancing website off to a good start. But how do you actually make the site? (Don’t be embarrassed if you have no idea.) The good news is that you don’t need technical know-how these days. Four main choices are worth considering:


This website platform has beautifully designed templates, plus an easy drag-and-drop interface. But once you pick a design, you can’t go back on that decision unless you’re ready to redo the whole site from scratch. Wix advertises itself as free, but to connect your own domain name and remove ads, you’ll need to pay for one of their premium plans, which start at $11 per month.


This platform markets itself toward creative entrepreneurs, so it’s a good fit for lots of consultants and freelancers. Like Wix, Weebly has a decent drag-and-drop site editor. Unlike Wix, Weebly lets you switch up your site’s design without going through the time-sucking process of rebuilding it from scratch. Weebly also lets you directly edit HTML and CSS code to make subtle changes to your site’s appearance. You can also export your pages to another web host if you ever want to leave Weebly.

Alex Lagos

Social media consultant Alex Lagos made the website for his company, Eyes Up Entertainment, with Weebly.

To get an ad-free site, you’ll need to pay at least $8 per month (if you’re paying for a full year at a time, otherwise it’s a bit more). For a plan that allows video and audio, you’re looking at $12 per month or more.


If you listen to podcasts, you’ve almost certainly heard about Squarespace, over and over and over again. It’s a solid website creator with a drag-and-drop editor. It is a bit harder to use than Weebly and Wix, but not by much. You’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

Squarespace’s tagline is “Make it beautiful,” and it’s true. Its design options are definitely better than the two platforms listed above. That said, you’ll need some of your own photos to really bring Squarespace’s page designs up to their full potential. Plans start at $12 per month.

Brittney Knies

Brittney Knies, a CPA and financial coach who markets herself toward women, created the website for Britt & the Benjamins using Squarespace.


First, understand the distinction between and is a platform that hosts your website or blog for you. It’s easier to set up, but has all sorts of limitations.

The real deal for building websites is, which requires more technical know-how than the other three options on this list. On, you can download the WordPress content management software, which you then upload to your own server and use more or less however you want. It has some OK standard design options, but you can purchase one of thousands of paid themes that level up your site’s look.

Andreas Dittes

Business consultant Andreas Dittes is one of many consultants and freelancers who’ve created their website with

Take a little time to pick an option that suits you. You can also look into industry-specific platforms. As an example, freelance portrait photographers can use Showit, which integrates with WordPress and comes with ready-made and easy-to-use designs specifically for photography businesses. A quick Google search will reveal if there are any similar options in your field.

Of course, you can get way more advanced with this, by coding your own site from scratch or using a platform like Drupal. But if you have the skills needed to go the more advanced route, it’s a safe bet that you don’t need us telling you how to design a website.

Take-home message here: Don’t be afraid to keep it super simple.

LinkedIn and Other Platforms

Consulting, freelancing, and coaching are professional endeavors, so it’s essential that you’re on the world’s professional social network, LinkedIn. Just like your website, your LinkedIn profile absolutely needs a photo of you. A simple headshot will do.

Here are some other LinkedIn tips for consultants:

  • Fill out your whole profile. Give potential clients all the info they might want.
  • Be sure to put keywords (e.g. business consultant, ecommerce blogger, etc.) in your profile title and URL.
  • Use bullet points to sum up key projects you’ve worked on and the results you got.
  • Talk to friends and colleagues and ask them to endorse your skills. This social proof will give you a lot more credibility as an expert freelancer or consultant.

What about other social media platforms? When it comes to Facebook, Twitter, etc., you need to remember to use your time wisely. If these platforms are important in your industry, go for it. But make sure you have a goal guiding your social media use. It’s no good if you’re on Twitter just because you feel like you should be.

If you’re consulting or freelancing in a media sector like writing, editing, and social media, Twitter may be a good choice, but it isn’t required. If you’re in an industry like beauty, photography, or fitness where imagery is a strong component, Twitter might not be a good investment—but Instagram is a must.

Don’t Fear the Landing Page

When we say that a simple website is enough to start off with, we mean it. You could even just go with a basic landing page.

A landing page is a standalone web page that succinctly explains what you’re all about and gives visitors an easy way to move forward, by contacting you, setting up a consultation, etc. You don’t even need a fully fleshed out website to start bringing clients in.

An effective landing page is clear and brief, and has one purpose—getting visitors to take that next step. Avoid clutter on the page, and be 100% clear about the services you’re selling. Offering too many options could overwhelm a potential client.

Your landing page can open with a short, engaging headline that directly addresses your target audience. Don’t be coy. If you want to work with CFOs, say so. If you want to work with small business owners, say so. If you want to work with busy people who still value health, say so. Under the headline you can give a bit more detail to show that you can deliver on your promise.

Again, don’t forget a photo of yourself.

A good example of a successful landing page comes from Greg Reitman. He’s a consultant who offers Instagram videos and audience analysis.

Greg Reitman

Since video is his focus, Greg starts his landing page not with a headline but with a dazzling video. He then uses clearly delineated blocks for different parts of the page: products, statistics, clients, pricing, and his call to action. The page would probably work even better if it included a headshot of the man himself.

Other things you might include on your landing page:

  • Calls to action (CTA). This is a must. A landing page without a CTA isn’t really a landing page. Add a space or multiple sections imploring the visitor to take a specific action, such as filling out a form or scheduling a call.
  • Testimonials. It’s important to show social proof, so if you have clients you’ve worked with, get their good word up there.
  • Contact form. Don’t ask for too much! The more potential leads have to give to you, the longer it will take them, and the less willing and able they’ll be to actually fill everything out and get in touch with you.
  • Share buttons. It can’t hurt to have people spread the word on social media.

Before you design a landing page, you should outline it. Figure out where you will include each element, what text you’ll write, etc.

Once you’re ready to really put the page together, pick a landing page creator and get to it:


Many of these software programs include templates that include a lot of built-in elements that can provide inspiration. Here are some more tips on creating high-converting landing pages:


The Big Question

How do I get people to hire me when I haven’t worked with any clients yet?

It’s one of the biggest challenges new service-based businesses face—how to present yourself as an experienced professional before even working with that first client. Potential clients want to see a track record, and for good reason, but you can’t build a track record if clients won’t book you.

At this stage, confidence in the skills you offer will go a long way. To back that confidence up, and have something concrete to show potential clients, some kind of sample of your work or past experience is necessary. For a lot of new freelancers, that could mean showing off some of your work from your current or previous day jobs (tread carefully if you’re moonlighting).

Otherwise, to build up experience, you’ll need to figure out a strategy to get the ball rolling. For example, a beginning freelance writer should post regular content to their own blog, or write guest posts for other blogs in order to get some clips. An aspiring coach could offer discounted services to their personal network to get their feet wet and secure some positive testimonials.

One personal finance consultant created an offer on Fiverr to give small, low-cost services at a low fee.

Fiverr Fiverr

This isn’t glamorous or lucrative, but something similar could help get your consultancy off the ground. Doing gigs on a similar site like Upwork can also get some experience under your belt, even though it’s certainly not a long-term strategy for success.

Here are some other ideas:

Freelance writer?

Write some stellar blog posts on your own website or Medium. Or reach out to a friend who is starting their own business and offer free copywriting services.

Web designer?

Create a dazzling website for a hypothetical company, or get even more creative and do something a little silly, as long as it highlights your skills.


Offer brief legal consulting on a platform like Fiverr.

Freelance photographer?

Reach out to local businesses that may need photography and offer to do free product shoots. Ask friends, or check Facebook groups for models or other professionals in need of photos, and offer a free shoot so you both can further your careers.

Freelance video producer?

Check out small nonprofits or charitable organizations in your area, find some whose mission you support, and contact them with an offer to create a free video short for them.

You should also mine your past for other relevant material you might include on your website to demonstrate your chops. Have you received any awards or recognition for your work? Do you have a hard number on how many customers you worked with at your day job?

Ultimately, a visitor to your website, landing page, or LinkedIn profile must feel like you’ve been there and done that, so they feel comfortable contracting with you.

And remember, while this is a bit controversial in some freelance circles, it’s OK to work for free in some cases. As long as it’s short term, and you have specific goals in mind, doing a few free projects can help jumpstart your career. We’ll get into this more in chapter 6.


The Mindset Needed to Become a Consultant, Coach, or Freelancer

Another hurdle we hear a lot from people just starting consulting businesses is fear. Putting yourself out there when you have only a couple clients, or maybe even no clients, can feel really scary. Why? Because it is scary.

There’s even a name for all of this. Per Harvard Business Review:

One of the greatest barriers to moving outside your comfort zone is the fear that you’re a poser, that you’re not worthy, that you couldn’t possibly be qualified to do whatever you’re aiming to do. It’s a fear that strikes many of us: impostor syndrome.

The key to overcoming impostor syndrome, besides all the encouragement you can possibly get from friends and family, is action—just getting out there and doing the damn thing. The more you do, the more confident you’ll feel.

To help toward that end, you can try to shift the way you think. One way to do that is to start with the way you talk. Many beginning consultants fall into a habit of saying things like, “I’m an aspiring freelance audio producer,” or “I’m trying to build a business as a human resources consultant.” Even worse, people will clam up and avoid mentioning their new businesses to others, period.

