Consultant Businesses Helping Women Achieve The American Dream (Final Feature Article)

Home Writing Consultant Businesses Helping Women Achieve The American Dream (Final Feature Article)

My Perspective

This assignment was a progressive assignment. By that I mean, the feature article was written in three stages. Upon completion of one stage, a new new stage was started until all three stages were completed. With each stage, the class was required to develop a part of the feature article using at least five references for each section. The class was required to use databases, the library, periodicals, blogs, etc. for the sources of our reference materials. Through each stage of the assignment, I could feel my confidence grow in my writing ability.

This feature article is probably the most rewarding thing I have ever written. I learned so much in the course of planning, writing, re-writing, proofreading, editing, re-arranging … you name it; I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the writing process for this article. I never in my wildest dreams knew there was so much involved in researching and fact checking the subject matter for a feature article. I have a whole new level of respect for the professionals who write these articles for a living.

Speaking of living, my feature article is about women making a living through home-based consulting businesses. This is a subject that I had pondered myself. For those of you who are thinking of starting your own home-based consulting business, I hope that after reading my feature article it will help you to make an informed decision on whether or not to take the leap into entrepreneurship.

Women Achieving The American Dream Through Ownership Of Consultant Businesses

Many people living in the United States dream of owning their own business at some point in their life. In the past, men dominated business ownership, but women are joining the ranks of business ownership at a pace never before seen in history. Many women are choosing consulting as their startup business of choice. Marketing the business is a responsibility that business owners never seem to have enough time to do. Time and money management become a never-ending balancing act for women business owners as well. However, a woman-owned business consultant must go through the process of starting a business before she can worry about marketing and time and money management.

Starting a Consulting Business

The increased demand for consultants makes starting a consulting business a viable option for women who want to be their own boss. The reasons women are choosing to start their consulting business are as varied as the different types of consulting specialties. Many women who choose to start their consulting business find the process somewhat confusing and complicated. There are many organizations available to help navigate the challenges associated with starting a business. One of these organizations is the National Women’s Business Council.

According to the National Women’s Business Council website, “There are 7.8 million women-owned businesses in the United States.” This number indicates an increase from 2002 to 2007 of 20.1 percent. Advantages to women starting consulting businesses are they are able to set their own schedule and have careers that they love. One disadvantage to women who choose to operate their own consulting business is that the requirements for this profession are very demanding. In addition to tackling these demanding requirements, one must also possess essential attributes.

Attributes of the Business Consultant

In Susan Nash’s book, “Becoming A Consultant: How To Start And Run A Profitable Consulting Business”, she points out some attributes consultants need.

Consultants need to:

  • Have an understanding of people
  • Have good communication skills
  • Be professional
  • Be determined
  • Have good decision-making and problem solving abilities
  • Be physically and mentally up to the challenge of owning one’s own business
  • Be self-confident
  • Have knowledge and skills in the consultant area that they are proposing

In his book, “Start And Run A Successful Independent Consulting Business”, Douglas Hoyt mentions a few more attributes. According to him, consultants must be:

  • Adventuresome
  • Driven to be their own boss
  • Risk takers
  • Capable of gaining the trust of others
  • Creative thinkers

In addition, consultants need a strong support system in place before starting a business. There are important decisions that are required during the first couple of months of the business opening. Consultants should have a network of professional friends or a mentor to offer guidance and advice during this time. Assuming that women who are considering starting their own consulting business understand the requirements, possesses the necessary attributes, and have a good support system, the next step is to decide which type of consulting to do.

Types of Consulting

There are several different types of consulting. They include strategy consultants, technical or industry experts, methodological experts, and software/hardware implementation experts.

No matter what or whom we’re talking about, from movies to chiropractors to books to financial planners, the consumer hankers after specialization.

– Susan Friedmann, Author of Riches In Niches

These types can be broken down into three categories:

  1. Consultant generalists – Have a wide range of experience that helps clients identify problems and propose solutions to those problems.
  2. Consultant specialists – Have considerable education or experience in a specialized field.
  3. Consultant experts – Are highly respected and are an authority in their field.

According to Hoyt, women need to examine which role they want to consult in and then assemble marketing and presentation methods to fit that specific role. Assembling marketing and presentation materials; however, should be put on hold until a more pressing matter has been addressed … writing a business plan.

Writing a Business Plan

There are several items that need to be addressed prior to starting a business. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) website, these items pertain to business planning, decisions, and legal undertakings. These items include composing a business plan, acquiring business assistance and training, deciding the legal structure of the business, registering the business name (“Doing Business As”), acquiring a tax identification number, registering for state and local taxes, and obtaining business licenses and permits.

A business plan functions as a roadmap for a business. It is a living document that changes over time and usually plans tasks for 3‑5 years out. These tasks are the requirements to grow business revenues.

Efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right things.

– Peter Drucker

Business planning involves determining the target market and what benefits a company can provide. The business plan needs to be clear about the services the business can offer. It needs to identify what makes this business different from all of the others. It also needs to identify the needs that the business can fulfill. It should strategize consultant services into smaller niches, so that these specialized services attract a particular prospective client. In identifying the business’ niche, one suggestion is to conduct a market survey with prospective clients to discover untapped needs.

