How to Become a Consultant


Experts know a lot about one thing. Consultants know a lot about one thing and can act as a guide between potential solutions, guiding a business into its optimized path. If you want to become a consultant, you need a more refined approach than simply selling your generic “expertise” in a field.

This post is a follow-up to How to Become an Expert. Being an “expert” means you have not only the expertise but the story to back up your own reputation.

Let’s say you’re an expert right now. You’ve helped a few clients create a new app, build a sales pipeline, rebrand, etc.

How are you going to go from freelancer to consultant?

The only structural difference is a consultant is usually attached to a larger company, and a freelancer is a lone wolf. However, but the different names imply a different level of service.

A consultant is a high-ticket vendor and provides a high-end service, often a suite of services, whereas a freelancer is commoditized, outsourced labor.

E.g. you hire a freelancer to edit your website. You hire a consultant to help manage a product rebrand.

Note: this post isn’t about getting into management consulting. If that’s what you want, go get an MBA from a top 50 global university.

Bespoke vs Commodity

Consultants offer a suite of products and act as a guide to their client. They tend to be used at inflection points in the business, e.g. making a big hiring push, launching a new brand or big campaign, reorganizing current structure, migrating to a new technology stack, etc.

Freelancers may help with any one item which tends to be a commodity. E.g. they just do graphic design, or just code, or are just great at sales, etc.

Consultants typically have these genuine skills, but they usually also have more than one, and most importantly have the ability to see the big picture and business context of the problem.

Consultants know their job isn’t output website or generate clicks on campaign but rather to get their client the best deal possible and make their business thrive.

The skeezy version of the consultant is someone who always pitches but never delivers. You ask for a straight answer about what best practice is and they respond “well, what do you want?”

Design a Package for Your Clients

Say you’re a coder and you make websites for people. Right now, someone hires you to make a website and they hopefully lalready know what they want to make, or they have a designer working with them who is giving you designs.

If you and the designer had come as a package deal, both of you could’ve made more money and worked more efficiently.

Simple plan:

  • Find 5–6 modern website best practices
  • Have the designer make a few templates based on these
  • Design those templates yourselves in code (or in a wordpress template, etc.)
  • When you pitch to a client, they know they’re getting a website that looks like brest practice, already designed and, and and can be ready in two weeks since the templates are already made (but don’t tell them the template part, just teh speed)

But if we’re all consultants, aren’t we a commodity?

Even if you’re offering the same service as someone next to you, you’re still selling the bespoke experience to your client. The biggest thing they’re getting is a smart person to care about their business, bring in industry practices, and either spot inefficiencies or create new market opportunities.

There may be someone next to you who can do the exact same thing, but who cares? You’re making your client feel special. That’s half of what they’re buying.

Become a Consultant By Generating Authority

If you want to be a high-end consultant, you want to build authority. This is similar to what you need to do to become an expert, but with a twist.

You don’t just need to have a great story talking about who you are. You need to brand yourself and go hard on it.

There are a few standard ways people do this.

Speaking Gigs

Speaking does three things: gives you clout, a potential media asset you can use for marketing, and front-and-center with potential leads.

If you speak at a conference about how you led your company’s transition into a cloud-based tech infrastructure, you are probably speaking to other people interested in the same topic for their companies. There’s a good chance a couple of people in the audience work at companies who may be interested in doing the exact same thing. And what luck, they just happen to know someone who specializes in exactly this.

What about media assets? This should be self-explanatory, but if you’re on stage with a microphone, dressed well, and leading a crowd, that’s literally one of the best things you can ever use when trying to get more gigs and leads. A single image communicates competency, leadership, authority, poise, and social proof. You could be talking about something completely unrelated to your new consulting gig but the picture is still relevant.

RELATED: You Are a Media Asset

Clout is as simple as dropping “when I was speaking at SXSW last summer” to let people know you’re the coolest and they should definitely hire you.

Write a Book

A favorite tool of status seekers, writing a book is like booking a speaking gig—it’s a symbol of authority even if no one knows what you’re talking about.

Books themselves are marketing. Someone might love the subject you write on and then choose to hire you based on your book alone.

And obviously, books pay you if they sell. Getting paid to market yourself? No wonder everyone smart does this.

Become a Consultant on the Podcast Circuit

Back when I listened to more podcasts, I would not ice a repeating pattern. Whenever someone was pushing a new book, they would appear on podcasts. If they were a big name, the podcast hosts would love it. If theyIt’s free content and a bigger name generates more clicks and listens.

However, I noticed the eight or so podcasts I would listen to, six would be hosting the same guy promoting the same book and same general content. It was funny because one podcast was about masculinity, one was about charisma, another about business—all in the loose self-help genre. So they all hosted the same content and just barely framed it differently. This happened numerous times.

If you have relavant content, cast your net far and wide in the content creator sphere. Long-form videos and podcasts are the perfect place for this.

Shift To Consulting

Consultants will:

  • Have a suite of services they offer
  • Understand the business context of their clients
  • Charge more
  • Lead their lients along the right path instead of merely being told what to deliver
  • Provide frequent and high-quality communication

Unless you want to do all the work yourself (hard to scale), find a few talented people (freelancers) you can work with.

Banded together, you can stop being lame individual contractors and move to being cool kid, big-money consultants.

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