Instead, stop telling people that you’re “beginning” or “aspiring.” Start telling people that you are. It’s hard at first, but you need to practice saying, straight up, “I am a marketing consultant.” “I am a freelance web designer.” “I am a business coach.”

This is part of selling yourself, and make no mistake: if you are a consultant, freelancer, or coach, you are in the business of selling yourself. “Sales” isn’t a dirty word. “Sales” is nothing more than explaining the value that your skills can provide to potential clients.

If you’re shy and introverted, this might seem especially scary. And that’s OK. That’s why we say that you need to practice these skills. And if you think about it, sales for your consulting business is really just talking about something you’re passionate about. Put that way, selling yourself seems easy.

Finally, remind yourself of where you’re going. Hard work will soon put the awkward starting stage behind you. Hard work will propel you toward more clients, better money, and a business that lets you work on your passions.

Chapter 4 Illustration

Chapter 4

How Much Should I Charge?

Money is tough to talk about. Especially when your rate feels like it reflects your own personal value, people can get a little awkward about it.

But we have to tackle the subject. Money is one of the top reasons people try to become a consultant, freelancer, or coach, and while other reasons like personal freedom are awesome, none of them matter unless you make enough money to support yourself.

In this chapter, then, we’ll break down exactly how to charge for your services.

Before you start, though, you’ll need to leave some baggage at the door. You’ll likely need to ditch some of your ideas about what you’re used to getting paid or what you feel is appropriate based on the stage of your career. We’re entering new territory, casting the corporate ladder aside, and doing things for ourselves.

Ultimately, pricing for a service-based business like this is about one thing: value. It’s about the value that you provide for your clients and, just as importantly, the value they perceive you to be offering.

What Is Your Hourly Rate?

To figure out how to price your services, you first need to pinpoint how much money you need to make.

Your minimum hourly rate is not necessarily the one that you will charge clients—there’s a good chance you won’t be billing hourly. It’s just used as an internal compass to help you calculate actual rates and meet your revenue goals.

To find your hourly rate, start with a yearly income goal and work backwards.

Start by determining your annual salary/income goal. Consider your expenses. How much do you need to survive? How much do you want for your lifestyle? Be realistic, in fact, overestimate—going too low will just leave you stressed about money, and potentially headed toward financial disaster. Try to factor in a financial cushion in case of unexpected expenses like medical bills or legal fees.

The next step is to divide that salary goal by the amount of time you plan to work. Again, the key is to be realistic: don’t figure you’ll work 70 hours to somehow make ends meet. If that happens, fine. Just don’t count on it. On the flipside, while working a low number of hours to leave more time for other things might be your goal, it may not be realistic right away.

Ready to calculate? Aweso—WAIT! You can’t just divide your income goal by the total number of hours you’ll be working. It’s a bit more complicated than that. If you’re going to charge by the hour, remember that not all hours will be hours you can bill clients for. You’ll spend time on your website, marketing, admin, schmoozing with potential clients, etc.

With those realities in mind, estimate a number of billable hours you’ll work each week, on average. Then figure out how many weeks of vacation and sick time you want to give yourself. Basic benefits at a 9-to-5 job include around two weeks vacation and one week sick time each year, but it’s up to you.

Here’s how to calculate your hourly rate:

Hourly Rate

Let’s say that your annual income goal is $60,000. You estimate you’ll end up working around 25 billable hours per week. You want to set aside four weeks for vacation and one week for sick time. That ends up looking like this:

Hourly Rate

Start by taking the 52 weeks in a year and subtracting vacation and sick time, leaving 47 work weeks. Then you multiply that number by the number of billable hours each week, 25, giving you 1,175 working hours a year. Divide your desired salary by that number, and you get an hourly rate of $51.06.

That’s the minimum you would need to charge clients when billing hourly to hit your salary goal. If you’re billing per project, you wouldn’t reveal that rate to clients, but you would use it to calculate what you charge for a given project. Estimate the hours you think you need (overestimate!) and multiply by that rate.

Check out the going rates for your industry also. You may want to make $500/hour, but if people aren’t paying that much, you will end up with nothing in the end. Research your industry and talk with fellow consultants and freelancers. Many also publish their rates on their websites.

Hourly Rate Calculator

Input your details in the calculator below to automatically find out your desired hourly rate.


Per Project? Per Hour? Monthly Retainer?

Hold up. All this talk of hourly work vs. flat fees raises a good question. How are you going to bill your clients? A huge part of consulting or freelancing is choosing how to charge for your time.

With any of the service-based businesses we’ve talked about, your three main pricing options are a retainer, a project-based flat fee, or an hourly rate:



You sign a contract with the client to be paid in advance, usually on a monthly basis. This locks in a set number of hours you’ll be available to the client each month. This is common with consulting.

Flat Fee

Per-project flat fee

You work with the client to outline the parameters of a given project, then agree on a flat fee for that project.

Hourly Rate

Hourly rate

The client agrees to pay you per hour you work on agreed upon services.

Each of these options comes with its own pros and cons, and this can be a controversial topic among freelancers. Your industry, clients, experience, and personal preference will all swirl together to help you determine the best pricing scheme for yourself.


A retainer is a very attractive option, and one that more freelancers are pushing for these days. In many ways, it’s a perfect arrangement for consultants, because you get paid ahead of time and can plan on that income and time commitment on a rolling basis.

A retainer is a flat, agreed-upon amount that’s paid in advance for a set amount of work in the future. You typically outline services you’ll provide the client, and a set amount of hours that you’ll reserve for them no matter what.

Agreements vary, but the way it usually works is, if you spend more hours than the retainer is for, you bill the client at the end of the month for the additional time, based on your hourly rate. If the client doesn’t use the hours in the retainer, you still keep the full monthly amount for making that time available.

The client gains the security of knowing you’re available to them—and sometimes a small discount—and the contractor gains the security of repeat, reliable work.

Retainers are most viable for people with a lot of experience consulting. Generally, you’ll have established a working relationship with the client so that they trust you enough to agree to a retainer, and so that you have a decent idea of how much work they want you to do. But not everyone will be able to pull this off, especially when you are first starting a consulting business.

Flat Rate

A flat rate per job or project can be great if the gig is a distinct task or project that you’ve done many times before. Generally, you’ll get paid the fee after the work is done, although you can negotiate specifics with your clients, sometimes with installments if it’s a long job.

For example, if you were a freelance writer tasked with creating an ebook, you could estimate how many hours it would take to complete it, then come up with a per-project fee based minimally on your billable hourly rate from the last section.

Those estimates might look something like this:

  • Research Time16 hours
  • Outline Time 24 hours
  • First draft Time 12 hours
  • Edits and revisions Time 5 hours


(57 hours x hourly rate in $) + 10-20% for unexpected work, etc.

What clients like about this approach is that they know exactly how much they’ll be paying upfront. It’s selling a product with a set price. For budget-conscious clients, that’s huge, and it provides peace of mind.

Flat fees can also be great for you. It gives a real incentive to complete quality work quickly, because efficiency on your end means making more money in less time. It also rewards skill—the fact that you can rip through a job and produce something amazing shouldn’t mean you get paid less, right?

The flipside here, is that it can be tough to anticipate how long something will take, especially if it’s a unique or complex job. The last thing you want is to have underestimated the time a project will take, because you’ll then be left trudging through a project wishing it were over—or doing a shoddy job to finish it.


Flat fees can work for discrete projects. Other jobs, though, may be less clear cut and require ongoing work. This is where an hourly rate comes in.

This can be pretty straightforward, as it is with coaching. For example, if you’re a wellness trainer or an online tutor offering hour-long coaching/teaching sessions, you’ll need to charge at least your billable hourly rate for each session. If a session is a half hour, you might charge half your hourly rate (or a tad higher).

An hourly rate also might make the most sense with some kinds of clients. If a certain client is especially finicky and always asks for additional work, for instance, you might prefer to charge them hourly. Doing so, and applying a rush rate for short notice work, can give you a layer of protection in case hours start to balloon.

Hourly billing gets a bad rap in some circles, but lots of professionals do it. It’s standard practice in accounting and law, to name a couple fields. The real trick is making sure that your work has enough perceived value that clients are OK with paying the hourly rate you want to charge.


TIP: Freelance writers often charge by the word. This may be more desirable than charging by the hour, since paying for a quantity of product may sit better with a client than turning on a ticking meter, even if the final amount is the same. You can negotiate a word count before the project so the client knows exactly what to expect in terms of budget and there won’t be any surprises.

Another creative way to approach pricing:

Charge 10% of the value that you're providing to that client. If your services help your client bring in $100,000 in revenue, you should be charging them $10,000.


Charging What You’re Worth

You don’t want to undervalue your services. Certainly, be realistic. If you have little experience, some humility will serve you well as you build up skills and a track record. But ultimately, you want to be making lots of money—and for many freelancers and consultants, a lack of confidence is a huge hindrance. So don’t use “realism” or “humility” as an excuse for consistently undervaluing yourself.

Ultimately, good clients will pay you what you are worth. If a potential client lowballs you, that isn't a client you want to work with. Counterintuitively, higher rates can make you more attractive to good clients.

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If you start to get a lot of low-paying clients requesting your services, to the extent that it’s a pattern, it’s time to reassess how you’re branding yourself.

If you’re trying to compete on price, especially if you’ve chosen that as your unique value proposition, a stream of cheap clients is the obvious end result. Even if you started off thinking, “Oh I can handle working with tons of clients on the cheap,” you may well find that’s not the case. It’s frustrating to work with people who don’t value your services. Good pay is more than just good pay—it’s proof that the paying client really understands the value that you provide.