Decisions … So Many Decisions

Decisions have to be made regarding every aspect of the new consultant business. There are several free business training and counseling services available to women starting their own business such as the SBA, Service Corps Of Retired Executives (SCORE), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Many legal decisions have to be made and legal tasks have to be completed when starting a business.

When deciding the legal structure of their business, many consultants choose sole proprietorship or Limited Liability Company (LLC) as their form of ownership. Business owners must register their name (“Doing Business As”) with the state government in the state they will be conducting business. Business owners also need to get a tax identification number from the IRS and the state revenue agency for the purpose of reporting revenue and receiving tax deductions that businesses are often eligible to take. Additionally, business owners must register with the state to obtain workers’ compensation, unemployment, and disability insurance. Furthermore, business owners need to get federal, state, and local licenses and permits. If these items are not acquired, it can result in future legal complications.

Another consideration a new business owner must be aware of is start-up costs. It is crucial when planning to start a business that the business owner determine the budget needed for the initial investment into her business. Consultant businesses require a relatively low budget when compared to other start-up businesses. The business owner needs to estimate the costs necessary for the first couple of months. A few of these costs will include the one-time fees of licenses, registrations, necessary office equipment, and furniture. Other expenses may include an extra telephone line, insurance, marketing materials, office supplies, as well as items needed to perform the service.

Starting a consulting business for a woman is an important decision. There are many elements to consider when making this decision. Determining if one has the attributes needed to start a business is an important step. Deciding on which type of consulting to do is also important, because it is more efficient to market to a specific client than to offer too broad a range of services. Being financially prepared to invest in the business is necessary because costs can add up in the start-up period. Seeking advice from organizations such as the SBA, SCORE, and other programs and groups will help to educate and counsel new consultants. Filing and processing all of the required licenses and fees will ensure that the business gets off on the right legal foot. Once all of the business start-up steps have been addressed, the next phase is marketing the business.

Marketing the Consulting Business

Constructing a cohesive marketing plan after the start-up steps’ completion is essential to successfully generating cash flow into most consultants’ businesses. Without actively marketing the business, it is difficult to get the word out to potential clients that consultants are available to work on their projects. There are many different ways to market a business. Branding, social media, networking, and certifications are all methods that consultants can use to market their business.

The SBA discusses in their web article, “Marketing-101”, how working for oneself from home complicates the marketing process primarily because consultants not only have to perform all of the work but also do all of the marketing. For consultants to grow their business, they must appeal to potential clients. Once potential clients become clients, consultants must work hard to keep these clients and ensure that they are satisfied with the services they are receiving.

According to the SBA, marketing benefits the consulting business by notifying customers of the niche services that their company offers and by generating business, thus netting profits that enable the consultant to stay in business to fulfill future customers’ needs. Marketing accentuates the importance of the client. Consultants should always strive to meet or exceed customer needs. The SBA mentions that quality is always more important than quantity when it comes to customers in the consulting world. Marketing missteps can prove timely and costly for the consultant. According to the SBA, constructing a cohesive marketing plan from the very beginning is important to businesses.

Developing a Marketing Plan

The SBA says that developing a sound marketing plan is one of the top ways to prepare to market the consulting business. A sound marketing plan helps consultants stick to the marketing schedule and ensures that money spent on marketing is smartly and properly expended.

Focus on the core problem your business solves and put out lots of content and enthusiasm, and ideas about how to solve that problem.

– Laura Fitton, Founder

Even though small businesses might not have a large marketing budget, as long as they focus on its targeted customer, they should still see outstanding results. Given the small budget that consultants have to work with, it is important that consultants’ marketing plans contain some strategic elements: focusing marketing efforts on only a few key market elements will give the largest return on the smallest investment. Some of these elements include identifying the target market, determining which services to provide, strategizing promotion tactics, and deciding pricing. The SBA advises that all marketing plans include a mission statement.

The SBA mentions in their article, “Developing-Marketing-Plan,” that the marketing plan’s mission statement explains the plan’s purpose, the reasons consultants are in business, and consultants’ business goals.

A good marketing plan that is well executed will always out perform a great plan that is poorly executed.

–, How to Bullet Proof Your Business

A review of the goals and objectives are covered in the marketing plan, as well as the strategies implemented to reach them. Marketing plans all aim at trying to attract customers or keep current customers happy with the services they are receiving. Kelley Robertson, a blogger with, advises consultants that vigilantly planning marketing approaches will ensure that they have a strong presence in their target field. The SBA stresses the importance of determining if the budget consultants have set for marketing the business is assisting in meeting business goals.

If not, consultants need to re-evaluate funds spent and measure their return on investment (ROI), then perhaps reallocate to those marketing areas that are meeting business goals. According to Kelley Robertson’s blog, “How to Bulletproof Your Business,” consultants should review their marketing plan at least once a quarter to ensure that the plan’s primary focus in on the customer and to ensure that the customer is happy with the service they are receiving and will come back to consultants for their future projects. A method of marketing is branding. Branding is important, because it tells clients who consultants are and makes them stand out from all the rest.


