Updated: May 29
Consultations. Almost every industry has them, and uses them in different ways to best help their clients achieve something specific. Consultations help businesses transmit information, knowledge, advise, strategy, or whatever else of value that a client is looking for in order to move forward with their goal(s).
General contractors use them when discussing the problem and solution to a gutter repair. Social media managers use them to give advise and a strategic perspective on a company’s social media approach. Interior designers use them to analyze a specific space and provide intelligent feedback on how to improve it.
But what is a consultation, and what do you actually walk away from one with? Let’s get into it.
What is a Consultation?
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they’re a Consultant, I’d have quite a few dollars. If I had a dollar for every time I understood what they did everyday at their job, I would have zero dollars.
According to Cambridge University, a consultation is the act of exchanging information and opinions about something in order to reach a better understanding of it or to make a decision.
The United Nations sees consultations as a way to come to an agreement on what someone wants; to plan together to develop a proposal or to advance an idea; to take decisions about how both parties will act.
My favorite definition comes from YourDictionary, which defines a consultation as a meeting to discuss, decide, or plan something.
What happens during a Consultation?
This comes down to what type of Consultant you are hiring. You can hire someone to consult within your business operations, finances, strategy, technology, or human resources. In general, you can expect to be doing a lot of listening and note taking.
You likely hired this person because you need more clarity or progress in a specific area of your business, and if you hired a good one, they’ll be able to speak directly to your area of focus, and provide insight on how to navigate or improve it.
In recent years, many Consultants have moved to a remote approach, meaning many consultations are held virtually via platforms like Zoom, Google Meets, or a regular-degular phone call. Some industries, however, require in-person visits to receive a proper consultation, such as construction contractors.
How do I prepare for a Consultation?
This will differ from Consultant to Consultant, but typically it’s best practice to take the following steps.
1. Clean up the environment in which you’ll be receiving the Consultation(s)
If it’s a virtual Consultation, this mean cleaning off your desk, closing down the programs on your computer and restarting it, having a strong Wi-Fi connection, and making sure to have your device(s) charged. You don’t want technical difficulties or a hectic headspace to limit the amount of value you get from your Consultant.
2. Have a notepad and pen ready
Having blank paper readily available to jot things down, write down questions you’ve just thought of, or notes on new actions you’ll need to remember to take, makes the entire experience a lot more enjoyable and efficient. This is because you won’t be concerned with how the heck you’re going to remember all of the golden information that your Consultant is showering you with. To get the most out of your Consultation(s), you’ll want to place all of your energy on this conversation, and make notes of things that stick out to you or that you know you’ll want to think about later.
Tip: Before hiring them, you can ask the Consultant if they can provide recording(s) to your session(s). Not all of them do, but it’s worth a shot!
3. Remove all distractions possible
Unless it’s needed for the Consultation(s), turn your notification sounds off on all of your devices. Finish eating lunch. Put the dog away. Close your door. Remember - you’re paying this Consultant for their ability to give you tailored advise, knowledge, and/or strategy in a designated amount of time, so make the most of it by giving yourself the best environment to be able to focus.
4. Develop a lose plan for what you want out of the Consultation(s)
It’s the Consultants job to analyze your current situation and provide insight in to how to improve it, but it’s your job to get clear on what you actually want them to do for you. Are you looking to create a more culturally diverse staff? Maybe you want them to give you the ropes on how to manage your own social media accounts? Or perhaps your bookkeeping is a mess and you don’t know where to start.
Whatever it is, make sure you can answer these questions confidently before you hire a Consultant:
What are my goals, and how can a Consultant help me achieve them?
What specific skills and expertise do I need from a Consultant?
What is my budget for hiring a Consultant?
How will I measure the success of a Consultants input?
What level of involvement or commitment do I expect from a Consultant?
How will a Consultant’s work integrate with my existing team and processes?
What are the potential risks or challenges, and how will I address them?
Am I looking for their advise, strategic perspective, legal opinions, or something else?
Does my situation require a long-term or short-term plan of action?
What should know about a Consultant before hiring them?
Do your homework on the consultation agency and individual consultant before you set anything in stone. Read through their website and research them on social media to get to know them. Doing this will also probably answer a bunch of initial questions you might have, including:
What is their fee structure, and what services are included in this fee?
What is their policy on confidentiality and data policy?
What is their approach to problem-solving, and how do they typically collaborate with clients?
What is their track record and reputation in their field?
If you can’t answer all of these questions from the information they have online, give them a call.
Website Design Consultations
What is a Website Design Consultation?
Website Design Consultations typically focus on improving website performance and user experience, creating a more cost-effective and efficient design process, a streamlined website maintenance flow, and increasing traffic and conversion rates.
Like most Consultants, they can be pretty knowledgeable on many different areas, so you can always ask them to consult with you on a specific topic, such as SEO, switching domains, setting up your newsletter, or even getting started with auditing your Google Ads.
Types of Website Design Consultations include:
Example: You don’t have a website up yet and aren’t really sure what you need in order to make one that is functional for your business and audience.
Example: You want to start an Instagram account for your brand and need help creating a strategy for when to post, what to post, who to target, and how to gather and understand your analytics.
Example: You started with a template design on Squarespace and are wanting to create something that’s more brand-specific.
Example: You want to create custom animations for your website.
If you want more clarity on how a specific Consultant works, reach out to them with a few pre-defined questions and they’ll be more than happy to help.
What is the purpose of a Website Design Consultation?
Again, the beauty of Consultants is that they tailor their approach to whatever you are wanting to target. Mainly, these Consultations help you to:
Identify your short and long-term website goals
Understand your target audience and current user experience
Create a design and development plan
Review and refine your current website’s design
Remember - a Consultation is not the same thing as paying someone X amount of money to design your website. More often than not, you are paying this person for their time and expertise, rather than a set of tangible deliverables.
It’s also important to keep in mind that a Consultant isn’t going to solve all of your problems for you. Yes, you can hire them to implement the strategies they’ve given you, but if you are only paying them for consulting with you, then you’ll need to put in that heavy lifting yourself.
What are the elements of a Website Design Consultation?
You can expect the following elements to be discussed during your Consultation(s):
Project scope and timeline
Creative brief and design concepts
Technical requirements and specifications
Budget and pricing
Where should I go to find a Website Design Consultant?
I suggest heading to www.greatlakesdesigners.com (aka the site you’re on right now). We’re a small team led by some amazing people that would love to help you create a brilliant online presence for your business. Please contact us to learn more, or click here to schedule your first Consultation.