- If you are thinking of starting your own business, you may want to take Andrea Coutu out for coffee. If you want to start your own consultancy, you may want to make it coffee, lunch and dinner. Better yet, just buy her latest book on consulting fees, soon to be released in print- for as you might imagine, with two highly successful businesses, ongoing writing projects and two young chidlren, Ms. Coutu is rather in demand these days. And for good reason: there are few people with a more solid business background, a more diverse, yet relevant skill set, or a more successful track record. We asked Andrea to fill us in on how she has built her entrepreneurial success story:
Could you describe each of your businesses in a nutshell?
- Vancouver’s Trustmode Marketing provides marketing consulting, research and communications services to small- and mid-sized businesses. My personal Vancouver Marketing Consultant Blog became quite popular in the mid 2000s. I started getting a lot of questions from wannabe consultants and started Consultant Journal in 2006 to answer questions. My post on consulting fees went viral and today Consultant Journal welcomes up to 57,000 unique visitors each month, helping people survive and thrive as independent consultants.
How are you able to run two successful businesses at the same time?
- Trustmode Marketing is my main business and Consultant Journal is simply a division of that company. Through Trustmode, we help a variety of people start, run and grow businesses. Consultant Journal just takes that to an applied, micro level and targets independent consultants. I also made sure to build Consultant Journal so that it can run without me – I still work on it a lot, but it only takes a few hours a month, so I can focus on the rest of my business.
What were some pivotal moments that took Consultant Journal to the next level?
- I figured out search engine optimization early on and found myself ranked in first place for hundreds of relevant terms. My post on consulting fees went viral. Shortly thereafter, I put together an ebook – with no promotion whatsoever, it sold seven copies the first month and it’s just built from there. Some of my other posts have been featured by Lifehacker, Problogger, Tech Republic and other major sites. That sort of attention just brought more attention – I’ve been featured as a guest, interview subject or contributor in a range of local and international media. Today, I have several ebooks and an online course and my print book on consulting fees will be out any day now.
What investments, or risks, really paid off in the long run (either with Trustmode Marketing or Consultant Journal)?
- I started Trustmode when I was 23 years old. For me, being tied to a 9 to 5 lifestyle with an ugly commute to a soulless office park was just not how I wanted to start my working life. I couldn’t picture it working with the life I wanted to build. Staying in that sort of life seemed to me a huge risk – the sort of thing I’d never be able to escape, once I started building commitments. So, I took the risk of starting my business when I had the least risks. No kids. No mortgage. No car. And I started part-time, making sure I had an emergency fund and a job before I took the plunge. That risk averse strategy has always allowed me to weather storms – I outsource a lot of things now, but I still know how to do everything in my business, which reduces risk too.
What have you found to be the most effective way to reach clients/ customers?
- Reusable trust-based marketing models. Models sounds really fancy, but it’s just the way you put things together to keep your relationships running smoothly. Everything I do fits into that umbrella term.
What do you love about running your own business(es)?
- Never having to justify how I spent my time that day. Having the ability to timeshift so that I can balance life and work.
What are the drawbacks?
- Sometimes timeshifting means I work on a weekend, at night or during vacation. Personally, that’s worth being able to take vacations when I want, go to all the school activities I want, stay home with sick kids and go to the library or store at 11 am or load the dishwasher when I’m waiting for someone to call me back. But some people may not quite get why I’ve got a Skype conference lined up with a US client on Canadian Thanksgiving or why I’m working for 2 hours every morning when I’ve decided to take an extra week of vacation because the weather is good or my kids seemed like they needed me. For me, getting to take more than the standard 4 weeks of vacation, have flex time and work a compressed work week and still do work that brings me joy and energy makes it all worth it
You have talked about how marketing should be about your relationship with your customer, which should be “nurtured,” not “forced.” Can you think of an example of each style of marketing?
- Not really. To me, marketing is about building trust-based relationships with people over time. Anything else does not fit my definition of marketing!
- We can’t wait to see what’s next for Andrea, and thank her for providing such a great example of passion and focus in entrepreneurship. Inspiring! Learn more about Andrea Coutu HERE.