In her blog for, Isabel Isidro advises consultants to consider two items, 1) who they are and 2) what they stand for, when developing their branding strategy. These items are what set consultants apart from each other and draw customers to the business that is best suited for the services they need.

You either have to be first, best, or different.

– Loretta Lynn, Country Music Singer

Isidro goes on to say that in order to set themselves apart from their competitor, consultants need to:

  • Identify what their unique qualities are
  • Create a brand name that is clear and concise and that reflects what the consultant represents
  • Implement the brand name throughout the business including a website, social media, publications, and marketing materials
  • Protect the brand name legally to ensure that no one else can use the same name

After these items have been addressed, consultants need to design their business card.

Cliff Allen, author of the “Top 10 Business Networking Tips – Part 1”, blog, says that the business card is a piece of marketing material that needs to say a lot about consultants in a very small amount of space. Business cards should inform people what consultants do and why they should call or email them. Items that need to be included on a business card are the positioning statement, list of services, logo, skills, and licenses and/or certifications along with contact information.

Leah Grant, a blogger with, says that another item that is important to the branding strategy is the elevator speech. Similar to the positioning statement on a business card, the elevator speech is a verbal billboard that must captivate the person the consultant is talking to and leaves the person wanting to learn more about her. It needs to state who the consultants is, what she does, and what she can do for the person who is listening. It is usually only one or two sentences long and serves as a value declaration and, as the name suggests, it needs to last only the amount of time that one spends on an elevator ride. Grant recommends using strong impactful verbs in an elevator speech.

Some items that should not be included in an elevator speech are:

  • Consultant’s title
  • Pricing
  • Sales features

Consultants should create a few different elevator speech examples and test them out to see which one gets the best response from people. Grant suggests that once the “winning one” has been determined, the consultant practice it until it sounds natural and not rehearsed or automated. Another method of marketing is the use of social media. Using social media is one way to connect with potential clients as well as to stay involved with current clients.

Social Media

Larry Weber, author of “Marketing To The Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business,” says in his book that marketing techniques that have worked in the past are not as effective in today’s world and that the increasing popularity of social media has changed how businesses market their products and services.

No matter what, the very first piece of social media real estate I’d start with is a blog.

– Chris Brogan, Keynote Speaker, Founder New Marketing Labs

The role of marketing has not changed, but the emphasis is now more on the customer and earning their trust as well as developing and maintaining that relationship than the business’ story. Incorporating social media and the web into marketing strategies will transform the consultant’s brand into a living and ever-changing entity.

Consultants have an opportunity through their website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites to engage their customers and truly get to know what is important to them and what they like and dislike, and consultants can do it without spending a lot of marketing dollars.

According to the SBA, “…over half of all Americans between the ages of 15-34 consider themselves active social network users. They regularly visit well-known social networking sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, or log onto specialty social networks.” Social networking has to be correctly executed, because whenever information is added or changed online the information has the potential to be seen by millions of people. Some benefits of social networking are the business’ ability to promote their brand and it provides a platform for getting the word out about whom the business is and what it is all about. One form of social media is blogging.


In his book, Weber states that blogging is another way that consultants can market their business. Blogging establishes leadership, credibility, and it gets the business on the search engine radar. Blogging provides direct access to customers.

Corporations must answer questions about why they should be in the blogosphere. Small businesses need to answer questions about why they shouldn’t.

– Paul Gillin, Author of The New Infuencers

Customers can comment and respond to consultants via feedback. A blog, if nothing else, is a direct line to customers. They can comment; they can give feedback. Blogs generally contain text, graphics, links to other blogs and web pages, as well other related information, such as audio or video. Blogging requires updating on a continuous basis; therefore, time needs to be allocated to maintain the blog. Weber continues by mentioning that many companies use microblogs, such as Twitter, as a social networking tool to relay up-to-the-minute information.

Twitter is not a technology. It’s a conversation. And it’s happening with or without you.

– Charlene Li, Co-author of Groundswell

Twitter allows users to comment in real time. Messages or tweets allow up to 140 characters. Consultants should continue conversations from customers by posting their own Tweets and not just lead customers down a dead end commenting path. An additional tool that Weber talks about in his book is the popular social networking site, Facebook.


Facebook is a used by people to stay in touch with acquaintances, family, or friends without having to post updates to each one of them.

People share, read, and generally engage more with any type of content when it’s surfaced through friends and people they know and trust.

– Malorie Lucich, Facebook Spokesperson

Facebook is ushering in the age of non-intrusive marketing. Companies have to market their businesses without drowning customers in advertisements. Facebook users want genuine relationships with businesses they can trust. The consultant can create an account and converse with users. Users can also become fans of the consultant’s brand. LinkedIn is similar to Facebook; however, it differs from Facebook in that its focus is on professional networking as opposed to the more casual networking Facebook offers.


