Whether you're a freelancer or an entrepreneur, if you're ready to start taking your consulting business seriously, then you need to start setting some targets to guide how you run your business. Setting sales targets that line up with your expense budget will enable you stay on top of your cash flow and avoid falling under water. Understanding how utilization drives your profitability will help you make smarter business decisions, including pricing decisions, and manage your time more effectively.
In this course, you'll learn my process for setting sales and utilization targets. I'll provide you with a downloadable workbook as well a Rates & Utilization Worksheet tool, and I'll demonstrate how to use. In addition to videos, mashups, and screencasts, the course contains two additional bonus tools: a Time Sheet template and an Expense Report template.
Why take the course? Because you're ready to start treating this consulting "gig" like a real business and take it to the next level. Because your business and personal finances are too important to trust to guessing games and wishful thinking.
Here I'll introduce you to the worksheet and how it works.
Utilization is calculated based on the total working hours in a year. Here I show you how to calculate Total Working Hours and how you can adjust that calculation based on your own norms and policies.
Here we look at what profitability looks like--specifically, Gross Margin--when a consultant's utilization is 100%.
In the real world, it's unusual for a consultant to be 100% billable at their full bill rate. Here we look at reduced utilization levels at an average bill rate that better reflects the ups and downs of a typical consultant's billings.
Here we look at a basic Time Sheet template (available for download) and what--at a minimum--you should be tracking and how often.
These days, most consultants track their time online using a cloud-based tool. Here I demonstrate Zoho Projects, the platform my team uses to create project plans and track time against project tasks.
Here I look at considerations for deciding when it makes sense to staff your internal needs (e.g., bookkeeping, admin, marketing), applying the utilization concept we discussed earlier.
Here I look at ad hoc needs--such as transcription services--which come up randomly as you do your work.
Here I bring back the funnel-shaped warning track graphic from the budgeting courses and use it to introduce the idea of creating a conservative and optimistic sales target for the year.
To avoid getting overly-optimistic in your sales projections, it's best to start off by looking at your sales history and your year-over-year growth. If you've been growing by 20% each year for the last three years, assuming that same kind of growth this year is a good baseline assumption.
Once you have a baseline sales projection based on your historical trend, you need to adjust that based on what you expect to happen this year with the economy, the industries you serve, and the clients you serve. Gather some data and interpret it as a conservatively as you can. Generally, entrepreneurs tend to be overly-optimistic.
Finally, adjust your sales targets to reflect the impact that you think your sales and marketing strategies will have next year. For example, you might be planning to do some advertising, content marketing, or social media campaigns or maybe you're going to hire a salesperson or two or maybe you're going to upgrade your website and sales collateral. Those are all investments you're going to make, presumably to drive sales higher. Try to put a number to it. How much of an impact will those efforts have on sales, and how soon?
To reinforce the concepts you've learned and help you gauge your progress, take this brief quiz and see how you do.
Here I describe how you can apply what you've learned to your own business, setting targets for your practice's sales and utilization.
Gus has run his own talent development consulting practice for over 20 years and has worked with hundreds of client organizations ranging from pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare product companies to brokerage, banks, and insurance companies, from IT startups to long-established telecommunications service providers as well as law firms, retailers, hospital systems, and chemical manufacturers. His proposals have won—and lost—multi-million dollar deals as well as much smaller ones.
He has earned a PhD in Education with a minor in Leadership, an MBA, and a BS in Marketing as well as a Certified Performance Technologist designation. He has taught Masters-level elearning design courses and frequently delivers live and virtual workshops for leaders at all levels. He regularly presents at industry conferences and is a recognized thought leader in the talent development industry. His passion, though, is mentoring colleagues and fellow consultants as they launch and expand their businesses. Over the years, he has counseled hundreds of business consultants and budding entrepreneurs.