What Makes the Difference Between Average and High Earning Solo-Consultants?

Do you know what high earning solo-consultants do differently from average earning consultants? It takes just a few things to make the difference.​

Most consultants are experts in their field, so it is more than the knowledge of their field that makes the difference. Often, it’s just a few things done consistently that separate the average from the highly successful.

US Census data shows that in 2015, the average self-employed person in the US earned $47,200. In that same year,

  • 2,700,000 self-employed people earned more than $100,000
  • 300,000 self-employed people earned between $500,000 and $2,500,000

Can you imagine what a difference earning a high six- or seven-figure income would make to your life, your family’s life, and your children’s future?

Where are you on the earnings curve for solo-professionals?

A few high-earning solo-consultants earn far more than the average solo-consultant

Earnings distribution for solo-professionals has the long-tail skew often seen in these types of studies. The long tail is because a few solo-professionals know and do what makes a difference. (As we’ll see in the next blog, this difference isn’t just in earning. It carries over into satisfaction and well-being.)

Research shows there are two sets of factors that separate high earners from average earners, their business structure and how they market.

The Business Processes That Separate High Earning Solo-Professionals from Average Earners

In Elaine Pofeldt’s ground-breaking research on high-earning self-employed people she discovered the Critical to Success factors were,

  • Picking the right niche
  • Creating high-value in an area of demand
  • Building a defensible brand
  • Testing the product or service before offering it publicly
  • Leveraging the offer instead of working hourly

Pofeldt, E. (2018). “The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business”, Lorena Jones Books.

These critical factors of identifying a profitable niche, building a brand, testing your value offer, and filling your pipeline are covered in the first stages of The Ultimate Guide to Starting and Growing a Consulting Business

Marketing Separates High Earners from Average Earners

A survey of solo-consultants conducted by Michael Zipursky showed a couple of significant differences between solo-consultants earning less than $150,000 per year and those earning more than $150,000 per year.

If we overlay these differences on the same chart it looks approximately like this,

A survey of solo-consultants conducted by Michael Zipursky showed a couple of significant differences between solo-consultants earning less than $150,000 per year and those earning more than $150,000 per year. If we overlay these differences on the same chart it looks approximately like this,

Those solo-consultants earning less than $150,000 per year had only 1 to 3 clients per year, apparently marketing and looking for new clients only when a client was lost. Their marketing primarily depended on referrals and networking.

Consultants earning more than $150,000 per year had 6 or more clients per year and marketed DAILY. They also used a portfolio of marketing approaches to fill their prospect funnel. Their marketing portfolio included; referrals, speaking, networking, LinkedIn outreach, free seminars/webinars, and web/email automation.

This doesn't mean you should be doing all of these things. In my experience it is best to focus on three marketing channels that best fit your style and the niche. You want these three to create a flow from initial attraction to closing the prospect.  


Click here to download the Consulting Business Builder Audit and see where your consulting business can build for the future. You will also receive checklists for each of the seven stages in building a high six or seven-figure consulting business.

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