Running a business is a continuous learning curve. While there are lessons we can learn ourselves, there are many lessons that can only be learned by seeking advice from others. This could include everything from getting to grips with complex laws to learning new tactics to help boost sales.
While there is a lot of free business advice available online, there are many valuable tips that can only be learnt by paying someone. Of course, it’s possible to pay for poor advice, which is why you need to be careful when paying for business advice. Below are just a few dos and don’ts when paying for business advice that can prevent you from getting ripped off.
Do Invest in Personalised Advice
There is often little point in paying for general advice, as much of this advice can be found online for free. Personalised advice is one of the best types of business advice because it takes into account the individual features and needs of your business. Every business is different and you may not always get the best advice for your company from reading a book or attending a seminar. Hiring a consultant can allow you to get advice that is personalised to your business – they will be able to examine the inner workings of your business and will only provide advice that is relevant to your needs.
Do Seek Out Specialists
It’s worth investing in advice from people that understand your industry. If you run an online store and are looking for ways to improve your website, you could find that you receive better advice when using an ecommerce consulting agency as opposed to a general web design consulting agency. Similarly, when it comes to hiring financial advisors and legal advisors, you could find that there are specialists out there that cater to certain industries such as manufacturing or retail – these may be able to offer more in-depth advice than a general advisor. The same goes for taking courses, buying advice books or attending workshops – always check whether specialist options are available.
Do Compare Prices
Not all advice comes at the same price. When hiring a marketing consultant, you may find that different consultants provide vastly different quotes. This is why it can be worth shopping around for advice and not just going with the first consultant you can find. Prices may not always be advertised online so be prepared to call multiple consultants in order to compare quotes. Be wary that you may be able to negotiate prices in some cases, including asking for a price match.
Don’t Forget to Check Out Reviews
Before trusting someone to provide advice, it’s always a good idea to look at their reviews. If a consultancy agency or business book has a lot of positive reviews, it usually means that a lot of people have found their advice to be valuable. Lots of negative reviews could be a sign that the advice is poor and not worth paying for. Similarly, if there are no reviews, this can be a bad sign. Always look into reviews and make sure there are lots of positive reviews so that you can be more certain that the advice you’re getting is trustworthy.
Do Check Other Credentials
It’s important that the person giving advice has certain experience or education to back up their claims. Someone with a finance degree who has worked as a financial advisor for 20 years is likely to offer better advice than someone who has no finance qualifications and who has only been giving advice for less than a year. If a person does not provide information on their background, consider looking for a bio online. The likes of LinkedIn are great for determining someone’s achievements and experience.
Don’t Trust Old Books
Business strategies are constantly evolving. A marketing strategy or funding option that may have been possible 30 years ago may not be relevant today. This is why you should be careful when buying old books that promise to provide the best business advice. It may have been good business advice many moons ago, but it could be terrible advice to follow today. Stick to business books that are no older than 10 years (when it comes to marketing advice, you may even be better off sticking to books that are less than 5 years old, as anything older could be outdated).
Don’t Dismiss Webinars
Webinars are seminars that can be attended online. Some people don’t like the idea of a virtual seminar as you cannot network as easily with fellow attendees and there is no physical interaction with the host. But these seminars can have their benefits. Webinars can save you money and time travelling to locations to attend seminars in person. Instead, you can simply attend the seminar from your office or home. If you’re a busy business owner on a tight budget, they can be a much better source of advice than a physical seminar.
Don’t Fall for Biased Sales Pitches
Ideally, you want to pay for advice that is from a neutral perspective. Unfortunately, such advice is not always easy to come by and there are many people out there who will try to recommend using specific products or services – not because they are necessarily the best, but because they get some commission from them. Before you end up spending extra money on another product or service, consider whether it is in your best interest. The best sources of advice will avoid hard-selling you a certain product or service, and will be able to recommend alternatives. If advice starts to sound like a sales pitch, you may want to evaluate just how valuable it is. Always ask why they wouldn’t recommend other products and services and don’t be afraid to ask whether they get commission to understand their true intentions.
Do Consider a Second Opinion
Paying for a second opinion can be useful because it can help you to see where two experts may agree on a certain fact and where they may disagree. If two experts both agree on using a certain strategy, then it is likely that it is a strategy worth using. If two experts are in disagreement, you may want to avoid following either of their advice until you get a third opinion. This could help you to determine which is the most widely accepted strategy so that you’re not following potentially poor advice. Of course, it’s important to consider the credentials and reputation of each expert too – if a more reputable and qualified expert recommends a different strategy, it may be because they have superior knowledge to their peers, and you may not want to discount it.
Don’t Neglect Free Advice
As mentioned already, there is a lot of free advice already out there, and some of this advice can be just as valuable as paid advice. Always seek out sources of free advice before pursuing paid advice – especially when it comes to more basic tips. You’ll find many in-depth blog posts and YouTube tutorials that answer your questions. If you still feel that questions have been left unanswered or you’re having trouble understanding any of the free guides you’ve read, this could be a good sign that it’s worth paying for advice.