What’s the one business headache you absolutely, positively hate to deal with?
You know, that one thing you’ll avoid doing forever because it makes you go crazy…or that one time-sucking task that you know will end up wasting your entire day.
For some people it’s sending emails. For others, it’s dealing with IT issues. Maybe you hate marketing, scheduling meetings, social media, editing video, processing payments, or customer service. The list could go on and on.
Fortunately, there’s a way to get those headaches off your plate, allowing you to add more hours to your day, get more things done, and speed up your growth.
And that’s by using Consultants!
You may know Consultants by many names: Vendors, Service Providers, Agents, Contractors, Freelancers, Advisors, etc. We love referring to these sorts of folks as Consultants, because that name in particular reminds us that they have expertise that’s worth paying money for.
Consultants are your Headache Healers, removing the annoyance of tasks you just don’t enjoy doing.
Consultants are your Time Protectors, giving you the ability to get more work done, grow faster, and scale your business.
And Consultants are your Expert Allies, giving you knowledge and experience you may not have yourself and may not have time to learn.
One more important point: Consultants usually LOVE doing the thing you don’t want to do. Have you ever heard the phrase “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” That’s how this works. Your trash (the task you can’t stand doing) is your Consultant’s treasure (the task they’re crazy passionate about). It’s the definition of a win-win situation. (We like to say that “your poison can be someone else’s candy.”)
Are you ready to outsource your annoyances? Here’s our best advice for finding, vetting, and growing a relationship with helpful Consultants who will make your life so much better.
Find a Consultant Through Word of Mouth
You’ll always find the best Consultants through word of mouth.
Start by asking for recommendations from colleagues with businesses like yours. Personal recommendations help you minimize risk, because they have already “passed the test” with someone whose opinion you respect and whose work is similar to yours. It’s like your own personal Yelp!
If you don’t have a large circle of colleagues to ask, reach out to other people you look up to. Send a short email to your mentors, friends, or businesses you admire.
You can certainly find hundreds of people through Google search or Craigslist, but we suggest you avoid using a random stranger unless you have no other options.
Why? Well, here’s the thing.
Anyone can put up anything on the internet, and anyone can claim they’re the greatest Consultant who ever lived. But it’s quite a risk to invest your energy in someone who may not live up to their claims. If they don’t work out, you’ll lose time, money, and opportunity costs (meaning that you could have been doing something more productive with your resources). You’ll also have to pay someone else to redo the work. Not an ideal scenario for your first Consultant experience.
9 Essential Questions for Vetting a Consultant
Once you have one or two in your sights, it’s time to have a short interview to determine if you’ll work happily together. Remember, this relationship should help you in the long run, giving you back the time and energy you need to improve and expand your business. It’s incredibly important that your relationship doesn’t become another headache for you to deal with, and a solid interview can make sure you’re on the right track.
Question 1: What do you do?
Before you ask anything else, get a handle on what the Consultant actually does. Do they deal with the task you’re looking for help with?
Question 2: What DON’T you do?
If you need a Consultant who handles, let’s say, video editing AND transcriptions, make sure you don’t hire someone who ONLY does editing.
Question 3: How long have you been in business?
They doesn’t necessarily need to have 25 years of experience, but it helps if you’re not their very first client.
Question 4: What’s your previous experience been like?
What industries, businesses, and people have they worked with? Is the experience relevant to your needs, or will they need time to get up to speed?
Question 5: How do you price your services?
Be wary of anyone who won’t discuss costs with you. Also look out for services that seemed very under- or over-priced.
Question 6: What’s your typical turnaround time?
If you need someone on call for quick late-night turnarounds, don’t hire the someone who needs two weeks’ lead time.
Question 7: How do you like to communicate?
If they can’t answer this question, they might not understand the value of good communication. If they can describe all the methods of communication they use and how frequently they like to stay in touch, that’s a great sign.
Question 8: What happens if I’m not satisfied with your work in some way?
Consultants should make it clear that they’ll do whatever it takes to ensure your satisfaction.
Question 9: Do you have any references?
Even if you’ve connected with each other through word of mouth, it never hurts to get another referral.
Your Very First Project Together!
Yahoo! Your Consultant passed the interview with flying colors.
Now it’s time to do a “trial run” project together. Pick a small test project that, while worthwhile and important, isn’t critical or time sensitive. A great way to start, especially if you don’t have a specific project in mind, is by asking them to review your current work and make recommendations about how to improve or optimize.
First, set up a meeting to talk them through the project. Be crystal clear about the scope, roles & responsibilities, and timeline. They should know exactly what’s expected of them and when it’s due.
Be sure to give them any background information that they might need to dive into the project. Also agree on things like how often they’ll communicate updates to you, and what will happen if the project takes longer than expected.
During the test project phase, expect things to take a bit of time to fall into place. This is an onboarding experience where you can both get to know each other, so be patient. It’s the rare Consultant that will deliver exactly what you want on the very first try. When in doubt, over-communicate with each other to make sure things are moving in the right direction.
If your test project is a roaring success, give them a pat on the back and move on to the next project. If they provided you recommendations for optimizing or improving, ask them to create a plan to begin executing those changes.
And away you go! Feel those pains slipping away?
Watch Out for These Red Flags
Throughout your relationship with your Consultant, things might not always go so swimmingly. That’s okay — nobody’s perfect. But like we said, Consultants are there to help you, not headache you.
Beware of Consultants who:
- Don’t respond to you in a timely fashion
- Can’t estimate when they’ll be able to finish a project
- Can’t estimate what a project will cost
- Don’t have their accounting paperwork together
- Have unprofessional social media pages or no social media presence at all
- Talk at you but don’t listen
- Don’t ask you questions or always assume to know everything
- Are hesitant to talk about certain subjects, like price or referrals
- Won’t guarantee your satisfaction
- Have an unprofessional email email address (think Hotmail, AOL, free email services)
- Have an unprofessional URL (think Blogger or Wix)
- Will only work “their way” and are uncomfortable with compromise
- Trash talk former clients
If you spot too many of these red flags during the interview process or in your work together, you might want to look for a different Consultant. This is just a guideline, and every rule has its exceptions, but still…beware!
When You’ve Got a Great Consultant…
There’s nothing like a solid Consultant relationship. You’re collaborating like clockwork. You’re full of trust and mutual respect. You feel listened to and understood.
And your headaches are gone!
There are no more late nights worrying about manually deploying emails, or long hours spent trying to edit a video, or website crashes that could have been prevented. With a capable and passionate Consultant on your team, you’re in fantastic hands.