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Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started My Consulting Business

An Interview with Ben Ari

Originally published on

As a part of my series called “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started My Consulting Business ”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carla Hartman. Carla Hartman is a marketer with over 15 years of experience. She studied business at Bowling Green State University and obtained her MBA from the University of Houston -Downtown. She has worked in the professional sports, energy, and tech industries, leading both domestic and international teams. She is passionate about working with entrepreneurs. small business owners and her marketing team. Outside of work she enjoys dance, painting, fitness, tennis, and spending time with her family and friends.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? My

passion for marketing started in high school. I was involved in a work study program called Distributed Energy Clubs of America (DECA), where students develop marketing and business skills through coursework and work-study programs. From there I continued to study business in my undergraduate career and found myself doing more traditional marketing support at a Fortune 100 organization. I truly found my calling in 2016 when I transitioned to focusing more on digital marketing and then obtained my MBA to further enhance my overall understanding of business. I have led both domestic and international marketing teams in the technology industry and then in 2020 decided it was time to focus on helping entrepreneurs and small business owners in my local community of Houston, Texas. When I am partaking in digital marketing strategy or execution, I am truly energized and excited. I love continuing to upskill myself and learn all I can about current technologies, algorithms and trends. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company? When I started my company, I had no idea how to get my first client or what my marketing business would really be focused on. All I knew, what I knew a lot about marketing and business. I saw a post on Facebook of a local business needing a social media marketing person and thought, I could do that. Fast forward to present, this business has been with me for 2 years. I don’t think she knew she was my first client, but she never questioned that I wasn’t prepared to advise and help her reach her goals. Now, I have a very specific focus on what my marketing consulting agency does but at first, I was just hoping for the best! None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that? I think what really inspired me to start my own business was looking to my close friendships here in Houston. Many of the women I spend my time with are entrepreneurs. Our dinners and phone conversations were turning more and more into business conversations and that really excited me. Having a support system of people who will say, “Hey, I know this can be overwhelming but you are doing great” has really kept me going and given me the clarity I need to think through solutions on scaling my marketing firm and giving me the confidence and capacity to keep going. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? “Nothing great is ever done without enthusiasm” -Ralph Waldo Emerson I try to approach everything in life with a positive attitude. There is even research that supports enthusiasm being related to high performance. If something doesn’t excite you, then why spend your time on it? Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address? Many small business owners and entrepreneurs are so busy running their business that they don’t have time for digital marketing activities like posting to social media, digital ads, media relations, SEO optimization, and website maintenance but also don’t have the budget to hire a full-time employee to fill a marketing role. We help fill that role and ensure they have a digital presence that helps create awareness and credibility for their brand. What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story? Being transparent and understanding how marketing relates to the sales cycle is what makes us standout. We truly partner with our clients and prioritize the relationship with them. We see their success as our success, so we want them to achieve their revenue goals. When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation? Having my son really drove me. Working for someone else you always will be limited to pay and time off. Being able to oversee my own destiny and be the best provider and mother to my son is really what motivated me to start Chartman Marketing. What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean? Overall, yes but I also now have relationships with my client base and am fully committed to helping them succeed as well. It’s not just about me, it is about my team and my clients. Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people? We are currently testing the best cadence to post on Instagram to drive the largest amount of reach. This includes how much you should be posting, what you should be posting, the medium of your posts (static posts, stories, REELs), if use of additional functionality like bio, hashtags, and highlights help with engagement. We are trying to create the perfect formula for organic small business strategy. In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples? First, you not only need to understand what your ideal client looks like but also what type of client you do not want as well. I found myself gaining clients because they thought there was a magic bullet to social media, these clients wanted to pay the least but expected the most. Our social media services best align with busy entrepreneurs that just don’t have time to post but know they need to have a presence on social media for credibility and brand awareness. Our consultation can give entrepreneurs and small businesses the strategy they need to post on their own without undergoing a monthly recurring invoice. Make sure that you and your client both have the same clear goals on what the outcome of your partnership will be. Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service? Set and meet deadlines — Our most successful clients set deadlines. This makes them accountable for action items that we discuss. Touch base often to ensure continued alignment — I have found it beneficial for clients to take time to meet and focus ONLY on marketing (this could be for any operational function). Set communication expectations — Make sure you understand their preferred method of communication and you manage expectations of yours. Marketing is a team sport — you or members of your team will need to be involved in marketing initiatives to have the best results. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started My Consulting Business”. Know your value When starting out I was so worried about charging a rate that would provide me a livable income and give me the ability to scale my team. The best advice I can give is don’t be afraid, the right people will see your value and compensate you accordingly. If a prospect tells you that you are priced to high, then they just aren’t your ideal client and that’s ok. This also goes for doing work outside of the initial scope. I want to see my client succeed. I believe in the law of overcompensation, but your clients will understand when you say, “yes, I want to work with you but if this becomes an ongoing thing, we need to talk about increasing your invoice.” Negotiation is something that is required of any successful business owner and it is especially important in a consulting/agency environment. If you want to grow, you cannot be greedy This may sound like it contradicts the above statement but it does not. You are only one person and there are only so many hours in the day. To truly grow a consulting or services agency you have to be able to not only delegate the tasks but also share the profits with a staff. As a solopreneur, it is great seeing all the income come in but at some point you will not be able to do any more work, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Workable income does have a limit and that is your time. To scale and grow and continue to take on clients you will not only need to invest in technology to help streamline tasks and processes but you will have to hire. At that point you are not only in charge of the day-to-day but you will have more bills due and have to take on the responsibility of the livelihood of others. Make sure you always have more than enough in your business bank account to pay your team for their work and pay all bills in full. You will not remain an expert if you don’t continue to learn If you decide to start a consulting or services agency, it most likely means that you feel like you have a particular expertise and you probably do. I would watch other marketers on social media and think, I know this stuff, I can do that too! You may have even heard of the 10,000 hour rule, which can translates to between five and six years of full-time work in a particular field, but the rate of change is moving at astronomical rates and if you aren’t continually making time to ensure you are staying ahead of industry trends and in my case — algorithms, you will never be able to maintain competitive advantage and keep your clients happy. Just because you are profitable and considered successful make time to read, listen to podcasts, attend workshops and upskill every day and if not every day at a minimum every week. Your clients depend on YOU to have all the answers, so when they have questions, make sure you have educated yourself with answers. You will be more than just a consultant As you build relationships with clients you will also take on roles as business advisor, confidant, and even trusted friend. A really good client/vendor relationship requires trust and I have found that many times I am listening to and giving advice on areas outside of marketing. You must be able to have the delicate balance of being empathetic, non-judgmental, and professional. Your soft skills will get you just as far as your hard skills. When you become the owner of a consulting agency you will have to do MORE work than you did when previously employed by someone else, so make sure you make time to recharge When you are a business owner, there is no paid time off, no maternity leave, no sick days. If you are a solopreneur your business needs YOU to operate. Once you scale and hire the right people, this time will ease up to be very aware of when you have reached your maximum bandwidth and make sure you have a support system in your personal life, (for me it is my wonderful husband), that allow you to take time for selfcare. Even the best sports teams take a break after the championship! Wonderful. We are nearly done. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-) I think there are already groups forming around this but creating a culture of connection not competition. We need to build each other up. Some of my clients have come from other marketing agencies. Having networking opportunities where you can build up others around you and be willing to partner with others even in your same industry. Networking is so powerful, especially networking without the feeling of competition. None of us can do it all, so creating an ecosystem for entrepreneurs and small business owners to thrive is something that I believe would help the greater good.

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