What Kind of Consultant Are You?

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


Building Your B2B Consulting Practice

Regular visitors to this blog will notice that over the past few weeks, I’ve devoted special emphasis to tactics and strategies that will help Freelancers keep our consulting practices alive and well.  Competition in the field is intensifying and clients are aware that they can be very exacting in their hiring requirements, since there is no shortage of available talent, especially in mid-size and large cities.  According to Statista, the number of management consultants has grown every year since 2012 and as of 2016, there area 637,000 management consultants working (or trying to!) in the U.S.

As we all know, ever since the late 1980s, when the concept of “downsizing” gained popularity in corporate offices and the ways to separate citizens from full-time, long-term employment became numerous, many workers who either found ourselves highly skilled but nevertheless unemployable, or who eventually tired of endless cycles of  hirings and firings (a common occurrence in the IT industry), decided to strike out on our own and exert some measure of control over our professional and economic destiny. What did we have to lose? We were already in trouble.  Manage the risk before the risk manages you.

When you’ve worked in the Knowledge Economy and find yourself contemplating whether to launch your own venture, by design or default, a solo consultancy that offers B2B services that you already know seems a simple and obvious choice.

Start-up costs are minimal—there’s nothing much to invest in for the launch, except for business cards and a website.  There’s no need to rent an office and no need to hire employees.  You already own a smart phone and some sort of computer.  At most, you might invite a couple of your unemployed coworker buddies to come in with you.  In no time, you’ll be ready to see clients and charge a pretty penny for the advice that you give. Easy, right?

Well, not exactly.  Unless you’ve worked for a consulting company that provides you with a stable of clients that know you and value your expertise and there’s no non-compete hagreement that prevents you from, ahem, stealing a few clients from your former employer and bringing them to you roster—-a time-honored and usually successful practice, BTW—you may find yourself floundering when it comes to obtaining clients.  If you’ve got a well-placed pal or two who is able and willing to divert a contract to you, you could be twiddling your thumbs for quite some time, despite the furious networking that you do and your growing social media presence.  The truth of consulting is, no one gets a client unless that client knows you and the value of your work.

The “catch 22” is that you can’t get a client without experience and you can’t get experience until you get a client.  A business plan that is in reality an extended marketing plan that encourages you to think strategically, rationally and in detail about the following items should be written. Bear in mind that your services are valuable only insofar as there is client demand.  There may be no market at all for several of your strongest competencies, alas.

  • Services for which there is demand and you have the expertise and credibility to deliver those services and prospective clients who will pay you to do so
  • How to price your services
  • How to make clients perceive that you are worth your asking price
  • Your access to clients with the motive and money to hire you
  • The need for a partner (or two) and how that person can help launch and sustain the venture

Without a pre-existing reputation in the industry, you’ll find the early days of consulting to be quite difficult. Lining up part-time employment will help your cash-flow. Teaching at the college level is always a good option because it enhances your credibility and pays well for a part-time gig.  Whenever possible, find work that not only gives you money, but also demonstrates your expertise to potential clients.

If you can become at least an occasional contributing writer to a noteworthy publication, or get articles included in a local business publication, you will enhance the perception of your expertise, as will college-level teaching of a subject related to your B2B services.  Joining a not-for-profit board that brings you into contact with potential clients and referrers who can watch you take on committee work that demonstrates your bona fides will be helpful. Becoming a mentor at a respected new venture start-up center will likewise enhance your credibility.

If you can participate in a webinar, YouTube video, or podcast, where you can elaborate on the application of your expertise and the results that you deliver, you will be able to post the link on your website and social media accounts, so that prospective clients can see you in action and hear what you know.

Those who do not have a ready stable of potential clients must work very hard and very smart to make up for that deficit, but it will not impossible to build a consulting practice that will support you financially and of which you can be proud. There are many paths that lead to a profitable B2B consulting practice and with a dose of god luck, you will find your path, too.

Thanks for reading,


When Freelancers and Employees Collaborate

External agile talent provided by Freelance consultants has a presence in a growing number of organizations in the country, from huge multinationals that hire dozens of external experts to solo consultancies, who may hire a Freelancer colleague to obtain  help with SEO, website design, or project subcontracting work.

