Podcast

Episode: 413 |
Amanda Wright:
Taking the Leap:
Episode
413

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Amanda Wright

Taking the Leap

Show Notes

 

Amanda Wright has a Master of Business Administration in Finance and a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology. She is an experienced management consultant who provides business advisory services to her clients.  Today, she talks about her program to help women from professional services firms make the leap to independent consulting.

Key points include:

  • 02:07: The structure of the Take the Leap program
  • 09:43: The importance of the company name
  • 13:31: Building the right mindset for a successful business
  • 17:59: Managing your money
  • 25:00: Marketing the coaching program

You can learn more about the Take the Leap program at www.thewrightcompany.ca/taketheleap and sign up for Amanda’s weekly newsletter.

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I’m here today with Amanda Wright, who runs the right company. And that’s w r i g h t. And she also runs a coaching program for people who are interested in getting started as independent consultants, as called take the leap. Amanda, tell me a little bit about the origin of your program, take the leap.

Amanda Wright 00:32
Yeah, and thanks so much for having me on your podcast. Well, I’m really excited for this chat today. So take the leap was something that I created, you know, over the last year, because obviously COVID kind of had a big impact on all of us, and made me really reflect on how I was spending my time and how I could potentially be of service to others. And, you know, I’ve been in management consulting for about 15 years now. And I started my own business, and went out as an independent consultant about seven years ago. And I was really reflecting on how that process was for me, and how long it took me to figure out everything that I needed to figure out from incorporation and naming and insurance and contracts. And I feel like it would have been so helpful to have somebody guiding me through that process. And so I feel like I reached a stage in my career where I actually have a lot of knowledge and information that I can share with others. And I had started doing some one on one coaching with people that I just knew from within my own network. And thought, well, wouldn’t it be great to package up what I know and try to help more people, you know, people I haven’t met before people who could benefit from from learning from someone who’s kind of been there, and, and be their guides and be their source of advice and support as they they go through that transition from being an employee to being self employed. Yeah, that was sort of how it all came about.

Will Bachman 01:51
And tell us how your program is structured. So my understanding is, it’s eight weeks long, it’s done in a cohort with a set of other people. Talk to me a little bit about, you know, so if someone is going to go through it, what what do they experience? What’s the structure of it?

Amanda Wright 02:07
Yeah, so I am running it in cohorts. So we do have sort of a defined start date and end date, because what I learned from the first group that I put through the program was the biggest benefit to them was really making connections with other people who were doing the same thing. So other people who were also planning and setting up a business with the intention of quitting their jobs and going out on their own. And just having that community of supportive people going through the same experience was really the piece that they all found the most valuable. So I’m kind of continuing that and doing it in cohorts. So it’s an eight week program, where we do a group coaching call once a week. And then each week, people get access to a new module of content that’s available for them to go through on their own schedule. So it’s a combination of video lessons, case studies, templates for my own practice, and just other examples and resources that they can kind of work through on their own time during the week. But we all get together for those group coaching calls once a week as well. And there’s also a community. So there’s an online community component too, because I feel like that’s another benefit is just having a place where you can ask questions, you can build relationships with the other folks in the program. I’ve been posting opportunities for consulting projects that people might be interested in, in partnering up on. So I think that’s another benefit of the program.

Will Bachman 03:30
Tell us about can you kind of walk us through the syllabus of what people are going to do those eight weeks.

Amanda Wright 03:37
Yeah, I tried to be like, I’m a very logical person. So I basically started by defining a framework for what I thought somebody would need to know, because I want it to be comprehensive. But I also don’t want to overwhelm people with information. So I structured it into nine modules. And I think it’s the logical progression of from the very beginning, when you’re just thinking about planning and starting a business, all the way to, you’re up and running. And now we’re just some ways to to do some more advanced things and scale your business and potentially create some new revenue streams for yourself. So we start out with a module all around facing your fears. So looking at some of the risks of starting a business, thinking through your own situation, and doing some mitigation strategies so that you can, you know, launch your business in a really thoughtful way, and hopefully avoid some of those common pitfalls that some people experience when they do entrepreneurship. So about having a, you know, a financial cushion in place, a support system, and just making sure that you have clarity on what are some of the things that could go wrong and making sure that you’re prepared for them. We then move on to a module called establish your foundation. So really thinking about what are all the things you need to do to formalize yourself and set yourself up for success right from the beginning. So things like deciding whether or not to form a corporation, naming and branding your company, getting your initial sort of financial management processes set up and bank accounts and all those types of things. We then move on to protect your business. So obviously, you need to have certain things in place to protect yourself. So I present a lot of information about insurance contracts. And again, some of those financial pieces that are really important to think about,