LinkedIn is a social networking website designed for and targeted by professionals. Consultants can create a profile on LinkedIn much the same way as on Facebook, and much like a blog, users can post links and their curriculum vitae, as well as other information. In their book “Career Management Via LinkedIn: Using Your Online Network to Find New Work or Challenging Assignments,” authors Aaltje Vincent, Jacco Valkenburg, and Kumar Jamdagni suggest consultants have a business profile on LinkedIn. Having a profile can promote branding, build networks with companies and individuals, create an up-to-date address book of contacts, and enhance internet visibility. LinkedIn has a high Google PageRank. PageRank classifies pages in order of importance. When searched, LinkedIn profiles are displayed near the top of search results. It is important to build good network relationships with the decision-makers in the industry (i.e., hiring managers). The HR Manager does not usually handle temporary positions or assignments, the managers themselves are responsible for hiring external staff, i.e., consultants.

The authors go on to say that consultants’ LinkedIn profiles should show up-to-date information. It should also give a clear idea of what they can contribute and where they can be of use. The profile denotes who consultants are and the focus should be on the type of services they are looking to perform. The profile summary is the most critical part of the profile, as it is what appears high on the web page when people search the consultant’s name via Google. The summary is the first impression that people will have about an individual’s business, so it needs to say a lot in a very small amount of space. Since LinkedIn is networking for professionals, consultants often get notifications for industry networking events from their contacts. Networking is another marketing method.


Allen stresses in his blog that there are many networking events available for consultants to attend no matter their industry specialization. Some of these events include seminars, conferences, and association meetings. He suggests that consultants attend these kinds of events, because they are a great avenue to meet and get to know people in their industry and the people they meet have the potential to help consultants meet future customers. These kinds of events tend to have a snowball effect in that once a consultant meets some people, those contacts in turn reciprocate introductions, and before long a consultant has a whole network of contacts.

Allen recommends that consultants should also introduce people to each other, because the tighter a consultant’s network of contacts become, the more acquaintances in the network will be able to help each other. It is important for consultants to carry many business cards with them to these networking events.

Exchanging business cards happens at a rapid pace at networking events. Allen recommends that consultants not exchange business cards with other participants unless there is a worthwhile reason to stay in contact with them. Contacts should have no doubt about why they should contact a consultant. If they do, then the consultant needs a business card redesign.

Allen goes on to explain that only a few networking events produce the best results. The purpose for networking is to produce lasting relationships. He recommends consultants join associations or groups that are well suited for the consultant’s business development. Some of these organizations include the Chambers of Commerce, industry specific organizations, and professional organizations. When networking, it is also good for consultants to be open to unconventional networking opportunities that are more casual or fun in nature. A marketing method that many women business owners do not realize is available to them is local, state, and federal certification.

Women-Owned Businesses Certification

According to the Southern California Minority Supplier Development Council (SCMSDC), some federal, state, and local government agencies offer special certifications to small Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs), Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs), and Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs) to ensure that they get their fair share of projects. In addition, quite a few large companies participate in programs targeted at sub-consultant diversity and use MBE/DBE certification as a way to authenticate and employ competent experienced minority or disadvantaged businesses.

The SCMSDC recommends becoming certified as a MBE, DBE, and/or HUB because it is a marketing tool for work on government projects, but consultants can also market their services to contractors (in a sub-consultant role) responding to solicitations, as they are often required to meet specific MBE/DBE participation goals established by the contract. MBE/DBE/HUB certified firm information is stored in an online directory and is easily accessible to both contractors and government procurement officers.

There are specific requirements consultants must meet in order to become MBE/DBE/HUB certified. The SCMSDC suggest consultants check their state guidelines to see if they qualify. Another benefit to becoming MBE/DBE/HUB certified is that the certification gives consultants beneficial access to procurement agents, events focused on networking, and special government databases, services, and programs.

There are industry experts that mentor start-up business owners to help them acquire the information they need regarding the programs available to them, as well as to help them navigate the new world of business ownership. Two of these experts are Jeannette Waldie (JW), owner of J K Waldie & Associates and Howard Fitter (HF), SCORE volunteer. The following are the dialogs from interviews Donna Zavahir (DZ) had with each of these experts.


Jeannette Waldie Interview

Jeannette Waldie is the owner/operator of J K Waldie & Associates. Waldie has over 20 years of experience developing proposal processes and managing proposals. She has distinguished herself from other business development professionals by achieving the international accreditation of Proposal Professional. Jeannette is also an accomplished public speaker and mentor.

DZ:  Jeannette, please tell us a little about your business.

JW: I started my business in June 2013. I offer business communication services to both businesses and individuals by helping clients communicate who they are to the world. We then help them express that message through written media, whether it is a resume, a proposal to win contracts, or other media. I do not have any direct employees. However, I have a number of professional associates I contract or subcontract with to provide full services to my clients.

DZ:  Do you operate your business from your home or do you go to an office every morning?

JW:  I operate my business from my home.

DZ: Was it a hard transition going from working in an office to working strictly from home?

JW: The transition overall was not difficult as I often worked from home for past employers.

DZ:  Why did you decide to start your own business?

JW:  I realized that I had gained a lot of experience as well as a lot of professional goodwill over the years. I was always interested in consulting as I feel it allows me to contribute to clients in a way I never could as an employee.

DZ:  Why do you feel there is a demand for consultants?

