A Rocky Road to Land the First Clients

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My road to landing my first clients was a rocky one.

In May 2020 I was 3-4 months into my new adventure as a solo consultant but the world as we knew it was rapidly changing and the target market I had in mind when I launched in January 2020 was itself reeling from catastrophic changes.

So, I found myself looking for contractual positions.

I applied for a 1099 position with an organization that did awesome work with young people and the organization’s leader was well-known in that large city. In fact, I really admired what she’d accomplished over the years.

During the application process, she hired me to write a grant to a local government agency, so I had a chance to learn what it was like to work with her.

After two separate online interviews, I was offered the position as a contractual operations manager and started in early July.

The responsibilities of the position were broken into 6-7 categories: business development, analytics, team management, brand management and communication, and managing partnerships.

From July 2020 to January 2021, I led the building of the organization’s first budget and program-specific budgets, secured an auditor so the organization could meet an important requirement, wrote fundraising copy, designed e-newsletters, researched project management applications and led the transition to selected app, identified several compliance gaps for a large six-figure grant, recruited and helped evaluate a new grant writer, an evaluator, and a program manager wrote several policies and procedures, etc., etc.

This was hardly the independent grant consulting company I was trying to build.

But it was a start.

Lessons learned

Even though I wasn’t functioning in a traditional consultant role, I was still learning valuable lessons that have helped me with future clients.

I was:

  • adding to an already varied understanding of how differently organizations are managed.
  • learning how to do the following remotely: engage with co-workers, lead meetings, analyze financial documents with finance leads, become a confidante of sorts for the org’s leader, politely and firmly advocate my position on the right approach despite management pushback, and more.
  • Able to initiate several discussions with the organization’s leader to negotiate a higher hourly rate that reflected my experience and my many accomplishments in those seven months.

So, while I wasn’t consulting per se, I was certainly learning important lessons I still value today.

And, that organization?

They have grown immensely thanks partly to the attention brought to the importance of their work by inaugural poet Amanda Gorman.

I hope they continue to grow and have an amazing positive impact on young people in the city and beyond.


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