According to Winford E. Holland, co-founder and partner of the Houston, TX consulting firm Holland & Davis, Inc. (now Endeavor Management) and author of Change Is the Rule (2000), there are four types of consultants—Expert, Process, Coach and Temporary. When deciding whether to enter the realm of Freelance consulting, or when you reassess the business model and branding strategies for your existing consulting practice, think objectively about the type of services that you are qualified to offer, the type you like to perform and what you have the skills and relationships to sustain.
Your consulting category should be reflected in the elevator pitch you use to meet and greet colleagues and potential clients, in your marketing strategy and talking points/messages and your sales strategy, even if you don’t necessarily use the words “expert” or “process” or “temporary” (if you’re a coach, you’ll describe yourself as such). Communicate to prospective clients what you’re best at doing and succinctly articulate what they’ll gain or solve when they bring you in. Make your value proposition known straight away.
Your consulting category will become the core of your branding strategy. There are so many consultants hunting for projects—you must differentiate. Furthermore, when you communicate your brand, you will attract your ideal buyers, your target market.
Expert: These consultants have advanced knowledge and a deep skill-set in a certain industry or discipline, based on the individual’s education, training and work experience. Their unique value proposition resides in content.
Process: These consultants excel in methods of process improvement. For example, they don’t contribute content to the strategic plan, but they can facilitate the meeting at which company goals, objectives and strategies are discussed and prioritized and they may also guide clients through the plan’s implementation. Their unique value proposition resides in methodology.
Coach: Helping clients recognize, manage and resolve their business (and sometimes also personal) challenges, decision-making questions, or professional development plan is the specialty of Executive Coaches. Their unique value proposition resides in process, i.e., methods.
Temporary: These consultants might serve as short-term helpers on project teams. Others may evaluate and install IT solutions such as computers, or smart home or office systems. Their unique value proposition resides in content, in know-how.
“Successful consultants are problem solvers,” Holland says, “They’re passionate about what they’re doing and able to market their skills—and the latter is often their biggest challenge.”
The most successful Freelance consultants are invariably those who once worked for a consulting firm (I know one such person ant she is very successful). Experience in the corporate world is almost as helpful, particularly if one reached the level of Chief, Vice President, or Director. Veterans of senior positions are at an advantage when it comes to building a client list, because they’ve had opportunities to create relationships with their employers’ customers, who may be positioned to green-light projects and become their first clients.
The value that consultants bring to businesses is either content (Experts and Temporary) or process (Process and Coaches) and the most successful consultants are of the Process category. Why? Because Process consultants aren’t limited by their highly specific training, education, or experience to a particular discipline or industry. They don’t supply content (advanced knowledge), but they can apply their expertise in certain processes and methods to many industries.
Process consulting expertise is more flexible and valuable to a consultant’s money-making potential because it can be applied to many environments. That flexibility can make up for the lack of content expertise. That’s something to remember as you consider the type of consulting you should practice.
Thanks for reading,
Image: Portrait of Benjamin Franklin, founding father of the American Republic, statesman, inventor and polymath, conducting his kite experiment in Drawing Electricity from the Sky by Benjamin West (circa 1816) courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art