JW:  In today’s competitive market, companies need to operate with as low an overhead as possible. But the demand for clients, especially for responses on competitive bids, is cyclic and somewhat unpredictable. So clients often hire me to help them when their staff is overloaded. Also, for the services I provide, companies recognize they need someone with a fresh perspective.

DZ:  Do you think the demand for consultants will continue?

JW:  Yes, but the demand will continue to be cyclical and dependent upon economic forces.

DZ:  How did you determine there was a need for the particular services you offer?

JW:  I know quite a few proposal consultants, but there are very few in the Houston area, especially in the AEC market. So I knew the demand was there.

DZ:  What brought you to the decision to start your own business? Did you do research or contact the SBA for advice?

JW: I was lucky as, in some ways, it was made for me. I was not happy at my last company and a well-known international consulting firm approached me to help them on a project on a contract basis. I jumped at the chance. I did not do any research beyond talking to colleagues to find out what the standard billing rates were and how to manage the accounting side. I did not contact any of the small business associations for advice.

DZ:  Your biography says that you are a mentor to other marketing professionals and from your blog, I can tell that you have no problem in sharing information. In your opinion, how important is having a mentor?

JW:  I think having a mentor is critical. I have had several over the years and feel it made a big difference in my career.

DZ:  Do you have a mentor? If so, who is it and how have they helped you?

JW:  I do not currently have a specific mentor. Rather, I treat all my colleagues as mentors. I also have several well-known consultants whose blogs I follow to give me ideas on where to go from here.

DZ:  Once a person has made the leap to start their own business, the next step is to start bringing in money, how do you market your business to potential clients?

JW:  I rely 100% on networking and to date 99% of my clients have been referrals.

DZ:  It seems like everyone who has a business uses social media to promote their business. How big a role does social media play in promoting and marketing your business to potential clients?

JW:  Beyond a blog I post semi-regularly and commenting on posts in various LinkedIn groups, I do not use social media at all to promote my business. I feel the role social media plays depends on the type of business you have and the product and service you sell. My business is not well suited to that as a marketing tool.

DZ:  You mentioned before that your office is in your home, what advice regarding time management can you give someone who is new to owning a home-based consulting business?

JW:  I highly recommend finding cloud-based tools to help manage your business. I use cloud-based file and document sharing services for project management and even my bookkeeping. With smart phones, laptops, and tablets, businesses can be highly mobile and not tied to an office.

DZ:  Separating work from home must be difficult, what advice can you give someone who is new to this challenge?

JW:  Set office hours and create a set routine for yourself every day. Make sure your family knows that and respects those hours. Also, make sure you have somewhere to put the dog when you are about to go onto a conference call.

DZ:  The government offers some benefits to assist small women-owned businesses in growing their business through certification programs. Have you become certified in any of these programs?

JW:  Not yet – my clients have kept me too busy. It is on my to-do list for 2014.

DZ:  Are you a member of any women-owned business associations?

JW:  No.

DZ:  Are you involved in any other organizations that focus on helping you grow your business?

JW:  I am heavily involved in the Association of Proposal Management Professionals. I am currently researching what other associations are best suited to help me grow my business.

DZ:  It seems like a lot of work just getting a business off the ground, what are some things a person should consider before starting their own business?

JW:  It is important to have a financial cushion to tie you over when things get slow or a client is late in paying. It also means you have to be willing to consider “is this really what I need for my business to be successful right now?” The other critical thing is to be flexible – things can change on a dime. Lastly, it is important to be honest with yourself and your clients. If you become overwhelmed, get help!

DZ:  What are some of the challenges you faced when starting your business?

JW:  It has taken me awhile to get used to the irregular cash flow. That proved to be a challenge.

DZ:  Jeannette, as we are wrapping up our talk, if you only had one piece of advice that you could give to a woman interested in starting her own consulting business, what would that be?

JW:  Make sure it is something you are passionate about and really interested in doing for the long haul. And you have to be willing to work hard to make it successful as there is no such thing as 9-5 when you own a business. There will be times you will wonder if you can do it or make it. Having that passion will help you get through those down moments.

Howard Fitter Interview

Howard Fitter, SCOhowardfitter-picRE Volunteer (a Small Business Administration Partner). SCORE (an acronym for Service Corps Of Retired Executives) is a national, volunteer organization with real-world business knowledge, devoted to helping businesses succeed. Business counseling is confidential and free of charge.

DZ:  Howard, can you please explain who SCORE is and what services it provides?

HF: SCORE is a resource partner of the SBA. We are all volunteers here. We have 350 chapters around the country with 10K-12K volunteers. SCORE is an acronym that stands for Service Corps of Retired Executives. All volunteers have either owned their own business or they’ve worked at companies in management or supervisory positions. We help people who want to go into business get started and we help those who are in business, but are having problems solve their problems.

In Houston, we have 70-80 volunteers. The Gessner location is the main office in this area, but we’ve got a lot of satellites, 10-12 in the Houston Metropolitan Area.

DZ:  What are the resources available to help with marketing?

