7 Levers to Independent Consulting Opportunities

The world is overwhelmed by massive changes and challenges, Global Climate Change, pandemic, inflation/recession cycle, food and supply chain collapse, and more.

Do not consider these obstacles. Using your consulting skills you can,

Do EXTREMELY well by doing good!

Three Blog Series

This is the third of three blogs looking at these global changes and challenges and how they create massive opportunities for you as an independent consultant or professional.

The three blogs 

  1. Changes and Challenges Facing the World and Consultants
  2.  Massive Opportunities for Consultants
  3. 7 Levers to Grow Your Independent Consulting Business

The first blog, Changes and Challenges Facing the World and Consultants, describes some of the global challenges.

 The second blog, Massive Opportunities for Consultants, looks at how global changes and challenges can impact your clients and create consulting opportunities.

This final, third blog, 7 Levers to Grow Your Independent Consulting Business, outlines what you as a consultant or independent professional must do to prepare.

How can you lead? How can you adapt? What will you do?

Table of Contents

  1. Identify and prepare for new or micro-niches caused by global changes
  2. Build and automate business and marketing systems
  3. Leverage digital marketing
  4. Be agile and adaptive, reskill and upskill
  5. Build thought leadership using the Cornerstone to Capstone system
  6. Create defensible moats around your micro-niche
  7. Productize and scale your consulting services

Identify and Prepare for New or Micro-Niches

Priscill du Preez, Unsplash

When you find what looks like an exciting new niche, don’t get distracted by its shiny new look. Maintain your stable-income “Cash Cow” consulting niche. You need to maintain the cash flow and client referrals from your current niche.

As the second blog, Massive Opportunities for Consultants, describes, the world faces massive changes and challenges that are creating consulting opportunities.

Identify the best micro-niches in these opportunities using the process, links, and table from the previous blog, Massive Opportunities for Consultants, or your own research and methods.

Do NOT spend months and tens of thousands of dollars developing consulting programs for the new niche until you test it with an MVO. Using an Minimum Viable Service Offering (MVO) is an inexpensive way to validate client needs and define exactly what they need.

Diving whole-heartedly into an untested niche is incredibly exciting. It can also be an extremely painful way to lose time and money. Do an MVO.

If we have time over lunch someday and you ask nicely, I’ll tell you the story of how I wasted a year and tens of thousands of dollars on a software consulting idea that failed in large part because I didn't do an MVO. It was a great product/service, Agilent and Hewlett-Packard liked it, but the Dot Com crash of 2000 killed all beta testing by prospects. Had I done an MVO I could have launched faster with a slimmer product/service and locked in users before the crash. And I would not have wasted so much time and money.

Build and Automate Business and Marketing Systems

Lenny Kuhn, Unsplash

Most independent consultants work too hard and get stuck in the hourly fee Feast-or-Famine trap.

They spend all their time working in the business and have no time to work on the business.

"You do not rise to the level of your goals.
You fall to the level of your systems."

- James Clear, Twitter

The two biggest reasons people have for becoming independent consultants are income and independence. If you do not build and automate business and marketing systems you will achieve neither.

Three areas you should be automating are,

  • Accounting, invoicing, and bill-paying
  • Marketing automation (automating emails, nurture sequences, and social media posts)
  • Social media scheduling and posting

In addition to automating systems, look for ways to reduce work. In our course we teach students how to,

  • Write the top 20% of blogs that attract 80% of clients
  • Create and schedule multiple weeks of social media in a few hours

Protect your business from cyberattacks. A single hacker, phisher, or malware can destroy your website, get your emails banned, or wipe out your finances. In late March 2022, President Biden warned hundreds of the largest corporations and infrastruture organizations to prepare for potential cyberattacks as a consequence of Russia’s outrageous war on Ukraine.

Click here to learn eight steps to protecting against cyberattacks>>>

Leverage Digital Marketing

Kristin Wilson, Unsplash

You must have a high social media presence and a strong authority base in your website. Consulting clients and B2B decision makers look to social media for consistency and look at your website and LinkedIn profile for proof of authority.

You must maintain a high digital marketing profile and outreach. The lead channel for B2B consultant marketing is LinkedIn and YouTube. The Content Marketing Institute in 2021 reported that 90% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for their organic social marketing.

In 2021 LinkedIn reported they had 774 million users, approximately one quarter were in the U.S. These are also the people you want to make an impression on. LinkedIn reported in 2021 that 4 out of 5 LinkedIn members drive business decisions.