If you’re getting a bunch of lowball offers, but haven’t explicitly branded yourself as affordable, take some time to consider how your branding, marketing, social media, etc. may have contributed to this result. What is it about your web copy or your posts, or your audience even, that may have attracted the kind of client who isn’t willing or able to pay what you deserve?

Maybe it’s not your branding. If you’re stuck in a cheap client rut, you can also reassess your confidence level. Do you have a confident mindset? Even if you don't feel confident, fake it. Fake it till you make it may be a cliche, but it’s true. As long as you know you’re providing value, you have reason to hype yourself up, even if there’s that voice of doubt whispering in your ear.

Even if you don’t know exactly how much monetary value you’re providing a client, you can often get a general idea, and you should always know that the work you’re doing matters.

All of this said, it’s possible that you might have the right skills to provide immense value to clients and still struggle to find prospects who will book your services. The key is to keep experimenting with different approaches, the way a startup might pivot, and to keep working toward your big break. You haven’t failed unless you give up.

In the next chapter, we’ll equip you with some tools to go out and get those clients.

Chapter 5 Illustration

Chapter 5

How to Get Clients

Failing to find and book clients is every beginning consultant’s fear. And for those who have been consulting or freelancing successfully, not getting enough clients or not getting the right clients are huge challenges of their own.

The good news is that you don’t have to just whip up a website and wait. There are real strategies you can employ to get clients who pay well.

Landing Your First Client

The toughest step, in some ways, is getting your first client. It’s certainly the most intimidating step! On the other hand, think about it this way: at this stage, you just need ONE client. You don’t need a grand strategy. You just need to be able to convince one individual person that your services are worth what you’re charging for them.

When trying to snag your first client, the key is to show your expertise and the work you have done. And that’s the key—show, don’t tell.

Be honest, but don’t be sheepish. Don’t do anything to highlight any real or perceived inexperience. Do be polite, be kind, be enthusiastic. If you’re not sure about yourself, or at least if you don’t seem sure about yourself, how can you expect a client to be?

Should you work for free?

Then there’s the unavoidable question: Should you work for free? There’s real debate on this. Some people refuse to do free work, on principle, while others argue that it’s sometimes crucial to build your track record.

When you’re starting a consulting business, it might make sense to work for little or no pay. This is especially the case if you’re venturing into a new field, professionally, at least. Maybe you need your first client, and a friend or family member could use your services. Maybe you reach out to someone with a substantial social media following, offering to provide free services in exchange for an online shout out.

If you do opt to do free work, be cautious and intentional. Never desperate. Only work for a free or discounted rate if it's truly, demonstrably worth your time—if you have a clear plan for how this free work gets you to paid work, ASAP. As long as you avoid consigning yourself to bottom-tier pay forever, working for free can help fill out your resume and give you the credibility to pursue future projects.


Where and How to Find Clients

How do you actually find clients? What are concrete strategies for locating them and closing the deal? That’s what we’ll run through in this section.

Here are some initial ideas:

Your Former/Day Job

Start with what you know. If you work a wage or salary job for a company, and you’re leaving on good terms, they may well be interested in what you have to offer as a consultant or freelancer. An easy example is writers. If they used to be employed by a media outlet that also contracts with freelancers, then boom, that very publication is a ready-made client.

Or if you’re getting ready to leave your job and your boss is begging you to stay, that’s an opening for a conversation about staying on part-time or as a consultant.

References from Other Clients

Word of mouth is huge, because it’s all about social proof. To most potential clients, you’re a complete stranger. But if someone they know recommends you, things change. All of a sudden, you’ve got something to build on.

It even works for an 8-year-old with a lawn mower. RJ Duarte, a young kid in Colorado, started off mowing lawns for neighbors. The business spread largely through word of mouth at first. Today, many years later, he’s got a six-figure business with employees.

Landscaping Landscaping

An eager 8-year-old with a lawn mower started what would become a full-fledged landscaping agency. Never undersell word of mouth.

What you can’t do is just wait around and hope people talk you up. You’ve got to set the stage for referrals by telling current clients that you’re looking for more clients. Ask them to refer you to people who might have interest.

Your Personal Network

This tactic is so basic that you might be tempted to overlook it. But it works. There’s a reason that every 10-year-old selling Girl Scout cookies taps into her (parents’) network.

Sure, there can be a bit of anxiety here, and tons of beginning consultants don’t want to tell their friends and family about what they’re doing until they’ve “made it.” That’s an understandable impulse, but it’s a bad business move—so snap out of it. These are the people with real life connections to you. They want you to succeed!

How to go about this? Be upfront. Just let people know that you’re on the lookout for new clients! Mention this during conversations in person. Shoot a short email out to friends explaining your new endeavor, including contact info, and asking them to forward to anyone who might have interest.

Tapping into your personal network isn’t about asking immediate contacts to hire you. The most powerful referrals come when someone you know connects you to a third person.

On social media? Even your personal accounts should highlight your business. If you’ve got a personal Facebook, for instance, you can post photos with captions talking about a great day working on something for a client. Even if you’re just starting your consulting business as a side hustle and you’ve only got a client or two at a time, this works. No one scrolling through their feed knows if you feel nervous or unsure or not yet established.

Social media is a highlight reel, so show them business highlights and even your acquaintances will start to think of you as a consultant, freelancer, or coach. When their cousin, boss, or distant friend is on the lookout for someone who offers your service, you’ll be top of mind.

Job Boards

There are online job boards or platforms that cater exclusively to freelancers and consultants. Other boards might focus on 9-to-5 work but still include freelance and consulting positions in the mix.

Job boards tend to offer lower-paying gigs and a lot of competition, but it’s a numbers game. Just like applying for a “normal” job, the more stuff you apply to, the higher your chance of landing something. And while the real money and best clients aren’t on job boards, they can be a useful way to start out. Sometimes those low-paying clients can even grow into high-paying ones.

The internet is filled with job boards for every service and sector you can imagine. Here is a small list of examples:

As you can see, job boards are most prominent, and likely most useful, in the freelance space. But no matter your angle, it’s worth taking a look to see if boards like these can help you out.

Cold Outreach

Cold calls? “Oh. My. God. Run!!!”

That’s a fairly typical reaction—shout out to you if you’re not even a little scared—but it’s an important avenue to consider. In some fields, like freelance journalism, for example, it’s a must. To become a consultant or freelancer who does big numbers, you’ll want to get comfortable with cold calls and emails.

It’s true that people can be wary of complete strangers. One way to warm up your cold outreach at least a little is to first become familiar with the company you’re reaching out to. That’s simple:

  • Follow the organization on social media
  • Sign up for email newsletters
  • Read their blog and press releases
  • Connect with their employees on LinkedIn
  • Interact online where appropriate

Familiarity with a company will help you craft a cold call/email that gets their attention.

Cold calls can work. Ask Brenton Hayden. He launched a real estate company that's now called Renters Warehouse. Back then, it was just one guy: him. And his first foray into marketing? Cold calls. Three got turned down, but the fourth call got him somewhere—a year later, he'd made almost a million dollars.

Renters Warehouse

Brenton Mock started his journey into real estate with some cold calls. At age 27, he was able to retire.

See the next section in this chapter for specifics on writing the email or making the call.

Others in Your Industry

Build relationships with other consultants/freelancers in your industry, and offer to pick up extra work. When you’re swamped with clients and can’t take on anyone else, you can refer prospects to someone else. Later, they can return the favor.

Johanna Rothman, a management consultant, points out that a great strategy is referring types of work you no longer do, to other consultants. On her blog she writes:

When I started my business, I taught test and development techniques to technical staff. I now focus my business on project management and people management, so I refer the testing and development work to other consultants.

Many freelance portrait photographers, for example, use referrals from other photographers to grow their business.

This strategy isn’t super scientific. There’s no graph about when and how much it’ll pay off. But it’s worth the effort: make yourself known and help out others, because that good energy will eventually circle back to you.

Lead Magnets

You can use your online presence to create a funnel that brings clients to you. You start with a lead magnet, some piece of content—a cheat sheet, ebook, special video, webinar, whatever—that you give website visitors for free in order to get potential clients on your email list.

In chapter six, we take a deep dive into different kinds of lead magnets and how to use them to bring clients in.

No matter which assortment of the above strategies you pursue, remember: The way to land clients is to show them how you can solve a problem they have, or don't yet know they have, so that they can do their job better and make more money.


How to Cold Pitch Your Services

So you’ve researched a company. You’ve connected with some key people on LinkedIn. You’ve hovered around, getting a sense of what they’re up to, and now you’re ready to take the brave step of just reaching out and seeing what happens. Awesome!

But…how? A lot of paralysis can come from simply being uncertain about how to execute this step, so let’s ditch all that by running through the details. First, cold emails. Then, cold calls. Let’s do it.

Cold Emails

How do you email someone you don’t know? Keep it short. Keep it to the point.

You don’t know this person, and they don’t know you. Think about it this way: You don’t even want to read a 10-paragraph email from someone you know well, so you certainly don’t want to get hit with an inbox novel from a stranger. Your potential clients feel the same way.

The company behind Boomerang, a Gmail extension that helps you schedule emails, found that the best bet for email length is 50-125 words. They found that emails within that range garnered response rates above 50%.

