Should I start a consultancy business? A break-up story

posted in: Entrepreneurship | 0
person looking into the sky
Reaching for the stars

The first question on my journey to entrepreneurship was: “should I start a consultancy business?” As you might know from my previous post, I am currently on parental leave and I am starting my own business during this time. Today, I want to tell you about the little romance I had with consultancy work.

Starting a consultancy business

At the beginning of my start-up adventure, I thought of leveraging my skills and starting an consultancy business. This is also often the first step entrepreneurs take. It seemed like the most obvious choice also for me, as I always admired people that run their successful consultancy business and it meant, I could just start working right away.

Using my skill set, experience and passion

I am very passionate and experienced about software engineering. I worked in IT for over 16 years. I have analysed and improved software processes and tools for several thousands of engineers and at one of the biggest software companies. And I love doing that.

All that made me feel like: I definitely should start a consultancy business! It would be a dump idea not to.

Getting my hands dirty

It did not take long before I had a call with a potential client, and then, another one. I talked with each of them via phone or a zoom call. I listened to their problems and pitched my services. Even though they seemed interested they did not book my service. So, I redefined and changed the offer and services as well as the way I presented them. After each call, I analyzed the reaction of the clients. But, my initial sales pitch was not working.

Why are people not booking my consultancy services?

Understanding clients’ problems and analyzing which services they will need was definitely very interesting to me. I experimented with the pricing, the way I worded the packages, and the services I offered.

One thing that became quite clear was that talking about hourly rates isn’t in my favor. The conversation should always be about the value the customer get’s out. So I worked on fixed price packages to offer instead. This way I could also set limits for the amount of work as I only have a a few hours per week. (Remember those two adorable little ones?)

Highlighting value and restricting the problem space

Another problem was that I wasn’t selling packages to solve one concrete problem, but that I offered a “free to choose from buffet”. I believe that this was overwhelming. It also did not highlight that I can actually solve the concrete pain points of the customer in this way.

To my surprise, after experimenting with the wording, the packages and the prices, I was actually ready to sell my services quite quickly.

I have a client. Now what?

Already during the first phone calls, a little voice started to whisper into my ear. But, I did not want to hear what it was telling me. Learning about selling my services was exciting and a bit like a game. I love learning new things, so I just shut my ears, and did not listen. But once clients actually wanted to work with me, once, it became real with contracts and all, I had to listen. My inner voice just screamed loud and clear: I cannot do this right now. This is not what I want to do with my time at this moment.

What a bummer.

There I was, having a client that wants to work with me, and I am looking for excuses not to engage. The same happened for the next client. What is going on?

Damn, I chose the wrong business model

At the moment that this business became a reality, I understood I chose the wrong business for my current lifestyle. Taking on clients combined with my job as a full-time mother of two little ones, is not what makes me happy. It is super stressful. And even if I have some freedom to work on my own schedule, I have immediate responsibilities, and immediate restrictions. From the calls, I also realized clients need more of my time and services that I am willing to offer right now.

Michaela working with Marie

Hospital stay and a complete change in focus

To all the doubt came that at the time I was getting interest from clients, I had to go to the hospital with my baby and stay there for a whole week. I dropped everything. Nothing was important to me anymore, except the health of my sick baby. I was super happy I did not take on any clients yet. And even the weeks after this hospital stay, I was still in shock state. I could hardly concentrate on starting my business. But, I was clearer than ever that I need another business model.

I need full control of my schedule

My little one does not go to daycare yet, and the toddler only for 3 hours per day. I obviously could change that but this would not be the life I like to live. I enjoy them so much, and I want to spend a lot of time with them. Adding external responsibilities due to consultancy work is just not working for my family right now.

Making time for the side hustle

Over the last few weeks, I was actually able to activate my support network consisting of my husband, and the grandmothers. My family support allows me to work for some substantial amount per week. The ability to work on my business also makes me super happy. But, the times need to be very flexible. Some weeks, I am able to work up to 30 hours, some weeks almost none. Most of the times, I work very early mornings. Sometimes late at night. But one thing is constant: everyday the schedule is a bit different. Often it changes because of a sick kid. Sometimes because of a super bad night. Or because one of my baby sitters is unavailable (hello winter bugs). I need a business idea that allows me full control over my schedule.

I have a traditional career, I do not need another one

I also have to note, that I am still employed. I haven’t jumped the boat, so to say. I am still holding on to the possibility of going back after my parental leave. There are several reasons for this, that I might explain in another post. The most important reason is that I actually really love my field of work. I have a lot of freedom. I was able to work remote and pick my own problems to work on. Before having kids, it was actually my dream job. The main problem though, is that it is still a traditional job. Consisting of a 40+ hour work week that has to happen somewhere between 8AM and 8PM and Monday to Friday. My kids would have to stay with somebody else from say 8 to probably 5 or 6 every day. That’s a life I cannot imagine.

Reaching for my dreams I feel guilty and scared

The whole time that I write this post, I feel a bit like an entitled brick. The whole time that I decided to not start a consultancy business or to not go back after my parental leave, I have to battle with my mindset. Wanting more than the great job I have, wishing and reaching for full flexibility of my time feels like asking for too much. From my cultural values, and the way life “works” around me, I feel like I do not deserve to ask for more. Traditionally, it is just not an option to spend time with my kids and work on the problems I love, while earning a living! You either have an career or you have a family life. That’s how it usually plays out.

Asking for more is also scary. The only people that seem to have managed to work flexible and on their own terms, are people I do not know personally. So, how can I be sure that I can do it too? Maybe it’s like winning the lottery. Maybe, I am just a dreamer reaching for the stars?

I want to work on my own terms

But then, I set my mind straight. I actually have a daily routine when I work on my mindset. It helps me to stop feeling guilty, and to stop my fears. I realize, all this negative thoughts are not helping me. I know that I want to spend a lot of my time with my kids. I know that I want to build my own business. So, I must come up with a plan to combine both. There is just no other way.

The good news is, that I have a solid education and work experience. I am very dedicated and driven. I actually really love solving problems. And the best, I love to learn new things. So, let’s do this!

I am looking for a game changer business

As I planned and calculated to be able to sustain my lifestyle without earning money during my parental leave, I can actually invest my time to chase this “bold” dream of independence. I am able to experiment. So, the “only” step left is figuring out how to build a business that is a game changer for me. A business that allows me to work whenever and from wherever I want. Importantly, on something I am passionate about.

Consultancy, it’s me. Not you!

So, that’s how I broke up with consultancy work. At least while my little ones are so small, I put that idea on ice. I haven’t forgotten about it. Every time I read an article that fits, I bookmark it under this business idea. Every time I see where potential customer hang out, I make a note. Because I plan to pivot the business.

Playing with ideas to pivot the business

My main pivot idea is to turn this consultancy business into a info product. That turn would give me more flexibility and freedom.

I do not know yet how such a product should look like, but I have a few ideas. And so, I mainly explore. I still talk with suitable clients to understand their pain points. I learn more about different business models that allow flexibility and evaluate if they might be a fit for me and my skill set.

I hope by the time my parental leave is up, I know what I am doing.

What about you? Have you found the business and business model that works for you? Any ideas how I could build a game changing business?

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