For independent consultants and professionals to be consistent with social media posts three times a week (recommended) and a thought leadership blog twice a month takes a lot of work. It leaves little time for client hours.

It is imperative that you learn how to automate your social media posting and use the Cornerstone to Capstone system so you only have to do 20% of the content to create 80% of the marketing impact.

Be sure you follow top-level cybersecurity best-practices to keep your computer, website and email safe.

Click here to learn eight steps to protecting against cyberattacks>>>

Be Agile and Adaptive, Reskill and Upskill

Jason Goodman, Unsplash

Just because you are a solo independent doesn’t mean you can’t be agile, adaptive, and take on largish projects. For a number of years I did one or two large consulting projects that would have been impossible solo.

I called this an “Agile Agency” model. Instead of keeping full-time employees on staff, I built rapport with developers, trainers and writers I could hire as freelancers. When a project came up I would create a team to fit the specific job.

I highly recommend that when you find your micro-niche you begin developing and testing partners before you need them.

Click here to learn more about the Agile Agency model>>>

 This business model of hiring specific people, doing the “Gig”, then disbanding is sometimes known as the “Rolling Stones” business model. It has been written up in Forbes, Fortune, and Financial Post. It is VERY applicable to independent consultants.

Reskilling and upskilling is essential to stay on the leading edge during change. Major universities have posted many courses online for free, if you are not taking the class for credits. You can take free college level courses from 160 colleges and universities that belong to EdX, including MIT, Harvard University, and University California, Berkeley.

Click here to learn about free university and college courses at EdX>>>

Click here to see the LinkedIn Learning bonus you get with LinkedIn Navigator>>>

Build Thought Leadership using the Cornerstone to Capstone System

 

The Cornerstone and Capstone system uses SEO, trend, and competitive research to find the topics and channels to quickly raise you above others as a thought leader.

In my own 30+ years as a consultant I’ve learned how incredibly valuable it is to be seen as a thought leader. When I consulted as an independent Microsoft evangelist and later as author of one of the best-selling books on corporate strategic performance I found I was able to close clients on the first meeting with no proposal. This happened for major clients such as Arthur Andersen, AT&T, Pacific Gas & Electric, and many, many mid-size corporations.

You must develop a system so that every client engagement and all your marketing content and promotions, such as webinars, blogs, and speeches are part of a solid authority platform.
As you build your authority and thought leadership platform make sure you keep an eye to productization so you can deliver your consulting offers through multiple channels and globally over the internet.

Create Defensible Moats around Your Niche and Micro-Niche

Denny Muller, Unsplash

If you were an early entrant into your micro-niche you need to build a defensible moat to protect your advantage. Two of the greatest defensible moats you can use to protect your niche are,

  • Video testimonials and case studies from highly satisfied niche clients
  • Proven processes with demonstrable ROIs

Unless you are already familiar with the micro-niche, you will probably need adjacent or new business/technical skills. You can get these two ways,

  • Reskill and upskill yourself
  • Partner with other independent consultants/professional in the micro-niche

Both partnering and reskilling/upskilling are described earlier in the section titled, Be Agile and Adaptive, Reskill and Upskill.

Productize and Scale Your Consulting Services

 

NASA, Unsplash

COVID-19 accelerated the world's move to remote work, freelance workers, and remote consulting. But even before this the old consulting business models were changing. Now, the change in consulting models is accelerating.

Changes to consulting are in these areas,

  • Decreasing profit margins
  • Increasing use of freelance professionals
  • Productization of consulting services
  • Remote delivery of consulting services

By getting ahead of these changes and building a defensible moat to your services you can build an amazing consulting business.

Obvious ways to maintain profit margins are to reduce costs. But more importantly look to changing your business model with remote consulting, productization, and hiring niche partners for short-term gigs.

The increased use of freelancers as a substitute for consultants means that larger firms that used the “Junior Butts in Set at High Prices” model no longer works. You must find a niche, build a moat, and create branded, high value.

Productizing and remote consulting can feel like you are stepping into a new way of producing value, but if you have the content from blogs, speeches, case studies, and whitepapers you have what you need to productize and globalize. If you use the Cornerstone and Capstone system we teach to create your content and brand authority you will have about 80% of the work done for jumping into productized and remote consulting.

Productized and remote consulting gives you the ability to deliver multiple levels of consulting value through different channels at different prices. 

What's Your Opinion?

What do you think is happening to the world of consulting? 

What do you recommend as a course of action?

 

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