Will Bachman 05:28
yeah, what’s, what’s your recommendations on insurance, and how to find a broker and so forth?

Amanda Wright 05:34
Yeah, I talked about seven different ways that you can go about purchasing insurance. And I give some information about what I would see as the most important types of insurance to carry both for your business as well as personally if you’re no longer an employee. So obviously thinking about professional liability insurance, General commercial insurance. And then personally, depending on where you live, obviously, in Canada, it’s a bit different. But having that extended health coverage and Disability Insurance are pretty important as well. So I talked through those options, and then the different ways in which you can explore and purchase insurance.

Will Bachman 06:10
Yeah, it’s definitely a good idea to get at least a Long Term Disability Policy for folks in the US, I’m not sure about other countries how it works. But when I looked into that the short term disability didn’t make a ton of sense, at least for my situation, covers you for like six months or something, and are tired turned out, like if I ran the numbers, just be better to put the the insurance premium just to put that in a savings account for a year or two. And that that would be equal to like, all the benefits I’d get from the policy. But so it didn’t make sense. It might be different for other people situation, though. But the long term disability definitely made sense for me. So I got one of those policies A few years ago, people should also think about life insurance, certainly, you know, if something happens, yeah, make sure your loved ones are protected. And then we’ve done episodes on this show about health insurance mostly focused on the US. Because other countries who might, you know, have, you know, just more government run health insurance, or it’s not as much of a big deal, but and then we’ve, we’ve done episodes on business insurance, I think, Episode 10, or 12, I think it was way back in the beginning. So all those important things, definitely. When you the first step first, the second thing that you talked about, like you’re establishing the foundations, beyond setting up your entity or corporation, and coming up with a name like what are there any other points that you cover in that session?

Amanda Wright 07:41
It’s sort of like initial thoughts around, you know, naming and branding your company and whether or not you want to take sort of a quick and dirty approach to launching your business, which is what I did. It took me several years to kind of formalize and really choose a name and brand and get a website going. So I just sort of present different perspectives on how you can do this. Because I think there is definitely situations where you can do it kind of quickly and easily without investing a lot of time or money. But if this is something you’re really serious about doing and you know, you’ll be doing it for several years, it’s probably worth investing in some of those those pieces and establishing yourself in a really professional, incredible way right from the beginning.

Will Bachman 08:21
No, I totally agree. It makes sense to put some thought into the name of your firm. And I guess my point of view on that is my initial my first firm before I got involved with Umbrex was was just called the Bachman group Bachman in the Bachman group, I tend to recommend people avoid just naming the firm after themselves, you know, like often common names like Bachman and company, Bachman advisors, the Bachman group, etc, iterations like that. It’s not terrible, terrible, but I mean, it’s certainly better than just being w. h. Bachman, LLC or something that just seems totally like you weren’t giving it any thought. But I think that it, it can make your firm to seem a little smaller, like, Well, clearly, you’re probably the, you know, the only person maybe so I encourage you all to think about getting some kind of name that maybe either gives some hint of the kind of work they do, or makes it seem maybe like you’re part of a bigger institution, although maybe that’s not what you want. So, I mean, your name has a nice kind of double meaning to it. So I think you know, it’s kind of a nice, nice touch the right company. But these are my thoughts. I don’t know, what are your thoughts about what’s your recommendations on on on?