A successful cold email will succinctly address the following:

  • Who you are
  • Why are you emailing
  • Where you are (Maybe. If you’re located in the same city, or you live somewhere that’s strategically important for their business, mention it! In most cases, though, they probably don’t need to know your location.)
  • How the recipient can take action to move forward

Also be sure to express thanks for their time! CEOs and other business executives, especially, are busy people. And be extremely clear about the next step for them to take if they’re interested in talking with you further. Have a specific ask, like a short list of time blocks during which you’re available for a 15-minute call.

retooling blog

Bonus: Can’t find the email for the person you want to contact? Check out our awesome in-depth guide:

Cold Calls

So you’re ready for your first call with a potential client, also called the discovery call. The most important thing to remember about cold calls also happens to be the single most important thing about consulting and freelancing in general: While you should take control of the call, you must make it about them. Never focus on you.

Droning on about yourself and how great you are is a piss poor cold call strategy. Nobody wants to hear that. What they want to know is how you can help them, so focus on having a two-way conversation where you outline where you’re coming from while genuinely learning more about their needs.

Don’t try for a hard sell. If they’re interested, they’re interested. If not, learn more, and slowly but surely demonstrate how you can help. Don’t rush the process. This attitude can even reduce stress you might have about cold calling. Whatever will be will be.

A simple-but-effective way to start a cold call is to just thank them for their time and outline your goals for the call. You can open with something like, “Thanks for agreeing to a 15-minute meeting. I really appreciate it. I can start by asking you a few questions to make sure we’re a good fit. And you can of course ask me anything that you’d like to. How does that sound?”

Then move immediately to center their business challenge in the conversation—remembering to make it about what you can do for them. For example: “What I gather from our conversation over email is that you’re pretty frustrated with marketing, and that you might want some help coming up with a strategy that can get better results. Is that right?”

While you likely won’t have much time on the call, it’s important not to gloss over this part: Make sure you really, really pinpoint the problem they’re dealing with. You need to understand it.

As you move into the rest of the call, here are some key points you’ll want to cover, and ideas for questions you can ask:

“If we work together on this challenge, how will you measure success?”

This question is great because it’s all about them and the results they want, but it gives you an answer to your most important question. What will you need to do to make them a satisfied client? Starting to establish parameters for success early on is a great way to ensure a great working relationship. For example, will they measure success by how many people download their free ebook? Will they measure success by how many customers they can funnel from email signups to a course purchase?

“Imagine your ideal life after working with me. What would that look like for you?”

This is another question that, while putting your prospect in the center, gives you important intel about what they really want. But it’s also good because it helps them envision a successful end game: they’ll close their eyes and see a picture of exactly how working with you will work for them.

“What concerns or hesitations do you have about working with me?”

Holy way to be blunt, Batman! Should you really ask something like this? 100% yes! It centers your client in the best way, showing them that they’re #1, even if it might make you uncomfortable. It shows confidence, too. You know what you’re doing, but you’re not afraid to take feedback that’s fully honest. Potential clients will love this, making you more likely to close the deal. But the benefits extend beyond a signed contract. By establishing an open door policy of honest communication from day one, you maximize your chances of making your client happy.

If you hop on your first call with a prospect and panic, just remember this guiding principle: Make it all about them. You don’t even need to mention your services, unless they ask specifically (that can come on a follow-up call). Instead, really listen to hear what the prospect is struggling with so that you can demonstrate your expertise and forge that connection.

Even when equipped with this knowledge, hopping on a call with a stranger can make lots of people nervous. And that’s OK, because anything can be practiced. You can help alleviate any anxiety by roleplaying the call with a friend or, failing that, recording yourself. A little practice can go a long way.


If your initial conversations go well—you identify the potential client’s problems, you know how you can help solve them, and you have a budding relationship of mutual trust—they may ask you to make a proposal for how you can help.

Note that a proposal shouldn’t be some huge effort to convince them to contract with you for services. You should have already all but sold them on that in earlier conversations. Proposals should just seal the deal.

Here’s what you should include in your proposal:

Opening statement:

Thank them and offer one powerful sentence about why you’re confident you can help them out.


You should cover exactly what services you’ll be doing for the client as part of the project. You’ve got to be on the same page, and you don’t want to make vague promises that will lead to them expecting more work than you bargained for.

Anything you need from the client:

Consulting projects often get stuck in traffic when the consultant needs something from the client but isn’t getting it. For example, a freelancer making a video for a company might not be able to proceed on a project without the company’s logo and branding copy. A web developer might need web copy in order to design a website. Save everyone confusion and time by spelling out exactly what you need from your client.


How much will the client owe you? When do they need to pay you?


Give a start and end date for the project, plus any deadlines along the way. Some consultants even throw an expiration date on the proposal so the client doesn’t return a year later expecting the same pricing on an outdated proposal.

A proposal is not typically a legal document, so don’t send impenetrable walls of text written in legalese. Keep it simple and accessible. Even if you’re sending it online, one option is to use presentation format and send over a short slide deck. You can find great presentation templates online (for example, here and here). Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with basic text.


Look, we’re not attorneys. We can’t give you legal advice, and you’re best off consulting with a lawyer on big questions related to contracts.

But there are some basic principles you can consider that help create a contract to protect both parties. Rule #1? Always have a contract. You should pretty much never do work, especially substantial projects, without something in writing. (One potential exception, maybe, is a repeat client that you really, really trust.)

Your contract should put the proposal into legally sound language. It might include the following:

  • Ownership rights
  • Payment terms
  • Late payment fee
  • A legal right to include work in your portfolio or website
  • Project termination notice period
  • Cancellation fee
  • Contract start and end dates
  • Limits on the allowed number of revision requests

Whatever the specifics, your goal is to set clear expectations for both sides. It’s a service to both you and your client.

Services you can use to create and sign contracts:


A securely encrypted platform for online signatures that meet legal muster. It costs money (starting at $13 per month) to get the features you’ll need, but you can sign up for a 30-day free trial to see how it works.

The Freelance Contract

This one is neat. AND CO, an invoicing and payments company, teamed up with the Freelancers Union to create this easy, standardized contract system. It's free!

In most industries, there will be freelancers or consultants who sell their contract templates for others to use, so you can also try searching for templates specific to your sector and service.

Closing the Sale: Follow-Up and Negotiation

If you’ve sent out your proposal and heard nothing back, that’s not the end of the world. You can still close the deal.

Try following up two or three days after you sent the proposal. Email is less intrusive, so that should be your go-to. But don’t send a simple “just following up” message. Remember, you’re still in sales mode. The trick, then, is to restate what it is that your client wants—they don’t want an XYZ consultant, they want ABC results—and reiterate how you can help them get that.

Your prospect may want to schedule a call to follow up and discuss more details. That’s great.

One of the most common hang ups you’ll encounter is pricing. It makes sense that prospects might not be 100% sure about pulling the trigger. Money might be tight, and they probably just met you. So it’s important to be honest and empathetic during this part of the process.

If a client doesn’t agree to your rates or expresses interest in paying less, tread carefully. If you’re just starting out or you’re super desperate for work, you might agree to lower your rates. It’s not a decision to take lightly. Don’t get stuck in a pattern of always giving prospects everything they ask for on pricing. It’s not sustainable!

When possible, avoid lowering your prices. One strategy is to negotiate not on price, but on scope. If your price is making a prospect balk, you can cut back on the extent of services and thus lower the price.

Another powerful tool when negotiating pricing is the rush fee. If a client wants something done on a short turnaround time, it’s completely legitimate to charge extra.

Here’s a great explanation of rush fees from ClickTime:

Think of a rush fee as a tool. It should serve two distinct purposes:

  • Rush fees should deter customers from asking for rush jobs
  • Rush fees should cover your opportunity costs

When negotiating, pay attention to red flags. If a client says “this should be easy,” you may want to run for the hills. Ditto for “this shouldn’t take too long,” or “it shouldn’t be too much work.” These statements reveal that they probably don’t understand or value what you do, which will impact how they treat you.

Of course, when first starting a consulting business, you may find yourself in a position where you have to temporarily accept clients who don’t fit your ideal mold. Climbing out of that hole means creating more demand for your services. And the ladder? Marketing. Head to the next chapter and we’ll get to it.

Chapter 6 Illustration

Chapter 6

Branding and Marketing Your Services

No matter how good you are, you’re going to have to fight for business. Face it, you’ve got competition. Lots of it. That’s where marketing and branding can make a difference.

If you’re running dry on clients and you even don’t know how to begin marketing, this chapter will help. If you’ve got experience but need to keep momentum going, this chapter will also help.

Referrals, Testimonials, and Case Studies

The best marketing won’t come from you. It will come from people who use your services, love working with you, and want to tell others all about it. That’s social proof.

Three related marketing tools tap directly into social proof:





Case Studies

Case Studies

We’ll go over each of these, explaining how to get them and how to use them to effectively build a brand that brings clients in.


This is a totally organic kind of marketing. One person tells another about your work. It’s word of mouth, and it’s important, because referrals immediately create a baseline of trust. If someone hears great things about your consulting business through a friend or respected colleague, they’re primed to believe in you.

A lot of the work here is just providing damn good service. After you’ve finished working on a project for a client, you can send them a short note asking if there’s anyone they know who might find value in your work.

But referrals aren’t just recommendations from people who’ve worked with you. Almost 82% of firms get referrals from people who’ve never been clients.

