Note: Below is a modified transcript from part 2 (above) of a three-part YouTube series, in which I discuss how I started a six-figure DEI consulting business in 6 months.
After being laid off in March of last year, I made a conscious, intentional, calculated choice not to pursue another full-time job. Instead, I decided to dedicate my time and energy to starting my own consulting and coaching business.
In this first post/video, I’m going to share some background information about myself,
tell you more about my consulting niche or area of focus, and touch on why I decided to venture out and do my own thing.
In the second post/video, I’m going to share some of the things that I did BEFORE I actually launched my business––which I believe are things that significantly contributed to my initial success
And finally, in the third post/video, I’m going to share some steps that I took to actually launch my business and start generating revenue.
There were roughly seven (7) really important steps that I took before I launched my business. The first three steps were internal actions, or rather introspective work that I needed to do on myself. And the other four steps were more external facing and logistical. This may not make sense now, but hopefully it will as I highlight some of my actions.
Step 1: I Built My Confidence
I can’t tell you how many times people have told me this throughout my life, but it just didn’t sink in… until it sunk in. Confidence truly is the key to success. And of course, everyone’s definition of “success” is subjective, different. But, I guarantee that if you were to think of any person that YOU consider to be successful, you more than likely also consider that person to be confident, right?
Self confidence can get you so so far.
And until you believe in yourself, you’re going to be hard pressed to find anyone else who will believe in you.
So, before I started working on my business, I was taking intentional steps and actions toward building my self confidence.
Now, I’ve always been confident in my ability to get things done. And I’ve always considered myself to be smart. But in my younger years I often felt less knowledgeable than those around me. I would hold my voice back. I feared voicing my ideas, thoughts, and opinions to other people.
I had so much fear about what people thought about me, and that stifled my voice and ability to speak up for the longest time.
But over time, I came to realize that my voice was just as important as anyone else’s. My ideas are just as smart as other folks’ ideas. And so, I worked on myself. I went to therapy to start understanding why I had these thoughts about myself. I started taking better care of my mind and body—building in small routines to hold myself accountable.
And I did a lot of self-reflection. Which leads me to the second action that I took…
Step 2: I Came to Terms with Weaknesses
For me, it’s always been easy to articulate the things that I’m good at. But when it comes to the things I’m not so good at, my pride used to be a blocker.
Idk about you, but I used to want to be good—ok, ok... I wanted to be GREAT, at everything. And growing up, I felt as though I had something to prove: that I needed to be a top performer, in everything. And I won’t get into detail as to why in this video/post. But, I continued to apply that ridiculous pressure onto myself as I went through my early and mid 20s.
I mean, if I’m keeping it 100, I still sometimes apply unnecessary pressure to myself and have to check myself on that.
Again, examining and checking your weaknesses, I believe, is so so important when it comes to starting and even running your own business. For example, if you know you’re not good at staying organized or completing administrative tasks, or if you know you’re not good with branding or design, find someone to do those things for you! Consider asking someone you’re connected to for help or if you can afford to, hire help. And at the very least, try to find tools that will make those tasks easier for you—tools that will make you more efficient and productive.
Step 3: I Embraced a Growth Mindset 🤗
When I was working full-time, it was fairly easy, if not almost forced upon me to constantly be learning. For example, I had managers who would regularly share articles and research documents, and ask to have conversations around those. There were often professional development opportunities shared internally when I worked full-time, such as events with guest speakers and lecturers.
When you’re developing a business, and even once you have it up and running (especially if you’re working independently and remotely), you have to proactively keep yourself educated. Learning opportunities aren’t thrown at you as easily. So, when it comes to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work, as well as career development, I’m constantly exploring and learning—seeking out new things. Which, in our ever-evolving world, is really really important.
You always want your knowledge and approach to your work to remain relevant, fresh, so that you can best support your clients and remain a leader in your field. I frequently watch videos, read, ingest DEI data, attend webinars (even if it’s just listening to them in the background while I work on something else). I also have regular check-ins with other DEI professionals and consultants that I’ve met along the way, to knowledge-share and bounce ideas around.