Amanda Wright 09:43
Yeah, no, I agree with you. I agree with you. And I think if you are planning on building something bigger than just yourself, absolutely choose the name that you can grow into over time. I think some of the people I’m working with they’re really just thinking of that Step of going out on your own and being an independent consultants not really thinking about building a company per se, like a bigger company with employees and stuff. But that is something that I give that same advices try to choose a name, that’s not going to limit yourself and gives you some flexibility moving forward, if you change your mind about how you’re, you’re structuring yourself, or if you’re if you’re adding a team. Yeah, it’s funny what you say, because I was very resistant to using my name. And my company like I hired, I hired a brand strategist, and I did this whole extensive exercise to come up with a new name. And when he first presented it to me, I’m like, the right company. Are you kidding me? Why am I paying you to cut to come up with that, but I kind of came around after thinking about it for quite a while, because I do like the plan. I do like the simplicity. And really, I don’t think I intend on building a big company with multiple people, it’s really just kind of a one woman show. So it seems to work for me. Obviously, it’s a super personal decision.

Will Bachman 10:55
So it is, advice I’ve given elsewhere is if you if you don’t want to name it after yourself, but you’re having trouble coming up with a name, and you want to avoid something that no one can ever find you on Google like, you know, strategy advisors or something, right? Something that will never show up in Google, trying to come up with a unique name, we it possible to work backwards, if you go to like, brand bucket, which is sort of a highly curated set of URLs that are available for purchase there, one or $2,000, then you can just find a name that is available for purchase and say, Oh, I can live with that name. And then, um, you know, kind of unique names, or six or seven letters or short, you know, shorter type words that you could imagine imbuing with some meaning. So I mean, that’s kind of a backwards approach of just seeing what names are available and taking one of those. Yeah, because you do want to pick a name where you can get the.com, if you can, so

Amanda Wright 11:55
for sure, yeah, so there’s some good online name generators, actually, that I refer to in my program, I can’t remember them off top my head. But they’re sort of interesting, you can put in different keywords or the type of business that you’re planning to launch. And it’ll offer you all these different suggestions, which is sort of interesting. And then you can reference that against the what.com, or social media profiles are available with that name. And then you can kind of make your decision based on some of that information. Awesome. So I interrupted you. So you were Utah is the third session was protecting your business? So we talked about protecting yourself? So that’s insurance and contracts? And then what what’s the what’s the next session? So the next one is called master your mindset. Because I think, I don’t know, specifically women, this is maybe something that we struggle quite a lot with is overcoming some feelings of imposter syndrome, when you’re starting your own business, and being really clear about your unique value. And figuring out what your service offering should be based on, you know, an examination of your strengths, your experience, or education, what it is that special and unique about you, and try to match that up with actual market needs. So some work there to figure out what it is you would like to do and our clients paying for that. And then step two is kind of like, are you able to charge what you think you are worth? So I think there’s a bit of, of mindset and confidence work there to be able to ask for rates that accurately reflect the value that you can deliver to your clients.

Will Bachman 13:24
And what are some of your, your key tips there around building that mindset and confidence?

Amanda Wright 13:31
Yeah, there’s, there’s some work exercises that we do together to address that piece, because I think it is helpful to do it as a group, and then also do some reflections individually. But it’s almost like taking stock and really pausing and looking back at everything that you’ve done, all the the degrees, the designations, the client projects that you’ve successfully delivered already in the past and just almost reminding yourself of all the awesome things that you you’re capable of doing. I think people coming out of big firms often have some self limiting beliefs about what they’re worth, because you’re almost trained or conditioned to believe that all you’re worth is what your company is paying for you and your salary. So it takes a bit of a shift to look at the market. What other consultants are charging as independence and working your way up to feeling like I’m I’m worthy of charging those prices too. So I think myself when I first went out on my own, I undercharged probably for the first year or two because I just didn’t, I didn’t know any better and I didn’t feel like I deserved any better. So it’s a bit of a process to see some examples and what other people what kind of work they’re doing and what they’re charging for it. And then seeing how you fit into that picture.

