This post was inspired by my colleague Kris Putnam's advice for new consultants (So, You Want To Be A Philanthropy Consultant? and Starting A Consulting Business? 15 Things To Do Right Now). I received the following via CharityChannel's Consultants forum in 2003. I was just completing my first year as a solo consultant after 9 years of working for firms. This advice was provided by John Elbare in response to a question about what to expect as a new consultant. (Reposted with John's permission.)

It really does take two years to generate steady income. Other things to expect:

1. Income will fluctuate wildly from month to month.

2. You have arrange for your own benefits (insurance, retirement, etc).

3. You will have to make at least three personal presentations and proposals for every contract you get.

4. NPOs are usually very slow decision-makers, so you have to show them the "cost of waiting."

5. NPOs tend to see the fee you charge as an expense, rather than an investment, so you have to show the return-on-investment of your services.

6. One of the best ways to generate inquiries is by public speaking, so get good at it.

7. Plan on working every waking moment.

8. Get used to the idea that some of your competitors are "part-timers" who moonlight at consulting, but who have also have a day job that provides them with benefits and financial security. They are not really much competition. They are not building a business like you are.

9. During those first two years you have to spend every available dollar of marketing.

10. Do not be afraid to take on debt to get your business properly started. You just have to do it. Undercapitalization is the biggest reason for business failure.

11. You have to follow-up with your prospects, religiously.

12. Clients will not beat a path to your door. Forget about that.

John Elbare, MBA, CFP
Your Planned Giving Coach
Florida Philanthropic Advisors, LLC
813-949-2979 or 888-396-8781
email: JElbare at

John's advice was right on target. Thanks, John.