HF:  Well marketing…there’s not a whole lot of resources other than possibly databases because what marketing really is, is studying your market, so you’re dealing with demographics quite often. We try and point people in the direction where they can get the proper demographics, but also the concept of putting together a plan, an organized plan that is part of the business plan. There’s a marketing section that has to fit into it. You have to start with identifying your customers, who is your market, where are they, and how are you going to get in touch with them. That’s the basis of it.

DZ:  If working from home, are there certain challenges that come with that or would you follow the same process.

HF:  It lends itself to some businesses and some businesses it doesn’t. Obviously, if it’s a retail business, you’re not going to have your inventory in your home, but if it’s a consulting type business or something like that, with today’s technology you can handle that from home or from a canoe in the middle of a lake or anywhere else you want to.

DZ:  Are there resources specifically for women-owned businesses?

HF:  Not as such, but there are organizations directed towards women and we will make presentations at their meetings or get-togethers. There are programs that are designed just for women as far as the federal government is concerned, where there may be grants. There are programs or set asides that they just want female entrepreneurs to bid on to give them a little boost up.

DZ:  How has social media changed how businesses market? Has it helped or hurt?

HF:  It has obviously helped it, because you can reach so many more people very inexpensively. It’s like the old mud on the wall theory, the more you throw, the more it will stick. I don’t know that in the long run that it’s continuing because while it does offer services they don’t seem to have a long life because it’s too easy for other people to get into it. The business model can’t be copyrighted, so only time will tell if it’s really the way to go.

Managing Time and Money for the Home-Based Consulting Business

The home-based consultant’s success weighs greatly on how well they manage their time and money. Consultants are faced with independence, responsibility, and many expenses. How consultants view and handle each of these can greatly influence the business’ cash flow … or lack thereof. Being able to separate business life from personal life and learning how to manage time and money can make the consultant’s life much more enjoyable and less stressful, which are most likely some of the reasons they chose to start their own consulting business. The topics of separating work from home, time management, and money management will be discussed below. Incorporated into this discussion is input from individuals who own successful consulting businesses.

Separating Work From Home

Liz Presson, a blogger with The Daily, discusses in her blog the challenge of trying to find the balance between work life and home life when working from home. Presson acknowledges that with no commute to and from work and no time clock to punch, there is no reason not to just roll out of bed and start the workday. Everything necessary for work is generally within view or just a few footsteps away. Presson goes on to say consultants need personal space. Creating personal space is something that requires a conscientious effort. If not, the line between work life and home life will become a blur and before long consultants will find themselves working 16-18 hour days, if not more. They will also find themselves on the fast track to burning out. To prevent this from happening, consultants need to start every workday as if they are going to an office away from home.

Life and time are world’s two teachers. Life teaches us to make good use of time, while time teaches us the value of life.
– Unknown

Presson suggests that consultants not start up the computer as soon they get out of bed. Instead, she recommends creating a morning schedule that consultants follow every morning, such as going to get coffee at a coffee shop or taking a class at the gym. If that isn’t something consultants can do, Presson suggests sitting down at the kitchen table for breakfast, reading the paper for a few minutes, or calling family or friends for a quick chat. When logging on to the computer to start the day, Presson advises consultants to take a few minutes to go over tasks for the day, review emails, or do other miscellaneous work that tends to get postponed as the day proceeds. Where consultants perform their work, is also important according to Presson.

Presson recommends consultants have one place in their house that is designated as the work area. A place where nothing is done in that area except work. If possible, it is a good idea to have a home office room, a place that has a big desk, office supplies, and no TV. To get in the zone for work, one item is required, a desk chair. Having a desk chair will make it easier on the back, although having a comfortable chair often means sitting in one place for long periods of time. Therefore, it is important that consultants take breaks throughout the day.

Presson says that at lunchtime they should go to another room in the house (not eat at their computer), better yet; they should go out for lunch with a friend or family member. For an afternoon break, they should take a short walk or go to grab a cup of coffee at a nearby coffee shop. Presson suggests that when the workday normally ends, consultants go to the gym, run errands, or meet friends for happy hour. This establishes the transition in the mind between regular working hours and personal hours. Many consultants decide to work from home because of the flexibility it offers; however, the opposite can happen if a schedule and habits are not formed to control it and create a balance between work life and home life. Separating home life from work life is not cut and dry. What works for one home business owner might not necessarily work for another.

What Patrice Lewis, author of “Your Homestead Business: Time Management For The Self-Employed” and co-owner (with her husband) of a small business, has found that works for her is expounded upon in her article. Lewis says, “…And, as anyone knows, to succeed in a home business, you need to be a strong self-motivator and a self-starter.” She goes on to say, “Sometimes it helps to set aside certain times to do certain things. Or, set aside certain days to do certain things.” Lewis recommends that the home business entrepreneur have a schedule for all work that has to be done. This includes home and work tasks. According to Lewis, this schedule can be grueling, but it is what enables her family to take a few weeks off per year. The best thing about her family’s business is they can work together all the time, thus resulting in extraordinarily closeness. Lewis also places a heavy emphasis on time management. While some consultants have trouble in deciphering when the workday ends, others have difficulty in managing time. For those consultants, there are some time management techniques that can help them keep on track.