Will Bachman 14:47
Yeah, that’s interesting what you say about confidence. On the show. We had Dr. nyla Bari, who did her thesis or on people and resilience and people who got laid off in the great recession in 2008, and how they responded to that. And one thing, one of her observations was that, like every man that she talked to that was laid off, every single one said, Well, I could at least do consulting, like, I could go out and be a consultant, right? Like, every single one, like, you know, I mean, I can go get another job or whatever, but I could just be consultant, right. And almost every woman she talked to said, Well, maybe I’ll maybe I’ll go back to school, right? And get another degree. Yeah, like, you know, none of like, none of the women that she talked to said, Oh, I can just go be a consultant. Like, I mean, you anybody can do that. So, I mean, this is not my observation. This was what I heard from nyla. In her in her research. So it’s, it’s interesting that that, I mean, it’s, it’s great that you’re emphasizing that and helping people build their confidence. So they charged with the ages, they’re, they’re worth. Yeah, and definitely talking to other independent consultants, I think is a great thing. I recommend everyone you know, so you can kind of get a sense of what actually is the market rates for folks with your background? So find people with your background that have been doing consulting for a couple years? And, you know, and just ask, you know, what they what they charge?

Amanda Wright 16:19
Yeah, I completely agree. And I know and I love quite well, actually, because we met about a year ago in another coaching program, and she’s so lovely, and wonderful and has amazing insights. And I think my own observations are, that’s completely true that women, we struggle a bit more with that piece than men do. So, I mean, my program, I’ve sort of tailored it for women, and I keep going back and forth on do I only want to work with women, or I’m open to working with any any gender identities, and I think I’m moving towards I want to be inclusive. So I have had one man during the program too, but really, a lot of the content is keeping in mind that women have maybe some slightly different needs, or fears or work that they need to do to be successful out on their own. Okay, so we go from the mindsets, episode to what comes next, what’s the next module. So next module is magnetize, your buyers. So this is where we really start diving into business development and sales. And so I have some perspectives on you know, what are the best or, you know, it’s my perspective, what are the best ways to go about landing clients and finding work. But I do talk about sort of the full spectrum of different methods that people use. So all the way from the informal, you know, working your network, leveraging your relationships with people that you already know, and potentially have worked with previously, to writing unsolicited proposals to responding to formal procurements like RFPs, and rfqs, here in Canada.

Will Bachman 17:53
Okay, so getting the work, and then what comes next.

Amanda Wright 17:59
Next is manage your money. So this is the piece around, obviously, when you’re an entrepreneur, you have to be really up to speed and in touch with your numbers. And so here’s where we start talking about just some of the mechanics Honestly, it was, you know, timesheets and invoicing your clients and making sure you get paid on time, but also thinking bigger picture about tax implications of the way that you’re set up, thinking longer term about retirement planning, because now that you’re self employed, that’s kind of up to you to put in place. So there’s quite a few, you know, perspectives and lessons from my own experiences is here. And I love numbers, like I’m a kind of a financier, so I do quite a bit of sharing of information about how to look at your financial statements, how to understand your leavers of profitability. I share some of my own retirement planning models like Excel models that I’ve built over time. So just helping people open up their eyes and start thinking long term about their money. Yeah, that’s great.

Will Bachman 18:58
I mean, in the US, a popular vehicle for independence is the SEPI are a or you can put up to $57,000 a year pre tax, as long as that’s less than 25% of your adjusted gross income. What about Canada? Are there some good pre tax kind of vehicles or tax efficient type of retirement savings that you recommend?

Amanda Wright 19:27
Yeah, we have two different sort of tax advantages accounts up here. One is called an RSP. So a Registered Retirement Savings Plan. And that sounds like it’s something similar, you can put a certain percentage of your your income each year into that and it grows tax free until you pull it out of retirement. And then we also have a TFSA, which is a tax free savings account. And that has a smaller limit to what you can put in each year, but it just grows completely tax free and you can pull it out at any time and it’s not not taxable.

Will Bachman 19:56
Okay, that’s cool. It’s good to know about it. So we help people think about the money, which is, yeah, poor topic. What’s, what’s next module?