Learning—constantly learning—will help you and your business thrive.
Like I said early on, the first three actions were more so about the internal work that I had to do on myself. The next four actions are more external facing, and mostly logistical. Here they are:
Step 4: I Networked Like it Was a Part-Time Job
I touched on this in the first video/post, but before I left my last full-time job, I was networking with at least 1-2 new people every week, for quite some time. I started by first telling my existing network what I was trying to do, which was start my own consulting business, and several people in my existing network had relevant connections that they introduced me to.
I also went on LinkedIn and started connecting with people there. And I’m not talking about my existing connections. I put my recruiter skills to work and sourced a network for myself on LinkedIn, meaning I used the search function to look for certain people to meet. More specifically, I looked for DEI consultants and career coaches—people who were already doing the work that I wanted to do.
I also made it a point to network with a very diverse group of people; I spoke with consultants and entrepreneurs of all ages, genders, ethnicities, locations, etc. I think this is REALLY really important! When I do career coaching, I like to remind my clients, especially women of color, to never limit yourselves to just networking with people who look like or share the same background or experiences as you do. It’s so important to diversify your network as much as possible. It not only increases your ability to reach more clients, but you’ll further develop cultural competency, or the ability to comfortably and confidently interact with people of a variety backgrounds.
Many people overlook cultural competency as a core skill, but having worked within DEI for quite some time, I can tell you that in the coming years, more and more people and organizations are going to be embracing cultural competency as a core competency.
So, in summary: build a diverse network, and in turn, develop a new skill. Period.
Step 5: I Figured Out My Niche
Initially, I wanted to offer career development and coaching support to anyone. Yes, any and everyone. But for many reasons, that just wasn’t the right approach. I won’t list out all of the reasons, but the advice I received several times, was to think about my ideal client and focus my attention there.
Now, when I thought about, and still now, when I think about my ideal client, it actually isn’t just anyone.
For me, my ideal coaching client is someone who can benefit from both my personal and professional experiences and DEI expertise. And for me, at this point and time, my ideal client is a professional of color, and even more specifically, a women of color, who is making a career shift to better align their skill sets and interests to work that also generates sustainable income.And I can tell you, as I’ve built out my coaching business, and the various content and resources for my clients, it’s been much much easier to do so for a specific, targeted audience, vs. when i was trying to build universal content for just… anyone.
*I didn’t put this in my video, but I also have an ideal DEI client! I’ll cover that in another video/post 🙃.
Step 6: I Formally Set Up My Business
There are tons of resources out there that walk you through, step-by-step, how to start your business, so I won’t do that here. But at a high level, to get started I:
First, I choose a name. I didn’t have a creative, fun, or unique business name in mind, and I didn’t want to waste time overthinking it (because I know myself and that would've just caused me to delay the process). So, I just went with my name: Adriele Parker LLC. Very meta.
I then registered my domain name, or website url, and started setting up my website. My next step would’ve been to set up social media, but I’d already been using my name on social media, so there wasn’t much to do there. I like to keep this simple, so I’m @adrieleparker on just about every social platform (feel free to add me!).
Finally, I formally registered my business and opened a business checking account. Now, I chose to set up an LLC—after doing some research it made the most sense for me. However, there are a number of business structures out there (sole proprietorships, corporations, etc.), so you’ll want to do your due diligence, research, and choose the business structure that makes the most sense for you. I found google, YouTube, Reddit, and Quora to be my best resources when trying to decide which model made the most sense for my business.
Step 7: I Developed My Brand & Marketing Strategy
Once you’ve found your niche, you need to start developing your brand and marketing plan. That’s your logo, your communication style, the colors you use, where you’ll market or advertise based on your target audience, etc. And keep in mind, design matters when it comes to attracting clients and selling services or products. You want your brand and corresponding collateral to appeal to your ideal client or target audience. And remember, if developing a brand and marketing strategy isn’t something you’re comfortable doing or skilled, that’s ok! Remember to acknowledge your weaknesses and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
So, those were the seven high level steps that I took before I launched my business. I hope this video/post is helpful. I’ll share part 3 next week. See you then!