For Women Consultants, Business is Booming

Increases in corporate spending and new marketing tactics have helped fuel a boom for women-owned consulting firms, according to a new survey.

The survey, published by Women in Consulting, a San Francisco-based professional organization, found that the average annual revenue for women-owned firms will top $151,000 in 2006, a 45 percent increase since 2002.

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"Now that the economy is picking up, we are seeing an increase in women getting more involved in running their own business," said Karilee Wirthlin, president of Women in Consulting.

The study, now in its fifth year, polled 130 women consultants and found that 72 percent expect revenue to increase over the next year. Increases in corporate spending and supplier programs have increased the number of opportunities for women consultants, according to respondents.

"Companies are looking for knowledgeable people who can bring an outside perspective and specialized industry practices to their organization," Wirthlin said.

Sixty-six percent of respondents of the survey specialized in some form of marketing consulting. "I think it reflects a general trend in businesses," Wirthlin added. "You find many women in marketing as opposed to other fields of business."

The study took a closer look at the top 20 percent of consultants surveyed — those that make more than $200,000 per year — and found that much of their success stems from strong marketing efforts, including the use of search engine optimization to help bring in new clients.

"Top consultants seem to try more formal marketing strategy," Wirthlin said. "After leveraging their network, they can get more exposure by establishing a Web presence and using SEOs."

Elaine Starling, principal of Starling Media, a Shingle Springs, Calif.-based media planning consultancy, and a former WIC president, attributes her success to building old-fashioned relationships as well, and recommends the same approach for budding entrepreneurs.

"The most important thing you can do to dramatically improve your business is to meet people and immediately see how you can contribute to their success," Starling said. "They will be so appreciative — they will let everyone know about you and your business will grow."

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