Time Management

Time management techniques are useful for home-based consultants, because it is important for consultants to manage time wisely. Time management; however, can be somewhat difficult with no clocking in and out or managerial supervision.

People often complain about lack of time when the lack of direction is the real problem.

– Zig Zigler

Focusing at home can be a problem for some because of all the distractions that a family can present. Susan Johnson, blogger and founder of The Urban Muse blog site, offers the following tips to help consultants with time management:

  1. Unplug. Go to a café or other location away from home with a laptop. Do not take the charger. Finish work before the battery runs out.
  2. Use templates. Templates cut time for projects that require the same types of information each time. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel each time for the same project. Use templates for forms, letters, invoices, reports, proposals, questionnaires, CVs, etc.
  3. Tame your email. Delete all useless emails. Read only those emails from known senders or those with interesting subject lines.
  4. Take breaks. Get away from the computer for a few minutes throughout the day to re-energize and re-focus.
  5. Create an outline. Create an outline, either detailed or with just a few headings and bullets, when working on a writing assignment (this will prevent over-writing).
  6. Outsource. Hire an assistant to help with administrative tasks, so that work that is more important will be the focus.
  7. Specialize. Specializing is more effective because resources are readily available. Additionally, the capacity to pull from the extensive knowledge obtained from working on similar assignments is greater; therefore eliminating the need to start completely over each time a new assignment comes in.
  8. Use little pockets of time. Do not waste small amounts of time. Use them to update Twitter, write a blog entry, check emails, etc.
  9. Schedule what you can. Scheduling helps with getting required tasks done and eliminating the possibility of forgetting to do routine tasks. If blogging, schedule posts to post at certain times. Boomerang and SocialOomph applications help with Gmail and Twitter.
  10. Don’t obsess. Do not be a perfectionist. Do not read all social media and email. Read only items that are essential or attention grabbing and forget everything else.

The tips listed above may prove helpful to many consultants, but others may still struggle with managing their time. Tools may benefit some people. Tools can take the form as applications (apps) downloaded on a computer or smart phone, while others are tools that have been around for quite a while, like white boards or kitchen timers.

Using Apps and Other Tools to Help Manage Time

Anthony Caruana, a blogger on, says that one of his most used time management tools is a white board. He draws columns on the white board with the days and weeks listed. He does not include the weekends. He divides each day in half. When one week ends, he schedules the next week. He likes using the white board because he can add items that span multiple days and he can use a variety of colors to indicate different things. He also likes using a white board because it is easy to add things to it and moving items around is fairly painless. Another tool he uses is a to-do list. He uses an app called Producteev. Whenever new assignments come in, Caruana adds it to Producteev along with a deadline. Caruana’s to-do list also contains his recurring tasks, such as bills to pay.


  1. Speaktoit Assistant – Speaktoit is the Android’s equivalent to Siri. It can make posts to Facebook and Twitter, send emails, play music, get driving directions, answer questions, do internet searches, take notes, etc.
  2. Toggl – Toggl, available to Android and Apple users, lets users distribute tasks in time increments during the day. It then lets users compare the time allocated to the actual time spent on tasks. This is important to users, because it allows them to analyze what tasks are taking longer to complete and figure out the reason why, so that they can be more efficient with their use of time. This is particularly useful to consultants who bill per hour to their clients. It tracks chargeable hours separately as the week progresses and adds up the hours for the consultant at the end of the week.
  3. Pomodoro – This Apple application assists users by breaking up the day into 25-minute increments called pomodoros. Each pomodoro focuses on one task. When each pomodoro is finished, the user gets a five-minute break. Android has a similar application called Pomodroido.

On the other hand, some consultants like Marlee Ward, Chief Radical Entrepreneur, marketing strategist, and speaker, like to use computer apps to help with time management. Ward’s top picks are shown below:

  1. Google Calendar (Gcal) – Gcal lets users create many calendars with one account. This allows users to have a calendar for business, personal, and any other calendars they may need. Gcal can sync up with tablets, smart phones, and other mobile devices. Gcal can also convert text into appointments and place it on the calendar for users.
  2. Grammarly – This tool is great for writers. Grammarly allows users to select writing styles and will check for errors, as well as give suggestions for corrections. It will catch errors that word processors often miss.
  3. Manic Time – This software tracks what users do on their computer. This allows users to analyze their daily workflow.
  4. Onlinestopwatch – This tool lets users set a specified amount of time to complete a task. When the alarm sounds, time is up.
  5. Concentrate for Mac or iFreeFace for PC – This software lets users block websites, games, and email for specified amounts of time. Once the specified time expires, users can go back to using these programs, but not a minute before.

Time management is an important aspect of operating a successful home-based consulting business, but another important aspect is money management. Money management is particularly challenging to consultants because of cash flow uncertainty.