Networking is key, so get out there and meet people at events in real life. Go to meetups, conferences, and other events in your industry. Business cards might not be everything they were 20 years ago, but they’re still important and they’re super cheap, so head to Vistaprint, Staples, UPrinting, or your local office supplies store and pick some up. They lend you some legitimacy, and they’re still one of the easiest ways for people to remember you days after an event.

One strategy for networking is to forge relationships with people who exist in the same industry as you but work with a different client base. For example, if you are a legal consultant, you can connect with lawyers who have different areas of practice than you. Stacey Burke, a law firm business consultant, recommends that attorneys look to those who work in areas of law with lots of cases and clients, like consumer bankruptcy, social security disability, or small car accident. People working in those areas get a lot of inquiries, including a high number of prospects looking for legal services outside their areas of expertise.

For more on how to strategically use networking events to build your business, check out our in-depth article on that very topic.


Written or video endorsements from real, live clients can be compelling. Making claims about what you can do only goes so far, but a testimonial from a happy client is real evidence that you can deliver results.

In one test by MarketingExperiments, testimonials increased the conversion rate on a page by 25%, with even bigger gains for video.

If you don’t have any testimonials yet, start by getting at least one amazing one from someone in your network, even a friend, who is familiar with your work.

Contact your favorite clients and ask them for testimonials you can use on your website and in your marketing. Once you’ve worked with enough people, and done a good job, you should be able to get testimonials pretty easily as long as people really are happy with your work.

Where to put testimonials? Your website, for sure. But they’re useful everywhere, including landing pages, social media profiles, even email signatures.

Another tip: Don’t just tell. Show. Always try to use photos, since including a headshot of the person endorsing your services will make their testimonial much more credible and believable. For that same reason, video testimonials can be more powerful than text

Matt Olpinski Matt Olpinski

Matt Olpinski, a design consultant who works on websites and apps for businesses, displays testimonials prominently on the home page of his own site. Visitors can then click to see a full page with other testimonials — complete with photos to lend legitimacy and relatability to these clients’ words.

Testimonials should come from your ideal client type, because people relate better to those who are like them. For example, let’s say you’re a health coach who wants to work primarily with small business owners looking to fit a good diet and proper fitness into their busy schedules. As is often the case at the start of a consulting career, your existing client base may be all over the place with all sorts of people. Instead of throwing testimonials from anyone and everyone up on your website, you could use testimonials only, or primarily, from the demographic you’re trying to reach.

You should also think about the key decision maker. Who will decide whether or not to contract with you? If you work with businesses, will it be the CEO? The head of marketing? A VP of such-and-such? Try to identify the kinds of people who will be making the decision to work (or not work) with you, and get testimonials from them—even if the company rep you work with on the day-to-day is a different person.

If you have them, numbers are great. For example, if you’re a social media marketing consultant, you could have a testimonial saying, “So-and-so helped us get more followers and better engagement on Facebook and Instagram!” But a better, more convincing testimonial might say, “Their expertise helped expand our Facebook audience by 121%, while getting an additional 10,000 Instagram followers in just one month.”

If you use numbers in your testimonials, try to use exact numbers. A study from the University of Minnesota Duluth's Association for Consumer Research looked at what people thought about numbers they saw in advertising claims. Some people saw an ad trumpeting a 50% improvement. Others were shown the same ad, but with a "sharp" number instead: 47%. Even though the second ad's number was lower, people saw it as both more credible and more accurate.

Video testimonials are most effective. They are harder to come by, but if you can get a few, they will do wonders for your business. Consider offering an incentive for clients to provide a video testimonial and only ask those clients with whom you have already built trust.

Avalanche Consulting

Avalanche Consulting, which works with communities on economic development, uses video testimonials to highlight their range of clients and put real, breathing, talking people in front of prospects. Videos are often more convincing than text.

Case Studies

A case study is a story. It’s you telling potential clients about how you helped a past client solve a specific problem.

Diving deep into the specifics of how you helped a client and what results you got for them can really prove that you have what it takes to give prospects what they want. A short report or page on your website can include a client testimonial, outline what you did, and give key stats on the results you achieved.

Case studies can include:

  • Who the client is and what they do
  • What you did to help the client solve a problem
  • Impressive before and after statistics
  • How the client feels about working with you (a testimonial)
  • A call to action—what can interested prospects do after reading the case study?

Even a good story can be ruined by being too long, so it’s a good idea to keep your case studies pretty short, say under 1,000 words. Avoid a wall of text. Use headlines, bullet points, images.

Here’s an example of a great case study page from Kurt Elster, an ecommerce consultant with a full-fledged consultancy company, Ethercycle. The case study details a consulting project with KeySmart, a big ecommerce brand, and it has all the essentials: impressive stats, a quick blurb on what KeySmart is, images and multimedia, a written testimonial, a summary of what Ethercycle did, and to round it all off, a simple call to action asking visitors to reserve a consultation.


As with referrals and testimonials, a common pain point is figuring out what to do if you don’t have any clients whose experiences you can turn into a case study. In that case, keep potential case studies in mind when landing the right clients, and think about how you can pitch the idea to them, focusing on what kind of benefits (like exposure) it could offer them.


Lead Magnets

As the name suggests, lead magnets attract potential clients, and should be a part of any serious marketing strategy to grow your consulting business. A lead magnet is a marketing tactic whereby you offer something for free in exchange for an email signup, with hopes of generating interest among potential clients.

As with referrals and testimonials, a common pain point is figuring out what to do if you don’t have any clients whose experiences you can turn into a case study. In that case, keep potential case studies in mind when landing the right clients, and think about how you can pitch the idea to them, focusing on what kind of benefits (like exposure) it could offer them.


An email newsletter is a tried-and-true lead offer, promising subscribers useful “members-only” content on a regular basis. A newsletter can’t be the same old, same old. It needs to be exciting and unique, filled with high-value advice, tips, and resources to help subscribers succeed.

If you write a newsletter, your content should be tailored to what your ideal clients would have interest in. If you’re a marketing consultant, for example, each email should be chock-full of marketing tips specific to the kinds of business clients you hope to attract. If you work primarily for ecommerce companies, you’d focus on marketing tactics and hacks specific to ecommerce.

The problem is that newsletters are everywhere (how many are you signed up for?), so they don’t have the highest perceived value. They’re also a lot of work. You’ll have to constantly churn out new stuff to subscribers.

That said, newsletters can be a good option if you like producing content and relish the challenge of crafting unique, compelling emails that will leave subscribers with no choice but to open and read. Beyond actually creating the newsletter content, this option is fairly straightforward. All you need to start is an email marketing platform like MailChimp, AWeber, or Drip.

Email Series

You can market this as a kind of mini-course addressing the “how-to” of something related to your services. You send one email at a time, each with helpful nuggets of information.

Sign Up Email

Jane Portman is a user experience consultant who offers a relevant email series with a clear, specific value proposition. Bonus points: her sign-up is super simple, asking only for an email, making it quick and painless for visitors to grab the lead magnet.

This is kind of like a newsletter, but it’s much more targeted and smaller in scope, and can be reused. A series is easier to create, and doesn’t demand an indefinite commitment.

Cheat Sheet, Template, or Checklist

People like downloadable PDF freebies that help them accomplish a task or learn actionable tips for success. These one-pagers can go by all sorts of names: worksheets, tip sheets, blueprints, cheat sheets, checklists, templates, etc.

They’re relatively easy to make, but if the content is unique and useful, can be powerful sources of leads. The trick is picking something you can distill into concrete steps, tips, or “template-able” bits.

Austin Church Austin Church

Take a difficult part of some process and offering a free template for it can bring the email signups streaming in. Austin L. Church, a coach and consultant who works with freelance writers on business growth, gives away four email templates for his target clients—right there on his website’s homepage.

Let’s say you’re thinking about how to become a freelance copywriter. A targeted, useful lead magnet might be something along the lines of a checklist of 11 quick copy fixes to boost conversion rates. Let’s say that you’re a health coach. Some sort of weekly meal planning template, maybe bundled with a healthy eating cheat sheet, could be a good fit.

When creating your one-pager, start with just the text. You can always stop there and turn it into a pdf, or you may want to design and brand it. Some helpful tools to look into:



Similar to the above idea, but longer and more involved, a PDF ebook can educate potential clients on a problem area or pain point they have. Part of the appeal here is that ebooks can be downloaded and kept forever. They’re something the lead can own.

Right now you might be thinking, “A book? A whole book? Do I look like I’m made out of time? I definitely can’t write that much!”

Worry not. What matters most for ebooks is not length but content. People don’t really care how long it is. They care how helpful it is. Focusing on quality content could mean a short ebook in the 5-15 page range. That’s totally OK.

Party Invox

Branding and design consultant Dana Mwangi offers a free ebook to email subscribers with the promise of a “party in your inbox!”

Suppose you’re a productivity trainer or coach. An ebook detailing seven key principles of productivity could appeal to a potential client. Even better is to offer a more specific promise, like “7 Productivity Principles for Stressed Out Freelancers Who Don’t Have Time.”

Interested in offering this kind of lead magnet? Check out Foundr’s exclusive guide on how to make a high-converting ebook no matter your budget.


This can be even harder to create than an ebook, but for some consultants or freelancers it may be a good fit. A whitepaper is a report that presents authoritative research related to your industry.

