There's an old article by Christoph Janz that my friends who work in SaaS keep coming back to. In it, the author quickly explores the different ways you can build a $100 million company, depending on the kind of client you choose to sell to.
I'd like to use the same idea to explore what those alternatives are for indie consultants.
Select Your Ingredients
To build an independent consulting business with $1 million in annual revenue by selling traditional engagements you need:
- Large engagements: 6 new projects per year, each paying you +$170,000;
- Regular engagements: 20 new projects per year, each paying you +$50,000;
- Paid discovery: 15 diagnostics or audits sold per month, for $5,500 each.
Doing any of these without a team is a huge challenge. Even if you have an extensive network of contractors and other consultants to rely on.
Luckily, we have other ways to monetize our expertise. You can sell retainers, document and sell your methodology, and leverage technology to productize and deliver it in scale:
- Retainer: 12 clients kept on a monthly retainer for $7,000 each.
- Courses: 40 online courses sold per month, for $2,000 each.
- Speaking: 10 speaking engagements per month, for $8,300 each.
- Audience-building: 5,000 members of a paid community or newsletter, for $200/year each.
- Publishing: 50,000 books sold every year (140/day), for $20 each.
- IP licensing: 6 programs sold per month to other consultants, charging $10,000 for the training + $4,000/year for ongoing support.
If you're a specialized independent consultant, each of these offerings are under your reach. They consist of different ways to sell your expert advice, and may be better suited to your context, personality, and vision of success.
Design And Bake The Cake
Things start to get interesting when you combine them and explore what your offering mix could look like:
- The ladder value consultant: You sell 2 paid diagnostics/month, totaling 24 in a year. Out of those, 6 of them become retainer clients, 4 hire regular engagements, and 1 of them become a large engagement.
- The online advisor: You have 8 clients on retainer and sell 13 online courses every month to prospects who can't afford to work with you individually.
- The digital specialist: You sell 110 books and 30 online courses/month, and have a community with 600 paid members. Your 1:1 work consists of only 6 paid discoveries and 2 regular engagements per year.
- The authority: You sell 500 books and deliver 1 speaking engagement every month. You also write a paid newsletter for 600 members, and select 4 new consultants to join your training/licensing program every month.
Those consulting businesses are very different from each other, but all of them make $1 million/year.
It will take you a lot of time and energy to actually achieve these numbers. But illustrating what it looks like can help you build actionable plans to turn your financial goals into a reality. Ask yourself:
- What do I need to get one company to hire for my paid audit?
- What do I need to land my first retainer client?
- What do I need to sell one book a day?
That's your starting point - small actions turn into big results.