Money Management

On the topic of money management, Philana Patterson, author of “The Independent Contractor’s Survival Guide,” says in her book, “Although accountants, consultants, writers, hair stylists, psychotherapists, and other professionals who work as independent contractors have the freedom of being their own boss, it takes a lot of planning and hard work to stay financially afloat.” Challenges that effect consultants include finding reasonably priced health insurance, retirement and tax planning, obtaining adequate insurance coverage, and tracking business expenses. Consultants should save as much money as possible from current projects so they have cash available during times when there is not as much money coming in. Patterson points out in her book that many consultants focus so much on the present that they fail to plan for the future. Consultants need to think about different areas of money management. Patterson recommends four areas of money management that consultants need to place their focus.

  1. Expenses Consultants should strive to separate business expenses from personal expenses. Come tax time, consultants (and their accountant) will appreciate the attention paid to ensuring the separation between the two types of expenses. Patterson recommends setting up separate bank accounts for the business. Using software for bookkeeping or creating a spreadsheet to log in business expenses is a good way to keep business expenses separate from personal expenses. Having a credit card for only business purposes is suggested as well. Receipts and all supporting documents related to expenses should be stored in a designated place in the home office. If there is not a receipt, an explanation on a piece of paper should be attached. Consultants should spend a few hours a month making sure that all accounting tasks are in order.
  2. RetirementPatterson recommends setting up a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA plan or a one-person 401(k) plan as an easy way for a consultant to fund retirement.
  3. Insurance According to Patterson, consultants need to consider buying health, liability, short-term and long-term disability, and life insurance. Some insurance agents offer packages that include all of the different kinds of insurance. Insurance is generally a costly expense, but some organizations, trade associations, and other resources offer insurance at discounted rates for members.
  4. Taxes Most consultants will likely file the IRS forms Schedule C and Schedule SE for self-employment taxes. Patterson recommends that consultants file quarterly tax approximations. Filing taxes is not all bad though; consultants are often eligible for tax deductions based upon their business expenses.

Tax Deductions

While it seems like there are many expenses related to owning a home-based business, a benefit of all these business expenses is that many of them are tax deductible. Many expenses related to owning and operating a home-based business can be written off on federal tax returns. Some of these deductions are common knowledge, but others are less known. According to TurboTax, 10 of the top tax deductions are as follows:

  1. Individual Retirement Plans (IRAs) – TurboTax suggest IRAs as the best tax deduction for home-based business owners to take. Consultants without any employees are eligible for an individual 401 (k).
  2. Business use of home or dwellingTurboTax points out that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may request documentation to prove that the business owner is eligible for this tax write-off. Therefore, it is very important that they keep excellent records related to the use of the home expenses. These expenses could include phone lines, internet, etc. The home office must be used solely for conducting work related to the specified business and not used for anything else.
  3. Deducting automobile expenses – TurboTax mentions two ways that business owners can use their automobile expenses as a tax deductiomileage-picn. One way is to deduct mileage for business travel. This IRS mileage rate changes periodically, so business owners need to check this rate every year. The other way is to deduct actual car expenses. These expenses include payments, devaluation, registration, insurance, licenses, repairs and upkeep, paid parking, and tolls. TurboTax recommends business owners keep a record of miles driven for business purposes as well as actual car expenses, should the IRS request proof.
  4. Depreciation of property and equipment – Equipment must be owned by the business and be used to generate income. Business owners need to guestimate how long they can produce income with the equipment. Equipment purchased for a business must have a useful life of more than a year and cannot be bought and sold (or given away) in the same year. If the item lasts longer than a year, devaluation must be shown on the tax return.
  5. Educational expenses – This is an often overlooked tax deduction. Taking courses or purchasing research material to improve the business can be written-off on tax returns. Trade magazine subscriptions and business organization donations, as well as books, web courses, college courses, and classes or materials for the business can all be written-off on tax returns.
  6. Advertising and promotional expenses
  7. Banking fees
  8. Air, bus, or train fare
  9. Restaurant meals and other entertainment costs
  10. Health insurance premiums – This is a tax credit rather than a deduction.

TurboTax recommends keeping record of all expenses throughout the year. Save all receipts, emails, credit card statements (along with any supporting documents), as well as sign-in sheets for attendees of lunch provided meetings, mileage logs, and any other information that may be of interest to the IRS, should they decide to audit the business. Not only does recording expenses show proof for all expenses incurred by businesses, it also allows businesses to track where money for businesses is spent. Keeping track of where businesses spend their money is just as important as where consultants spend their time.

Consultants’ use of time management and money management tools can aid them in growing their business. Both time management and money management are also important for helping consultants separate home life from work life. A good balance between the two may even prevent burnout.

For women who dream of owning their own consulting business, the dream may be within reach. In his article, “Survey: Obamacare Leading Businesses to Cut Hours, Keep Full-time Staff below 50”, Kent Hoover with the Washington Business Journal Bureau Chief says, “Health care reform already is leading many businesses to cut workers’ hours, hire part-timers or stay below the employer mandate of 50-employee threshold. That’s according to a survey of businesses with 40 to 500 employees conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, and commissioned by the International Franchise Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.” While this means bad news for employees who will lose their jobs, it can mean great news for consultants. Those consultants who are prepared to assist these clients may find themselves in high demand. Proper planning and learning the necessary time and money management skills can ensure new consultants are prepared to help clients when needed.