Tips for Your First Year in Consulting

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Today’s remote world and online tools give PR pros more reasons than ever to set out on their own. But while modern technologies empower entrepreneurs, it’s the tried-and-true business methods that bring real success.

Here are three things I learned my first year running a strategic communications and PR consultancy.

Relationships (and Referrals) Matter

Spending years at an agency meant hours honing my writing and social media skills—invaluable for counseling clients, but not necessarily for attaining them.

Many of my client contacts had moved on to other organizations. I often found myself online jogging the memory of old acquaintances or trying to connect with somebody new, each with mixed results.

Social networks had value, but I needed to meet people in-person.

A friend’s referral brought more business than all my online outreach combined. After some good coffee and conversation, I received a project offer just a few days later. It’s the trust established in relationships that lead to success in business.

Maximize Your Resources

Running a business means maximizing resources—your time, money and skillset.

There are some clear financial benefits. For billables, I made half my previous salary at one-tenth the hours worked. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting paid for the time to develop and launch my company.

First, there were choices about services and my unique value—what was I going to provide? Then, I needed a brand, social media presence and cash to buy a domain name and host a website.

I had done communications for more than a decade, so I felt confident creating my own brand. The new normal of remote work allowed me to cut down on travel costs, foregoing an office for a virtual workspace. Free video conferencing and scheduling software saved me both time and money.

By leveraging my skills and taking advantage of the latest technology, I was able to maximize resources when most of my work would go unpaid the first year.

Keep Accelerating

After all the planning and preparing, I finally launched my company. Once I secured my first project and started billing client work, I felt a real sense of satisfaction and pride for what I accomplished.

That’s when I made the biggest mistake of my first year: letting up on the accelerator.

Once you’ve made the decision to start your own business, you’ve chosen an unpredictable path. My journey stalled when my role on a project was discontinued due to economic uncertainty. The lesson was clear: whether you’re working or have something lined up, keep working to get more.

While in hindsight I could have invested earlier in marketing and networking, I now have a year of experience and work results to show off to prospective clients and partners. The flexibility has given me the freedom to go at my own pace.

If you do choose to set out on your own, expect the first year to be both rewarding and arduous. With strong relationships and well-managed resources, you’ll find success and the motivation to keep moving forward.


Brandon Lee is founder and president of Sequence Strategies.