Amanda Wright 20:08
module seven, is it’s called delight your clients. So how do you set yourself apart from all of the other independents that are probably operating in your market? How can you, you know, set yourself up to meet and exceed your clients? expectations? So some basic things around project management and product communications, checking in regularly with your clients, under promising and over delivering, and what are some of my observations on what do the really great independence do that’s different from everybody else that you should also adopt? Because I think, you know, as you probably have seen, there’s many, many people out there who call themselves consultants. Not all of them have necessarily the same rigor and training and experience that someone coming from a big firm would have. And so I want to just kind of reinforce to people how amazing that is. But you have that mindset and skills and experience already. So you should show those things off to your clients, then they’ll they’ll benefit from it, and they’ll recognize it.

Will Bachman 21:13
Yeah. And then what do you what do you close with? What’s the last module?

Amanda Wright 21:18
Well, there’s actually two more I know, it’s an eight week program, but I squeezed in nine modules. Okay, all right module, module eight is that it’s called connect your collaborators. So it’s really about, I think, alleviating that fear that people have about Oh, independent consulting, it means I have to do everything all by myself now. And I want to tell people, that’s completely not true. There’s so many ways to excuse me collaborate with other people. And there’s ways to do consulting work in teams. So I talked through a bunch of different options, including, you know, subcontracting with a bigger firm, bringing on your own subcontractors or associates, you know, partnering up with other people to pursue projects together, forming you know, collaborative collectives, where it doesn’t necessarily have to be a situation where money’s exchanging hands, you’re just working together, because we love working together. Such as, you know, reinforcing that point that being independent doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone.

Will Bachman 22:13
Well, I sure agree with that. My term for that has been building out your virtual team, with this idea that if you’re at a big consulting firm, you know, you get a salary. But then the other thing that firm provides you is this entire infrastructure surrounding you have all these collaborators. And as an independent, one of your biggest jobs is putting that together. So that’s awesome, that you kind of really focus on that. And so it’s like, on all the time, you can be, you know, connecting with people, all different skills, like, Oh, you do Power BI or Tableau or you know, how to make maps or edit videos, like you never know, when someone you know, you can find some way to work together with somebody. Absolutely, yeah. And then, and then what what rounds out your program, what’s unit, not.

Amanda Wright 23:00
Some auto mine is really just kind of to wrap everything up and to let people start dreaming about the future and what that could look like. So it’s really more advanced methods to scale your business. And at the same time, protect your time. Because I think my observation is you don’t want to exit a super high stressful job to then set up a business that’s just as stressful and busy. So you know, you’re trying to create more time for yourself, I think a lot of people who take my program, they’re, they’re interested in working a little bit less, because they prioritize time with their families and friends and hobbies, and exercise, or whatever it is, they don’t want to be working all the time. So this is where I start talking about ways to automate things, delegate things to maybe some some part time help that you bring on, and thinking through additional revenue streams that you can create for yourself. So I’m sure many people have thought about this, but others haven’t, like, the ability to create digital products, to sell workshop, to write a book to monetize, you know, a podcast or blog. Like there’s, there’s so many things out there that are options. Now, I think, especially with COVID, that sort of accelerated that trend. So just getting people to think about Sure, delivering consulting services is probably going to be the key way that you’re making money, especially at the beginning. But over time, you know, there’s there’s unlimited options, in terms of what you could be doing to grow and build your business and bring in more revenue.

Will Bachman 24:29
Well, if someone manages to monetize a podcast, I’ll be very impressed. I gotta say that. That’s no, that’s great. No, it’s still important to be thinking about. Yeah, how to automate things and as well as think about, you know, alternate sources of revenue. I love that. Now, how have you been? marketing your your coaching program, it’s You know, it’s this eight week program, I don’t know if we want to share what the fee is here on the show or not. But it’s um, you know, how have you been? I see that you you’re posting like everyday, really nice content on LinkedIn. So maybe that’s one approach. But what have you been trying out? What have you learned so far about how to market it? And how does your funnel work? Because people probably don’t just see your see your LinkedIn posting and says, oh, I’ll just sign up for this eight week thing? So do you talk to people first? Do you have to like, convince them into doing it like, do they get a free trial or something or get to watch one video, like, curious how you’re marketing your program.

