🐧 Starting a 6-figure advisory business | David Fallarme

Spotlight: The road from Marketing Leader to Interim VP Marketing
April 30, 2023

In our first-ever 🤩 Expat Spotlight, we’re going to get an inside look into how David Fallarme went from a marketing leader to becoming an advisor to tech companies.

Today in 10 minutes or less, you’ll learn:

  • 🤔 What is advising and why
  • 🤝 How David got his first clients
  • 💼 Engagement models & pricing
  • ❌ David’s mistakes and advice

🤩 Expat Spotlight: David Fallarme, Interim VP Marketing at Spotdraft

David is an Interim VP Marketing at Spotdraft and marketing advisor to various companies.

He has led marketing teams at companies from small VC-backed startups to large public companies across Southeast Asia, China, and the US. Recently, he was a Marketing Director at On Deck and Head of Marketing for HubSpot APAC.

In this spotlight, we’re going to deep dive into all things advising with David: what advising is, why, and how it works.

You can find out more about David on his Linkedin.

🤔 Tell us about your career journey before you started advising and why you started advising.

I have a weird career in marketing. I’ve jumped all over the place: B2B, B2C, gaming, SaaS, startups and public companies. My chaotic resume is partially due to deliberate choice. One of my core values is to pursue my curiosity. So a choice I made early on was to go after interesting opportunities versus climbing the job title ladder.

After I got laid off in 2022, I saw advising & fractional work as a natural next step. It meant I could work with several interesting opportunities at once.

The thing that’s surprising me about advising — and something I wish I learned earlier — is that advisors and consultants usually make more than what they did when they worked full time. The tradeoff, of course, is that you’re in charge of generating your own client pipeline.

🤝 How did you find your first clients?

Like how most consultants find their first clients: from their network.

If you’re looking to start your own consulting practice: make it easy for former colleagues and supporters to refer you. Be clear on what service you’re offering - then tell people.

Specifically, people with whom you already have some built-in credibility with. Tell your former managers, people who have tried to hire you before, people who you’ve worked with (agencies, freelancers, event organizers, etc).

For me, I also used LinkedIn. When I did my “I got laid off!” post, I was fortunate to have several inbound inquiries come in. It’s continued to be my main driver of pipeline.

David uses Linkedin to generate awareness and find clients

Anyone can do this. It’s a game of consistency: know who your target audience is, then post as often as you can about how you can help them. Practically speaking, I shoot for 3-5 posts per week. Don’t overthink it. It’ll be awkward at first, but just commit to posting 50 times before overanalyzing your posts. Eventually, you’ll start seeing DMs like this show up in your inbox:

💼 What are your current engagement models and pricing? How did you arrive at these?

I’m still new to the consulting game - so it’s part art, part science, part guessing 🙂 

Some teams engage me as an advisor. This means unlimited async access to me and a few calls per month. This is in the low to mid 4 figures.

Some teams want me more embedded in their team, and those start at $10k/month but scale up depending on what they need and whether I’ll have direct reports.

David’s engagement models

A quick and dirty way to figure out your pricing:

  • Take your desired annual rate
  • Chop off the last 3 zeros
  • Use that as your “internal hourly rate” (never share this with your client)
  • Scope a project with a client and estimate the hours
  • Take your hourly rate x hours, add 20% to account for scope creep and other surprises

This is one approach. I know other consultants who essentially experiment with random numbers during pricing conversations.

Your pricing power is largely determined by three variables: your credibility, track record — and willingness to walk away.

🛠️ In your opinion, what are the differences between interim, fractional, advising, consulting, and coaching roles? Who is a good fit for each of these roles?

Here are my definitions:

  • Interim and Fractional = you’re embedded in the team. Interim means you have an end point. Fractional means you don’t.
  • Consulting = engagements with a specific deliverable within a defined time frame.
  • Advising and coaching = you’re a sounding board, you’re available async and on calls, but not much more than that.

While anyone can do these, you should have some leadership experience when pursuing interim & fractional roles, since they typically require working with the C-team and across the heads of other departments.

For anyone looking to get started, I suggest using Consulting as your wedge to either go up (interim/fractional roles where you are more embedded) or down (advising). Consulting allows you to show value in a concrete way and earn the trust of your client.

❌ What mistakes did you make during this transition? What would you have done differently?

Fortunately I haven’t made any egregious mistakes (yet!). But there have been a number of things that surprised me, and things I wish I did better at the start. Two that stand out:

(1) You need to be hyper organized. When you have a full-time job, you’re waist-deep in one context, and so is everyone around you. When you’re working with clients, you have to hop in and out of different contexts and keeping it straight in your head is a challenge.

  • You’ll end up coming with a system that works for you – everyone has their productivity tools of choice (right now, I’m using Notion, but there’s no correct answer here.) The key for me was to set up a dedicated time every week to (1) clear up “admin” tasks like following on up invoices and (2) to think about the business on the whole. The trap here is spending 100% of your time on client work.

(2) Putting together a Sales process. Looking back, I was basically winging the first few “sales calls” that I had. Eventually I realized that I could use some of the tools that sales reps use – qualification tools like Budget Authority Need Timeline (BANT), nurture strategies, negotiation, etc.

🫶 What advice would you give to someone just starting out as an advisor?

Make your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) as small and defined as possible at the start. This is counter-intuitive since at the beginning you just want to get a win on the board, and you may be pulled into random projects just to get some revenue.

The way around this is to realize that your ICP will change and expand over time. So, start from where you have obvious, inherent credibility, where you can add value – and then radiate outwards from there. Don’t take on non-ICP clients unless you really really have to. There are opportunity costs, like having a confused reputation in the market.

Where can we go to learn more?

Follow me on LinkedIn!

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Dexter Zhuang

Dexter is the founder of Money Abroad, a website and newsletter on building wealth for global professionals. Over the last 10 years, he's been a product leader, product manager, consultant and coach at companies like Dropbox, Xendit, and growth-stage startups across the US, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. His work has been featured in global publications like Business Insider, CBS, US News & World Report, and Tech in Asia. He graduated from Dartmouth College.

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