Secrets to a Successful Consulting Business: Get Involved

I must confess — I don’t like networking. Going to meetings where I know no one just to get my name out is hard work for me. That’s probably why I like WIC. The meetings are fun and the people warm and inviting, so it’s less painful.

But this isn’t a pitch for WIC — even though it’s an organization that’s very near and dear to my heart. Rather, it’s a call to go beyond traditional networking and really get involved in your organizations, at least one of them. It’s truly the best way to build a solid network that will survive the roller-coaster ride that is our economy.

Seventy-Five Percent of My Current Revenue Is Directly Related to My Involvement in WIC

When the .dot com bubble burst, it took a couple of years before my business was impacted. I had a solid network; but after a while that network shrunk due to layoffs, people moving out of the area, and natural corporate changes.

When business started to slow, I figured I needed a better way to get new people to notice me. Relying solely on word of mouth and handing my card out at monthly networking meetings wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to get involved!

I started small, donating my services as an auction item at WIC’s silent auction (the business that bought my services still use me today) and volunteering to be WIC’s newsletter editor. After a while, I was asked to join WIC’s board as secretary; now I’m WIC’s director of PR & marketing. And it is absolutely, unequivocally the best move I’ve ever made.

Seventy-five percent of my current revenue is directly related to my involvement with WIC. Volunteering on WIC projects and committees and listing my services in WIC’s silent auction helped me cultivate relationships with other consultants who now use my services directly or recommend me to their clients. And I know these relationships will sustain me even when the economy is in a downturn.

When You Volunteer, People Get to Know You, Your Work Ethic, and Your Product…

…and that’s powerful stuff. Sure, volunteering takes time. But any worthwhile marketing effort does. But the return on investment is amazing and worth the energy. I’m living testament to that — and I’m serious about the 75 percent. My business is still primarily word of mouth, but that mouth is much bigger and stronger than before.

There are other tangible benefits to volunteering beyond the business gain, especially with an organization like WIC.

Being a solopreneur can be a lonely job sometimes. Volunteering gives you a great support system. I have the pleasure of working with an amazing group of women at WIC and count myself very lucky to call them my colleagues and friends.

As Karilee Wirthlin, one of my favorite WICsters, wrote in WIC’s 10th anniversary program, “I gained a great set of colleagues who pump me up when things don’t go well and cheer me on when they do.” I can also bounce ideas off my WIC colleagues; and I have access to best practices used by some of the Bay Area’s top consultants. These “extras” are invaluable.

Don’t Forgo Networking, Do Both

All this isn’t to say networking isn’t important. You never know who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn. In fact, I can attribute another 15 percent of my annual revenue to following the best practices advocated at WIC meetings. The key is to find the organization that best fits you and participate on all levels: attend meetings, participate in workshops/webinars, and volunteer. I’m living proof that you learn more, earn more, and make great friends!

avery@aveconsulting.com' About Avery Horzewski

Principal of AVE Consulting, Avery is a marketing and customer communications consultant, and serves on WIC's board of directors as president. As a consultant, she works with companies of all sizes to develop compelling, persuasive, and effective customer-centric marketing and communication strategies that encompass everything from websites to social media to print collateral. Avery assumed the role of WIC president in January 2010, after overseeing the organization’s marketing, PR, social media, and website initiatives for three years.

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