PTM 027 – How to Start an Excel Consulting Business with Jen Portland of ExcelRainMan.com

Part Time Money Podcast - How to Start an Excel Consulting BusinessToday’s episode features Jen Portland from ExcelRainMan.com, the Excel spreadsheet company. She started this business on the side, after discovering the need for the service, and being the “go-to” spreadsheet person everywhere she worked.

Jen convinced her employer to let her go part-time in 2012 so that she could focus more time on Excel Rain Man. Jen has done an excellent job of bringing in other Excel experts to help her handle the workload. Listen in to see how she’s done it all.

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Monetizing an Existing Skill

Most people start a part-time business because they want to make extra money — maybe they want to pay off debt or pay for a large expense. But Jen Portland’s idea to start Excel Rainman was less about wanting to bring in money and more about having an idea.

Jen was the “go-to” spreadsheet person at every job she’s ever had. Friends and family would go to her for help with their spreadsheets too. After enough people approached her she realized, while some people wanted to learn how to use spreadsheets, many people just preferred that she did the work for them so they could move on. So she bought a website domain name and began a part-time spreadsheet business.

At the beginning of her company, Jen worked full-time at a day job. She was able to carve out time in the wee hours of the morning, during lunch breaks, and after work to fulfill her spreadsheet requests. Eventually, after Excel Rainman took off, Jen was able to negotiate her day job to part-time and devote more hours to growing her own business.

Jen’s clients varied from people who were working on a spreadsheet but didn’t know what they wanted or how to make it happen. Some clients knew how to create it, but they didn’t have the time to make the spreadsheet into what they needed. Clients send Jen and her team their spreadsheets along with comments via email or a request on her website. After a few emails or phone calls to ensure her team understands the project, Jen will determine the scope of the project and follow-up with a quote.

Driving Business through a Website

In order to generate traffic on her website, which equated to more clients, Jen added a blog to her site. She found the newsletter she was emailing out a few times a month wasn’t converting to website clicks, so she added a blog to help drive traffic. She spent time on search engine optimization (SEO) and included video tutorials.

One other marketing tool Jen used was giving away free seasonal Excel templates. She offers a March Madness bracket manager, a football survivor management template, as well as other templates like a budgeting planner and a big wedding planner template.
She found these templates were more ways to drive traffic to her site and create brand awareness for her services.

Some of the initial growth of her business was luck, Jen says. She spent several days crafting a solid, humorous pitch to the popular website, Daily Candy. They liked what she had to say because within 2 weeks, they had featured Excel Rainman on
their site. Jen went from 2 people clicking on her website to 7,000 in one day.

It’s also because of her Daily Candy exposure that she was able to find initial subcontractors to help carry the spreadsheet load. She got 30 job applications after Excel Rainman was featured. Early on, it was just Jen and 2 subcontractors doing all
of the work. Now she has 4 teams of subcontractors who work for her. Many of those she finds on college/career message boards or LinkedIn groups.

I’d say the big thing I would recommend when you’re pinching pennies but you still have a full time job, is reward yourself and buy yourself all the technology you need like an iPad or a laptop, a Smart phone. You need that and it lets you run your business no matter where you are. Like, I’ve always paid for the hotspots where I always have internet. I mean, it’s a luxury I have. I don’t have a retail location, so all I have to do is pay for this, like, text stuff. But, having the ability to do anything anywhere makes a big difference.

Highlights from the interview:

0:30 – From “go-to” spreadsheet person to small business owner.
3:15 – Her pitch to Daily Candy and how that kick started her business.
4:45 – Jen’s entrepreneurial DNA.
5:45 – The role of full-time employment during the growth phase.
8:15 – Disclosure with employers.
9:45 – Convincing the employer to drop to part-time.
11:30 – Revenue that allows you to take the leap.
13:00 – About spreadsheet consulting and how she collects leads.
14:00 – Revenue for 2012 and beyond.
14:45 – The number of spreadsheets it takes earn that revenue.
15:15 – Offering freebies (i.e. March Madness spreadsheet) to garner attention.
16:30 – Getting customers.
18:30 – The story behind the name, Excel Rain Man.
19:15 – Setting up the website. Phase two blog.
20:40 – Hiring talented sub-contractors on a per job basis.
23:15 – Using LinkedIn groups to find contractors.
24:15 – Setting up the business as an LLC/S-Corp
24:50 – The balancing act of running this business while still employed.
27:50 – The email newsletter.
28:50 – Keys to success, specifically how did you get into Daily Candy?
32:00 – Mistakes to watch out for.

Mentioned in the Interview:

Daily Candy

Watch the How to Start an Excel Consulting Business Google Hangout

Thank you so much for listening!

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Transcription: Just click show

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  1. Avatar Money Life and More says:

    I really enjoyed the podcast 🙂 Then I scrolled down and saw the video… d’oh! Maybe I’ll pay more attention next time 🙂 Keep up the good work.

    1. Avatar Philip Taylor says:

      @Money Life and More Haha. Yeah, Google Hangout makes it so easy to record the podcast I just do it that way. Might as well keep the video too. Thanks for listening!

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