Amanda Wright 25:37
So it’s been a lot of fun. And I’m not being sarcastic when I say that, because I’m the type of person who loves learning new things. And a lot of this was completely brand new to me. So the concept of doing content marketing, and digital marketing and social media, those aren’t things that I was doing before, to advertise my just consulting services, you know, I was going to both out in a completely different way. So when I started planning to launch this coaching program, I kind of had to teach myself a bunch of new things. So I luckily, I love writing. And I actually really liked graphic design as well. So it was sort of natural to start doing a bit of a content strategy on Instagram and LinkedIn. So trying to post really, regularly, I’d say, three to five times a week, depending on my capacity. And I do it in batches. So really, usually on the weekend, we’ll spend a couple hours and I’ll batch everything for a week or two in advance. So that kind of saves saves a bit of time, what do you schedule your posts up? I use, I use Hootsuite to schedule on post. Yeah, so that kind of simplifies things as well. And then what else I’ve been doing, I’ve just recently started investing in some paid ads. So to have people access my free resources, which is a consulting, business launch guide, so sort of an initial PDF, document where I share some insights and some advice and some thoughts on what first steps look like if you’re thinking about doing this. So that gets people onto my email list, which then puts them through a bit of sales funnel in terms of educating them about what I do, introducing them to me and my personal story and my reasons for why I’ve gone this route myself in my career, and then inviting them to get on a call with me. So it’s been Yeah, it’s been a huge learning experience, and a lot of fun and a lot of experimentation. I think honestly, though, my success so far with the people I’ve attracted, it honestly, has been, they’ve seen a post of mine on LinkedIn, that resonated with them, and then they reached out and bought the program. So I’ve been fortunate and lucky that way. But I think going forward, obviously, I need to, to continue to expand my audience beyond the people that probably already know me, or are a friend of a friend.

Will Bachman 27:52
Well, okay, and what have you found was like, the most effective, you know, way to was it, people would sign up right away, or they’d get on your email list, they’d see several emails from you. And then they’d sign up this is, you know, it’s kind of interesting learning to your point about selling other things other than just consulting services that you’re, that you’ve been learning how to do.

Amanda Wright 28:15
Yeah, it’s so different. And I think my observation is, I’ve had people come through all different channels to me so far, but people who have purchased there’s been some who I honestly, they saw one LinkedIn post, and they set up a call with me, and they purchased immediately. Other people, I think they’ve been on my email list for six months. And and then they’re like, Okay, I’m ready. I’m gonna, I’m gonna purchase and signup. So it always involves a conversation. And I think once I have a conversation with folks, they, they have a lot more comfort. And, you know, they understand what they’ll be getting, and the journey that I’m going to be walking them through and the level of support that they’ll get. And that’s the point at which they’re usually ready to purchase, though. Yeah, I’m learning a lot. And it’s super fun. It’s kind of stressful, you know, doing a launch and trying to get people to sign up for something and suppose nailbiting until the last minute, but I’m loving, I’m loving it. And it’s, it’s a lot of fun to deliver. And I’m really enjoying these connections that I’m making. Because selfishly, it’s almost like a recruitment pipeline that I’m creating for myself to you know, identifying these really highly motivated, already trained professional consultants that I could then potentially bring on to my, my consulting projects with me. Sure.

Will Bachman 29:24
Well, I think anyone who’s, you know, helping the ecosystem of independent consultants I’m thrilled with, so thank you for what you’re doing. Do you want to share a URL here or tell people where they can go to find out more about your program?

Amanda Wright 29:40
For sure, so it’s just the right company.ca slash take the leap. So hopefully, that’s straightforward enough for people to remember.

Will Bachman 29:52
And we will include that link in the show notes. In case you forget. So if you if you want to check that out, you missed the link there. Just check out the show. Notes click on the link and I suppose you can sign up to at least get the weekly email the emails from Amanda, see if there’s something that you’re interested in. Amanda, thank you so much for joining us and telling us about your program.

Amanda Wright 30:14
Thanks so much for having me. Well, I enjoyed our conversation

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