There’s some disagreement over what, exactly, a whitepaper is, but over at HubSpot, Lindsay Kolowich defines the term:

A whitepaper is a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic that presents a problem and provides a solution.

A whitepaper comes across as more official and professional than an ebook, but holds a similar promise that it will help overcome some sort of challenge. With their emphasis on research, whitepapers are especially suited for consultants in areas like finance, accounting, and law.


First Manhattan Consulting Group works on various aspects of business strategy with banks. In a sector filled with large, complex institutions, the group’s whitepapers help establish credibility and signal the seriousness and expertise they’ll bring to work with clients.


You can generate interest in your services by streaming a free, live (or even recorded) online presentation that helps your target audience solve a pressing problem. (More on webinars later in this chapter!)

Free Consultation

This one is simple. Offer visitors to your website a free phone call. It should be short, maybe 20 minutes, but long enough that you can connect with potential clients and develop a rapport.

Christina Scalera

Intellectual property lawyer Christina Scalera poses a simple offer to web visitors: “Do you need a trademark? Find out for free!” Click through the offer and you’re met with simple scheduling for a 20-minute session.

Free consultations do have their downsides. This isn’t a strategy that can scale well, since your time is a limited resource and you can only consult with one prospect at a time. And that drain on your time, paired with offering your most valuable services for free, makes some entrepreneurs downright opposed to this strategy.

But the upside is clear. You offer a peek into your services, for free. If they like what they see, chances are they’ll be eager to sign a contract.

Whole Brain Group

The Whole Brain Group, a Michigan-based inbound marketing agency, offers this form for free consultations. Including so many fields—they’ve got a whopping 10 items for visitors to fill out—will decrease conversion rates. But if done intentionally, that’s OK, since more fields help weed out people who aren’t serious, generating higher quality leads.

As you brainstorm ideas for a compelling lead magnet, keep these tips in mind:

  • More specific is more effective. Any management consultant, for example, could host a webinar titled, “How to Be a Better Manager.” But if anyone can do it, no one will care. OK, that might be a tad hyperbolic, but the point stands: Unique content that promises to solve a specific problem will perform better.
  • Provide value that’s not otherwise offered on your website, blog, or social media. To be worth their email address, the lead offer needs to be special.
  • Ask yourself how your target audience (those ideal clients!) like to consume information. Do they like videos? Do they prefer written material that can be skimmed if needed? Do they want a ready-to-deploy template to ease their workload?

Creating a good lead magnet that delivers real value is the key challenge here. But once you’ve done that, you need to get it into people’s hands with a content-for-email offer. Some places where you can offer your lead magnet are:

  • Homepage of your website
  • Social media channels
  • Pop-ups on your website
  • Sidebar of your blog and in-text blog links and graphics

Email Marketing

Email is still king. According to Abobe, for every $1 spent on email, the average return on investment (ROI) is $40. That’s nearly twice as much as the return on the runner-up marketing strategy, search engine optimization.

ROI Graphic


That’s big, but when you think about it, it makes sense. You have total control over what you do with your email list, and it’s a direct line to your subscribers—no search engine or social media algorithms, no relying on ads on other sites. It’s your content and your subscribers’ inboxes.

Compelling lead magnets get people in the door. Once you have their email, though, what do you do?

A guiding principle is always to provide value. Because they’ve invited you into their inboxes, you should serve your subscribers something that demands respect and appreciation. Your motto should never be sell, sell, sell. Instead: serve, serve, serve. Serving would look like sending them content that solves their problems and fills a need. Think about their needs first, always.

Over time, you will develop a relationship with your subscribers which will allow them to feel more comfortable working with you. And then, infrequently, you’ll want to send either a standalone effort to convert them to clients, or what’s called a drip email campaign to do the same.

Email marketing is a big topic, one that launched a thousand blogs, and more than we can really cover here. For more on how to build trust with your subscribers and eventually convert them into customers, check out these resources:

For more tips on email marketing, check out this post on how, at Foundr, we grew our email list by 56,000 subscribers in just one month. And if you’re into Twitter, you can also use that platform to grow your email list.


These seminars or presentations that happen entirely online can be a ton of fun, and aside from being great lead magnets, they’re powerful ways to build trust and secure clients. Webinars can be live-streamed, on-demand, or both (live-stream, then make the recording available).

Why webinars? They build exposure and authority for your consulting, coaching, or freelancing business.

Webinar topics should be specific and solve a deep problem in your prospect’s industry. For example, a social media consultant might offer a webinar on how to gain X number of Instagram followers in a month. A business coach might do a live Q&A to demonstrate their expertise and build trust among their following.

As this webinar landing page from photographer Jenna Kutcher shows, webinars can have value as lead magnets even after the live event. Just make a recording available:

Jenna Kutcher

To run your own webinar, you’ll need to choose software that suits your needs. Here are some of our favorite options:

Logos 4

What is Facebook doing on a list of webinar platforms? Valid question! Here's the answer: Facebook Live offers easy livestreaming on a social media platform used by literally billions of people. And it’s free. If you want a no-frills approach, this is it, because...well, there are no frills at all. Besides live-streaming video of yourself, which you have to do from a mobile device, there are barely any other features. But if you want to connect with a community you already have on Facebook or cultivate a personal, handheld feel, Facebook Live might be worth experimenting with.

Free Workshop

This webinar is about...webinars. Jon Schumacher is a consultant who works with companies to create webinars that get sales—so of course he has to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

Paid Advertising

The most effective advertising is strategic, with a long game in mind. An ad screaming “HEY YOU DON’T KNOW ME BUT I AM A CONSULTANT AND YOU SHOULD HIRE ME ASAP” is not particularly convincing.

Instead of the hard sell, most consultants and freelancers are better off using ads to build connections with potential clients first, with the goal of convincing them to book you later on. And you already know how to build that connection: your lead magnet. Online ads directing viewers to a free lead magnet can get people interested in you and on your email list.

Where are the best places for consultants, coaches, and freelancers to advertise? It will vary depending on your industry and target clients, but three main places come to mind: Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn.

Facebook is obvious. It has an intuitive system for creating ads, and it’s big. The social media giant boasts 2.19 billion active users as of the time of the writing of this guide, one of many reasons companies continue to plow billions of dollars into advertising on the platform. One reason the platform is such a powerful, proven tool for advertising? Users input all sorts of information about themselves—name, age, sex, location, interests, you name it—so you can target ads to very specific demographics. You can pay per impression (view) or per click.

Here are some resources to get you started bringing in leads through Facebook:

Google advertising doesn’t offer the kind of intense demographic targeting that Facebook offers, but it does have its own unique advantage. When someone conducts a web search, they’re looking for something: information, solutions, something.

An ad that’s relevant to their search results, that actually gives the information or solution they want, can bring the clicks rolling in. That’s where Google AdWords comes in.

Think of the keywords someone types in as a question (they often are, literally).Your lead magnet should be the answer, so the basic strategy for Google AdWords is clear: Figure out what question (keywords) your lead magnet answers, then run ads on those keywords. Tools like Adthena, KWFinder, and Market Samurai can help you figure out the right keywords to target.

To turn Google searches into leads for your consulting business, start with these resources:

Finally, LinkedIn ads can be a stellar source of highly qualified leads. The social network claims over 550 million users, and while on the site these people are already in a professional/business mindset. That makes the jump from “I’m just scrolling through my feed” to “hey that’s a neat ad and it’s relevant to my business, I think I’ll click” a lot easier.

As with Facebook, you can choose to pay for impressions or clicks, and it’s pretty easy to set up your ad campaign. You can even experiment with video ads (see the next section in this chapter for details on how to create compelling video content). Whatever kind of ads you run on LinkedIn, here are some resources to help:

Video Marketing

Videos let you get personal with your audience. They feel “real,” which helps build trust. And people really do respond to it. In fact, Cisco projects that by 2020, video will account for nearly 80% of all internet content.

Some brands can get away with just product shots, testimonials, and voiceovers. But if you’re a consultant, coach, or freelancer, then the product is you. That means you’ll need to get in front of the camera. (Starting a personal YouTube channel is one way to practice getting comfortable in front of the camera.)

Types of Videos

Client testimonials are powerful. Potential customers can see real, live people just like them, testifying to the power of your services. Combining the power of video with the power of testimonials is one of the best ways to break past skepticism and begin building relationships with prospects.

You can also make educational videos. Providing value to people with how-to videos or tutorials grabs their attention. We’re far, far more likely to watch a video that helps us solve a problem or learn about something than a video that’s just a marketing pitch. Indeed, some 71% of high-profile thought leaders use educational videos to build authority.

You can also use video content to offer your audience a peek into your work. Consider, for example, connecting authentically with Instagram Stories. These videos can be simple, just you talking about something cool that you’re doing or that you’re excited about. This builds familiarity. When a social media follower is later looking to hire someone who does what you do, they’ll be more likely to feel like they know you. Brittani and Jon Hon, a pair of New York City-based freelance wedding photographers, do a great job of keeping it real with their Instagram stories.

IG Stories

Instagram Stories, like this one from freelance photographer Brittani Hon, can connect you to your audience.

The effectiveness of more personal videos will depend on your niche. Adding a personal touch or behind-the-scenes look at your work might not be appropriate for a corporate financial consultant, but it may be a good fit for a life coach.

