Starting a consulting business in fashion can be the ride of a lifetime. As a fashion consultant, you get to navigate a booming industry by assisting brands in building up their market share.
Consulting firms can focus on a variety of services that support entrepreneurs in bringing their vision to life, by helping them expand their audience, develop a new collection or even start new business ventures.
The consulting industry is an exciting one, but it’s subject to strong competition, and a new organization can experience a few challenges as it gets off the ground with its first clients.
Just like starting any other business, it can be quite confusing to navigate the first steps necessary to get your business going.
In this post, we’re shortlisting 5 essential steps to take to start your fashion consulting business.
With no further ado, let’s get started!
#1 Identify an Unserved Market Need
The starting point of any new venture is identifying an unserved need in the market.
“Consulting” is a term that covers a very broad category of services, but as an entrepreneur, it is your job to figure out what value you will be delivering to your customers.
At the beginning of a new business project, developing a general, undifferentiated offer can make your life very difficult, as with many other consulting companies out there, competing over the same clients can be very expensive. If there is no way to tell you apart from the competition the only way to get noticed is to “shout” louder than the rest, and that means investing a fortune in marketing.
This is obviously not something that any company can actually do.
On the contrary, if you’re able to get your business started by identifying a small niche you want to serve you may have much better luck building a market for your firm.
We need to remember that in fact the fashion industry is fast and each season new branding strategies and ideas take over the market.
We should be taking advantage of the industry’s fast pace to come up with a value proposition that taps into the current trends.
Conduct Market Research
It is important to note, however, that in order to find an unserved market need you may have to get out of the office and speak with some clients.
Go door-to-door, run interviews, administer questionnaires, the sky is the limit.
Before you define your value proposition make sure you are engaging in meaningful conversations with potential clients.
No matter how strong your background can be in the business of fashion, you still can’t make assumptions about your customers’ problems.
The only way you will be ever able to understand how you can help them is by asking them questions.
At the end of the day, if you want to start a business, you need to invest in building relationships with prospects and learning from them as much as you can.
Once you have found market evidence that what you’re willing to offer is going to solve your customers’ problems, it’s time to start setting up shop by developing a service offer.
We’ll discuss this step in further detail in the next section of the post.
#2 Develop a Service Offer
Once you have identified a problem you wish to serve you can develop a service offer.
What this means is that you need to connect the “pain” your customers are experiencing to a service your company can offer to make that pain go away.
In other words, once you have identified “what” you are going to do, you have to decide “how” you’re going to do it.
It is not uncommon to try to cover as much ground as possible, by offering services that foresee any possible issue a company may experience in their life.
This however is an approach you can follow only if you’re supported by a large team. If instead, your operation is a one-person show, it may be better to define specific services for specific problems.
This way, instead of encumbering yourself with commissions that are too large to process, you can be lean and build up your portfolio fast.
Remember that it’s better to be doing something small really well, rather than something larger so-so.
Even if some may think that you could be leaving money on the table by not tackling bigger picture issues, the truth is that as you start up your operations it’s better to keep options open.
In this stage, you want to build successful experiences and learn about the expectations of your clients.
If you do a good job, you can always upsell later, knowing that after one successful experience, your prices can better reflect your level of talent and expertise.
#3 Start Collecting Clients
Ok great, now you’ve done your research, you’ve identified a market need, and have developed a service offer that is going to help your clients get rid of their problems.
Once you are here, you can move ahead in the emotional rollercoaster you will experience once you start landing your first clients.
Again, we need to remember that collecting clients and getting into sales requires skills that don’t completely overlap with entrepreneurship.
In order to be a good salesperson we need to account for the time, it can take for you to build a relationship with your customers.
There will definitely come a time where because of word of mouth and the general reputation of your business you will start collecting some inbound commissions, but at the very start of your venture, you need to put in the hours to get customers by supporting them through their customer journey.
First, they will need to find out about your brand, usually, through a no-risk offer (Awareness).
Then they may be interested in hearing about your services (Intent).
Eventually, only some of them however will eventually decide to go ahead and demand your services (Purchase).
The stronger your sales and communication skills, the more customers will eventually trust your business proposal.
If you’d like to find out more about ways to collect clients as you start up your business, we’ve got you covered. In this post, we’re discussing three essential approaches to getting the first clients for your fashion consulting firm.
#4 Develop a Team
Now that you’ve actually got some business going it may be the right time to get started developing a team.
As you look at the commissions and projects you’re actually collecting, you can actually scout the talent market to find the right people to help your business grow.
Developing a team, or in better terms, attracting talent is one of the marks of entrepreneurship.
To some extent, all of the steps we have discussed so far would work just as well if instead of setting up a consulting firm you were simply freelancing.
There is a big difference however between the two.
In freelancing you’re still trading time for money. Even if you don’t have a boss, you have multiple bosses you need to be accountable to.
As a result, freelancing can be very similar to being a traditional employee, but with fewer benefits.
If you are going to start a company you need your business to be self-sufficient and rely on you less and less.
Clearly, this will not happen overnight, but it will have to happen in time.
In the beginning, your time and effort will be what keeps the business afloat and the lights up, but as your career progresses, you will have to attract talent so that your influence will be more connected to strategic and managerial decisions as opposed to simply being involved with operational tasks.
If you’re looking for more insights into how to build a team for your fashion consulting firm, we’ve got a great resource for you.
#5 Develop a Legal Entity/Attract Funding
At this stage, if you were able to successfully complete all of the previous steps, it’s time to make it official and develop a legal entity to run your business.
Some people go through the formalities of setting up a company at the very beginning of their entrepreneurial journey, but in fact, it can be much simpler to actually formalize the company once you have gone through all the necessary market validation.
Starting a company is something that will take up time and money, and is overall a long-term commitment that you should undertake once you have at least a proof of concept.
We need to remember however that one of the greater benefits of developing a formalized business entity is that it will allow you to attract funding.
Depending on the scale of the operation you want to set up you may need different sums of money to build the business you envision, and in some cases funding is a necessity.
As attracting investment for your fashion firm is an entirely different topic, we’re addressing it in an article where we can discuss it in greater depth.
Great! Now that we’ve covered all 5 steps it’s time to draw a few conclusive remarks.
There you have it! In this post, we’ve discussed the 5 steps to starting your fashion consulting business.
It is not a walk in the park to get your business started but with sufficient resilience and determination, you can make it!
If you’d like to read up on this topic further, we’ve got a great article discussing some of the best practices to consulting in the creative industries which we recommend reading.
Moreover, if you’re interested in the fashion business, don’t hesitate to explore our blog, which provides a wealth of information to help you navigate the fashion industry. Enjoy!