Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in career development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sheila Nielsen, Founder of Nielsen Career Consulting, located in Chicago, IL, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Nielsen Career Consulting is a coaching and counseling service for attorneys at all levels of practice helping them to navigate career issues and problems from career direction, job search, and interview to dealing with difficult partners or co-workers to excelling on the job by learning strategies for being more organized, having a greater presence and developing clients. My clients also include law firms that refer associates and partners to me for professional development coaching.

Tell us about yourself

I am a former social worker turned lawyer. I worked as a criminal prosecutor first in state court In Philadelphia and Chicago, then in federal court in Chicago as an Assistant US Attorney. I left the practice of law to have more time for my family. I developed my business as a way to use my knowledge as a counselor to help lawyers have successful careers. What I love about my work is that every person I work with is unique, generally motivated, and capable of using the advice and support I provide. I love helping people have better lives: to find career paths where they both excel and enjoy working with people they like.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

When I started my business, I had no idea I would be able to make a go of the business and help so many clients, over 5500 attorneys and other professionals to date. I have written over 100 articles, been an invited speaker at about 100 meetings, and done webinars for thousands of attendees on a wide range of career topics. The biggest accomplishment is that what began as a small venture- counseling lawyers at a local restaurant and growing my business over the years by writing, speaking, and word of mouth from satisfied clients has resulted in a deeply satisfying professional development practice for me.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

The headache for me is the administrative work. That is not something I enjoy, but it is part of the job as a solo practitioner. I also need to keep my name out there, which means continuing to write, speak and meet with potential referral sources for lunch or coffee. The pandemic has made it that much harder in the last 3 years. Networking is something I enjoy and teach my clients how to do. But it requires in-person meetings to create trust.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Find out as much as possible about your competition before you start your business, and keep learning about who you are competing with as you grow your business. You need to be able to differentiate yourself from your competition.
  2. Figure out the right target market for your business.
  3. Connect with that target market in the role of expert. Show up where your target market is engaged: for example, position yourself to be at the meeting in the role of expert or moderator, write articles for a digital magazine your target market reads, and treat your clients the way you would want to be treated and be there for your clients in every way even beyond your area of expertise by helping them to find the resources they need if you cannot provide the help they seek.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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