How to Make Great Videos

Your first task is figuring out how to shoot video footage. Depending on your budget and the kinds of videos you want to make, you have some different options:


For some kinds of videos, like informal live content, your built-in webcam may be all you need. And if you’re working on a desktop computer without a built-in option, you can buy standalone webcams for cheap, in the $10-$30 range.


For video content on social media, a smartphone is good enough. Videos shared on Instagram, for example, don’t need to be state-of-the-art films. That said, phone camera quality has skyrocketed in recent years, so you can produce some damn good video.


This is an intermediate step between a smartphone and camera. They’re actually pretty affordable (the Canon VIXIA HF R600 runs for $299) and offer some decent shooting capabilities, so if you don’t wish to invest in a DSLR, this one’s a good option.


For even better quality and functionality than camcorders, consider a real live camera. You can find one for under $500 (Sony Alpha a5000 sells for $450), but you can also go higher (the Sony RX100 IV retails for $900).

Editing can get complicated. But when you’re just starting out, Windows Story Remix (successor to the now-unavailable Windows Movie Maker) or Apple’s iMovie are solid free options. They should suffice for most low-budget video marketing, and they’re pretty easy to learn.

Buffer has a great article on video equipment to fit every budget.

Where to Upload Your Videos

You can upload and embed videos on your own site. You can also put videos on YouTube, which comes with social and search benefits. Instagram Stories let you upload video that disappears after 24 hours.

You should also consider a new player in town. Done right, LinkedIn videos can build your brand. You might post videos containing short updates about your company, like Instagram Stories, but with a little more emphasis on professionalism. You can also add videos such as client testimonials to the “Experience” section on your profile page.

Chapter 7 Illustration

Chapter 7

Operations and Client Management

As you provide stellar service to your clients and market yourself effectively, your consulting, freelancing, or coaching business will grow.

Growth is great. But it can bring new challenges of its own, as you struggle to manage your clients and time for maximum effect. In this chapter, we’ll go over some tips for productivity and client communication.

Time Management and Productivity

Keeping a consulting business organized is a whole skill of its own. Always remember, you’re running a business. Sometimes people get so focused on the part they really love doing that they forget to focus on implementing systems to run a tight ship.

Part of managing your workload is finding the right software. Here are some of our favorite apps and sites to help consultants and other service-based business owners:

To-do Lists




Time Tracking



Project Management




Booking Appointments


Client Management and Invoicing




Social Media Scheduling




Managing your time effectively isn’t just a matter of finding the perfect app, of course. Dealing with a full client load while avoiding distractions can be a big strain on your time, so it’s important to keep your eyes on your productivity.

A few quick tips on how to be a consultant with laser focus:

Single-task by working on only one thing at a time

Research is clear: our brains literally can’t multitask. It’s straight up impossible. When you try, it actually makes you slower and worse at the tasks you’re doing.

Make your to-do lists specific

Start each task with a verb. If you’re going to write down “blog post,” instead try “write blog post.” By starting each task with an action word, you’re painting a clearer picture about what you need to do.

Budget your time

Writing monthly and yearly plans that note your goals (income and otherwise) can give you a big picture framework for managing your time. Each week, you can budget your time based on these overarching goals. This helps you avoid overbooking, which can happen all too easily once your business picks up steam.

Get enough sleep

Yeah, yeah, you get it and you’re skipping past this point already. But seriously! Sleep acts as a multiplier on everything else in your day. Poor sleep means poorer performance, period. And sleep scientists now say that in order to get enough sleep each night you need to be in bed sleeping for 8.5 hours. While 8 hours is an optimal amount of sleep, you won’t fall asleep right away: the extra half hour helps you decompress, drift away, and get well-rounded rest.

Looking for more ways to level up your productivity? Foundr has too many great resources on this topic to cover every tip here. Have at it:


Need a productivity boost?

Want to get more done in less time? Check out our FREE Ebook,"The Ultimate Guide To Doubling Your Productivity In 30 Days."

Client Communication and Dealing with Difficult Clients

Communication can be difficult enough in person, but new problems can pop up when you’re working remotely for several clients at once and talking over the phone or web. The best way to avoid problems is to communicate clearly, early, and often.

No matter the medium of communication, get specific. On your end, you should be very clear about what exactly they’re paying for and what they can expect. Miscommunications about the scope of work are a big pitfall to avoid.

If you meet over video chat or phone, create a paper trail by sending short follow-up emails noting key action items or parameters that you agreed on.

Remember that communication continues after you’ve established guidelines for a project and are actively working on it. Clients don’t want to be in the dark about what’s going on, so you’ll need to send them occasional updates. What that means will differ from client to client. For some clients, a periodic message saying “everything is fine and on track” will be enough.

Others might want more detail. That’s why you should talk early on about what they can expect. (This article from Entrepreneur goes into three kinds of client scenarios and how to communicate in each one.)

Dealing With Difficult Clients

Even with the best communication, you won’t click with every client. Some of them will just be difficult, and that can be frustrating.

Your number one rule in working with difficult clients is to keep your cool. Always approach them in a calm state of mind. If they send a ridiculous email that has you absolutely fuming, just walk away from the computer. Take a short walk or meditate for five minutes before coming back to type a response. Think of yourself as Spock, or The Wolf from Pulp Fiction. Whatever happens, you can deal with it.


A visual representation of how not to deal with difficult clients.

Setting clear expectations early on is crucial. But when you’ve set clear expectations and tried your best to massage a win-win out of a tough situation and it doesn’t work, what options are available? If a client is consistently late on payments or never listens to your advice, what are you supposed to do, fire them?

Well, yeah. Maybe.

It’s true. If you really can’t find a productive solution, you can let clients go. Of course, you have to ask yourself the tough questions. Can you afford to fire this client? Figure out how much money they bring in, how much you’d be making without them, and how much time for other work it would free up. Do you need to get another client lined up first?

If you find yourself in this tough situation, there are different strategies for “firing” clients. Online marketing expert Nick Reese outlines three main ways:

  • Position it as an impersonal business decision. Say you’ve analyzed your business goals and are shifting your client base (and they fall outside of it).
  • Cite vague personal reasons. You could explain the reasons, but you don’t have to. Explain that due to whatever circumstances, you’re no longer able to serve them effectively, and wish them the best. This works best for small freelancers.
  • Be upfront. Note that there’ve been problems in your relationship, and explain that it’s best for both of you if you part ways.

Difficult Client Bonus Tip:

Ask for a bunch more money. Before cutting ties, think about how much money you would need to make it worth dealing with them. Say you’re increasing your rates, and if they can meet your offer, consider keeping them around. You can comfort yourself with cash.


Getting Paid

You’re starting a consulting business in large part because you want to make money. To make money, of course, you need to get paid.

To do that, you’ll need some way to charge clients and receive payment. Some solid tools for that are:


A big pain point for many entrepreneurs with service-based businesses is getting paid on time. As with client communication, the key here is to establish expectations early. You should make sure to set payment terms upfront, and you should consider asking for advance or partial payments along the way.

Especially for larger/longer projects, payment intervals can be a good way to make sure you actually get the money and get it on time. Consultants naturally do this if they bill monthly; freelancers are more likely to be charging a per-project flat fee, but if the project will take a while, it’s not a bad idea to split that fee up into increments based on deliverables or hours worked. For example, a freelancer doing an intensive web design project might charge for initial discussions, branding, and mockup, then ask for a second payment at the draft stage, and a third when the project is complete.

Payment delays aren’t always the client’s fault. To get paid ASAP, make sure you send an invoice right away when work is done.

Once you receive a payment, don’t just deposit it and move on. You should be tracking all of your income in some way that will make sense to you later. In the beginning, you might start with PayPal invoices and tracking on a spreadsheet.

As you grow, though, tracking by hand in a spreadsheet will become inefficient and time consuming. Once you’re ready, switch over to using tools that help you track your expenses. Some solid options to look into:


One reason you’ll want to pay attention to your invoicing and track your income is taxes. When tax season rolls around, you’ll want to be ready to file. The tricky part is that it is different for each country and state, so you’ll need to do research about what kinds of form(s) you’ll have to file as a self-employed person and what information you’ll need to track.

Chapter 8 Illustration

Chapter 8

Scaling to High Six and Seven Figures - Creating an Agency/Services Empire

You’ve established a successful consulting business with a good rate of pay and a reliable stream of clients coming in. Congratulations, that’s reason to celebrate.

You also might start thinking about how to make even more money. If that’s your goal, you have a few options:

  • Increase your prices and keep the same number of clients.
  • Sell content (ebooks, webinars, products, etc.) in addition to your current client workload.
  • Transition to an agency or larger operation and build something bigger than yourself.

Some consultants and freelancers are content to find success as an individual, building a business that serves as a flexible, well-paying job.

Others want to take it to the next level, scaling to a full-fledged agency or studio that rakes in way more cash. If you want to pursue the third option, this is the chapter for you.

Scaling can be lucrative. Take Sabri Suby, a serial entrepreneur and digital marketer. He started on his own, launching his consulting career in his bedroom with just a phone and a laptop, implementing the kinds of strategies we covered in this workbook. Today, Sabri has moved from being a lone consultant to running his own marketing agency King Kong, with more than 150 employees and $10 million in revenue.

Sabri Suby Sabri Suby

Sabri Suby scaled his consulting business from a one-man operation to $10 million in revenue.

Should I Create an Agency?

