My First 90 Days as a Digital Marketing Consultant

In the corporate world, the first 90 days of starting a job sets the foundation for success.

Am I focused on the right things? Making the right connections? Asking the right questions?

I had always dreamed of starting my own business but honestly, I was too afraid of leaving the corporate career I had built over the last 15 years. What would happen if I didn’t land any clients and would this forever ruin my chances of working for a corporation again if consulting just wasn’t for me?

After weighing my options, I took the leap and have found it to be rewarding….and challenging in many ways! Over 40 years ago my parents immigrated to America and worked their way to becoming small business owners, the traditional way. I feel incredibly fortunate to live in a time where working remote is possible and I can use my digital expertise to help small to medium sized businesses.

Here are 3 things I wish I had known before becoming a Digital Marketing Consultant:

  1. Stay organized. By nature I am a box checker. I have lists and get a lot of satisfaction from checking things off my lists (yes, I have multiple lists). Running your own business requires a level of box checking I hadn’t yet experienced and I found it hard to feel like I had accomplished anything after working a full day. When you go into an office for your job you’ve physically left your home, interacted with people and got paid to do a lot, little or no work. As a consultant, you are only getting paid when you have billable hours which means every minute counts! A big turning point for me was reading this article on how to get more done and then using a task management tool to manage my business and personal to-dos. Here are a few that I use religiously:
  • Trello is a task management tool based on the Kanban methodology for project management. A Kanban board enables you to visualize the flow of your work. For example, on my Kanban board, I have three primary columns — To-do, doing and done. As I move tasks to the “done” column, I make room to move items in the other two columns. The board allows me to prioritize and focus on what’s most important. Here are some other task management tools: Asana, Wrike, Basecamp
  • Timely is a very simple, easy to use time tracking app. The app is visually appealing and allows me to see where I’ve spent my time for the week across clients. As I complete projects for clients, I track my hours in Timely and when it’s time to do billing, I can see each clients projects and what I have already billed for the month. Here are some other time tracking apps: Toggl, Everhour, Timecamp
  • Quickbooks online is an accounting software that is reasonably priced and has functionality that makes it easy to bill, track and manage all aspects of running a small business. I tried the Self Employed version ($10/month) and Simple start version ($15/month). The extra $5/month for the Simple Start version is well worth it for the ease of use and additional features.

2. Stay focused. Working at home has its advantages (flexibility, no commute, ability to work in other locations), but there are a lot of distractions that take away from work like cleaning, organizing or making a meal. I have committed to setting aside a fixed number of hours, mostly in the morning when studies show that people are most productive and in the late afternoon, when I am at my peak in productivity to not work on anything related to my home. There are apps that help you stay productive if you need a little nudge.

3. Using the right tools. I struggled for the first few months to figure out my pitch while looking for new business. I learned that pitching new business takes a lot of time and clients are generally looking for a specialist. So set aside some time and think about your 30-second elevator pitch and use tools to help you market! Here are some tools to help you along the way:

  • About Me is an app a friend was using in his signature and that I started using in my email signature. It’s easy to set up and it really helped me focus on my core strengths and areas I want to focus on for my consulting business.
  • Building a website is no longer a complicated process involving front-end and back-end coders and designers. Now, beautifully designed websites can be configured with WYSIWYG website builders like Wix’s ADI.
  • Finding freelance projects requires diligence and focusing on projects that make sense for you in terms of rate, project and duration. I’ve tried several freelance sites with varying degrees of success. Here are a few to check out:

LinkedIn Profinder is a service provided by LinkedIn where local freelancers big on projects in areas of expertise. The thing I like about Profinder is that clients are generally more responsive than other freelancer sites and the process is very transparent between the prospective client, freelancer and LinkedIn.

UpWork is the largest freelance network in the marketplace. I have not worked with any clients from UpWork, however UpWork is stepping up its game with their Premium Services Program for select freelancers that provides access to top clients not available in the marketplace. From what I have experienced in the short time I have been in the program, there is definitely potential for skilled consultants.

Good old-fashioned networking will be the most effective in getting new clients. Of successful consultants I have spoken to, their businesses have thrived on client recommendations from previous clients.

In my first 90 days I learned more about technology, new tools and capabilities and building the groundwork for running a business than I had in the prior year.

Have you ever thought about taking the leap and starting your own business?