When we mention “agency” here, we’re not referring to a brick-and-mortar establishment. We’re talking about hiring other people to help you carry the load and expand. You essentially become the manager. For a freelance writer, this may mean outsourcing client work to a team of writers. For a financial consultant, this may mean bringing on additional people to take the lead with certain clients or handle certain aspects for all clients.

The main benefit of scaling your business into a bigger company where you’re not doing all the work is simple: money, money, money. With a bigger consulting business, you can generate a lot more revenue.

That being said, there are a lot of other reasons to do this, and you should probably be motivated by something more than just money if you’re going to devote yourself to this substantial challenge. For example, running an agency means you can use your expertise to help significantly more people, extend your personal impact and influence on the world, collaborate with great people, and oh yeah, have some fun.

But transitioning into a larger company is not right for everyone.

How can you know? Do a simple gut check. How do you feel about performing your services yourself? If you absolutely love it and can’t imagine stepping away from the craft that got you into this business in the first place, then scaling may not be right for you. And that’s OK.

But if you’re ready to dial back on the actual service work, and want to spend more time on management and business growth, then scaling might be the way to go.

As you grow, you can think about hiring marketers, salespeople, account managers, and more. This is how you can really start to scale to higher revenue along the lines of mid- to high-six or seven figures.

If you scale, be sure to stay honest with clients. It’s unethical to give the impression that you are doing the work if you’re actually farming it out to other people. Avoiding this is simple, though, and just requires that you be clear that you work with a team.

Making the Transition

As you scale your consulting or freelancing business into an agency or studio, you’ll need to make some changes to your branding.

A simple tweak, once you start adding employees to your fledgling agency, is to adopt a collective voice. Alter your website and social media content to say “we” instead of “I,” a shift that may take some getting used to at first. (Tip: Do a thorough, systematic audit of your site. It’s very easy to leave a stray “I” here or there, which will confuse visitors.)

Another website update you’ll need to make is to create a Team page. This page should do what your bio (or equivalent) did on your solo consulting or freelancing website: build trust and credibility. This time, that trust isn’t just in you—it’s in your team.

A faceless “we” leaves potential clients unsure of who they would work with, so be sure to show photos of your team. A simple headshot for each team member is great, or if you get too big to highlight every person, just include the leadership.

Finally, it’s a good idea to create a company LinkedIn page. This is a part of shifting your brand narrative from one focused on you to one focused on the collective effort of your employees. Team members can then affiliate themselves with the company on their own LinkedIn profiles.

As you manage your company LinkedIn page, remember these quick tips:

  • Use images to increase engagement and interest. At bare minimum, make sure you upload something for your logo and banner.
  • Never treat your company LinkedIn profile like an About page. Remember that it’s really a marketing device. That is the lens through which you should filter all your decisions.
  • Post relevant updates and content. According to research by AddThis, one of the best times to share content to LinkedIn is between 2 and 4 p.m. eastern time on Mondays.

Post relevant updates and content. According to research by AddThis, one of the best times to share content to LinkedIn is between 2 and 4 p.m. eastern time on Mondays.


How to Hire A-Players

All this talk of teams raises a good question: When is it time to hire?

Generally speaking, the right time to scale your consulting business by adding new people is when you’re bringing in enough clients, maybe too many, and your workload is too much for one person to handle. This is especially the case if you’re seeing more inquiries from potential clients than you can book (you’re only one person!). Or maybe you’re spending lots of time doing stuff you don’t want to be doing, either on the client or operations side of the business.

The key is to be sure you have a strong understanding of what will be entailed in the role you want to create.

When you’re first starting to scale your consulting business, adding employees might be a bit much, since that carries extra logistical, financial, and legal considerations. Instead, you might consider working with freelancers or other contractors.

Your first contractor may be someone who can carry your load with you, perhaps a project/account manager, administrative assistant, or someone to take on grunt work within your services. What you ultimately want to do is figure out what parts of your business you’d prefer someone else take direct care of.

If you want to scale to a large agency, the key is to keep hiring people until, eventually, the business runs on its own. This will entail “replacing yourself” with a chief operations officer or some equivalent position to handle day-to-day operations, so that you are free to focus your time on on selling, marketing, bringing in new clients at scale. The key here is to formalize and systematize the work you used to do all on your own, so your new team knows exactly what’s expected.

For more on hiring and managing a team, check out these resources from Foundr:

Chapter 9 Illustration

Chapter 9

Best Practices for Success

In this guide, you’ve learned how to become a consultant, freelancer, or coach. We packed it with actionable information, but still only scratched the surface. Starting a consulting business or freelance business or other service-based company is an immense adventure. Sure, at times it’s hard. But the things worth doing in life are the hard things, right?

As you trek the path to becoming a consultant or freelancer, know that the work you do is worth it. You add value to other businesses and people’s lives, all while making your living on your own terms.

Keep your eyes on that prize, and do good work. You can do it. To cap off our guide, here are nine general principles to carry with you as you do this work:


You can do it!

Just do it

Sorry to come at you with Nike branding, but the cliche is actually the most powerful advice for any consultant, freelancer, or coach. You’re working for yourself, so you have to motivate yourself. You have to manage your time and set your goals and get things done.

That can be tough, but you have to get your hustle on and just. Do. It.

What you want to avoid is the paralysis of analysis. Especially with a business that puts you front and center, you might feel some fear of failure or worry about embarrassment. That’s understandable, but you can’t let that stress stop you from taking action. If you find yourself trying to make everything—your website, social profiles, unique value proposition, whatever—all 110% perfect before launching, you will never start.

Concepts like a minimum viable offer and starting with a landing page before you’re ready for a full website can help you start sooner than later.

Just take the first step, and the rest will fall into place. You can educate yourself further while actually running your business, and the best education is real life and working with real clients.

You are not what you do

When you’re in the trenches, it’s all too easy to internalize every misstep, every failure. That’s why you’ve got to remember that you are more than your consulting business. The value you have as a human being is not tied to the work you put out.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide the highest quality services you possibly can. You should! It just means that things happen. Clients leave to work with someone else. Marketing doesn’t go quite as planned. An editor trashes your entire piece. It’s OK to be disappointed, but don’t take it personally.

Be kind to yourself. Instead of internalizing failures, try to use these experiences to learn and grow. Missteps don’t define you—they direct you to bigger and better things.

Never stop learning

You’ll never reach some mythical finish line. You’ve always got more to learn.

No matter how successful you get, no matter how many clients you land, you can always hone your craft. You can always find new ways to learn, whether that’s reading guides like this, talking with mentors and peers, or seeking out other educational resources.

Stay updated on your industry and keep training so that you can stay on the cutting edge and provide more value to your clients as you go.

Raise your rates over time

Don’t pick one income goal and stick with it forever. Even as a consultant, you can still get a raise. You just have to give it to yourself.

There are so many reasons you might opt to raise your rates. Your costs might increase as insurance increases, rent goes up, inflation happens, whatever. You might have too many interested prospects to work with them all, so you see an opening to charge more and only take on the highest value clients. Whatever your reasons, there’s no shame in wanting to get paid more. The only real constraint is making sure your rates don’t overshoot the demand for your services.

How do you do this with current clients?

First, be both friendly and upfront. Don’t be cold, but don’t be apologetic either. Second, do it by phone or in person, if possible. Tone can be hard to convey over email, so a conversation will go a long way.

Third, explain yourself. You don’t necessarily owe it to anyone to explain why your prices are increasing, but it can help maintain your relationships. Explaining that industry costs have increased, or that you want to provide more attention to a smaller number of clients can go a long way toward putting a human face on a number that your clients would rather not see rise.

The best way to get referrals is by providing massive results

If you provide decent but not amazing results, sure, you might get some referrals. But if you change the game for a client’s business? They’ll rave about you.

Marketing strategies only go so far. Ultimately, there is no magic trick or formula to getting referrals—it’s really about the work you do. Focus on delivering huge value and game-changing results for your clients, and they will naturally tell their friends about you.

Be protective of your time

Every hour counts, and you need to make sure it’s counting toward building a better business and a better life. If you jumped into consulting or freelancing to escape the 9-to-5 grind, why turn around and keep yourself trapped in the same monotony?

If you’re agreeing to work that doesn’t pay enough or that you don’t like doing, don’t do it anymore. If you’re agreeing to work that leads you to lose sleep or neglect your health, don’t do it anymore.

Track everything

No matter how deep your passion for your craft, always remember that you’re running a business. That means paying attention to revenue, expenses, profit, and every little number and stat that impacts that bottom line.

Keep track of where you are making money and where you are losing money in your business. Track time spent per project and note your hourly rates on different projects. Record your referral sources, and remember who your best clients are (plus what makes them the best). The more data you have, the more tools you have for decision-making.

Climb the ladder

When you start a consulting business or take freelance gigs for the first time, there will be a struggle to work your way up the ladder, to work your way toward success.

That upward climb will be ongoing in your consulting career. What will help you more than anything else is a keen sense of direction. With every move, ask yourself how it advances your business, and if it’s taking you up that ladder. Each job leads to the next. Each client brings new challenges that build your skills.

Approaching consulting, freelancing, and coaching with a strategic mindset will set you up to take advantage of every small step up. As you move onward, you’ll level up your rates and find better quality jobs and book more appreciative clients—in the process building a better life for yourself.

In the end, that’s what this is all about. So, what are you waiting for? You have the know-how. You have the tools. Now it’s time to go, go, go.