Freelancers are brought in to ensure that a high-priority project will be successfully completed, on time and within budget. While it is the responsibility of the hiring manager to onboard the Freelancer and create the conditions for smart collaboration  and productivity, in fact, a good deal of that responsibility will be transferred to the Freelancer because s/he is temporary, an outsider, and is positioned to take the blame should things go wrong.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that Freelancers take the lead and do what is possible to establish a working relationship with in-house collaborators that is productive, pleasant and lays the groundwork for repeat business and referrals.

  1. Ask the hiring manager to onboard you, so that you will be able to “hit the ground running” and quickly get to work on producing the project deliverables.
  • Request an overview that explains why the project is important to the organization.
  • Have a contract for the project, signed by you and the hiring manager, that specifies your duties, in-house support that will be provided, the budget, project milestones, the deliverables and the deadline, your hourly rate or project fee and what you’ll charge for client requested change orders and additional services requested.
  • Request the names and titles of any in-house project collaborators.
  • Specify the details of the lines of reporting and authority, so that you and everyone else knows who you answer to, since the hiring manager may not be the internal project lead.
  • Determine where your work will be done—off-site, at the organization, or a combination. How many hours must you spend at the company office? Where will  your work space be located? Must you bring your own computer and phone?
  • Request an introduction and meeting with your in-house collaborator(s), so that you can understand the organization culture (“how things get done around here”) and understand what you can do, or request from the company, to make the experience pleasant and productive for all parties.

2. Anticipate employee anxiety around the presence of an external consultant and work to quell the discomfort. Show respect for your collaborator’s deep knowledge of the organization and the project. Solicit their opinions on how to efficiently get the work done and political situations that can help or hurt you. Copy your collaborator(s) on important emails. Uncomfortable subjects might include:

  • Why was a Freelance consultant hired to do the interesting, mission-critical project and not long-term, loyal employees?
  • How much money is s/he being paid—is it more than me?
  • Will the consultant’s expertise and opinion be more highly valued than mine?
  • Is a company lay-off on the horizon?

3. Communicate frequently with your in-house collaborator(s), to promote transparency, build trust and ensure maximum productivity.

  • Make use of email and write reports that keep collaborators and the hiring manager updated on your work.
  • If you hit a stumbling block, ask for help, in writing.
  • Suggest a weekly or bi-weekly conference call or meeting at the client’s office, to compare notes and confirm that milestones and expectations are being met.

Thanks for reading,


Freelancers: We Are the Future

Presented for your perusal are relevant statistics and observations gleaned from the third annual “Freelancing in America” survey, conducted by the Freelancer’s Union.  According to the organization, “Freelancing in America” is the largest and most comprehensive measure of independent workers conducted in the U.S.

Who we are

In 2015 55 million of our fellow citizens, representing 35% of the nation’s workforce,  participated in the Freelance economy to greater or lesser degree and we earned $1 trillion.  The survey found that 63 % of us were Freelancers by choice, rather than by necessity, and we enjoy this way of working.  Freelancers reported feeling positive about our work and 79 % preferred Freelancing to traditional employment.  We’re much more likely than our traditionally employed counterparts to feel respected, empowered and engaged in our working environment.  The survey assigned categories to different types Freelancing:

  1. Independent contractors (35 %, 19.1 million) — Full-time Freelance Consultants whose only income is derived from client work.
  2. Diversified workers (28 %, 15.2 million)– Freelance Consultants who regularly do client work, but provide themselves a guaranteed income floor by working part-time (maybe as an adjunct professor at a local college or maybe as a bartender and possibly both!).
  3. Moonlighters (25 %, 13.5 million)– those who take occasional side projects along with their traditional employment.
  4. Freelance business owners (7 %, 3.6 million)– Full-time Freelance Consultants who put together a more-or-less permanent team to form a consultancy, so that more complex and lucrative client work can be taken on.
  5. Temporary workers (7 %, 3.6 million)

What we like

Flexibility is a huge perceived benefit for the majority of Freelance Consultants and 60 % felt that a Freelance Consulting career is a respectable choice.  Further, more than 50 % of workers who left full-time employment to join the Freelance economy were able to earn more money within the first year of Freelancing.  46 % of us raised our project fees/hourly rates in 2015 and 54 % said they planned to do so in 2016.

Serious challenges

Money is an issue for Freelancers.  Survey respondents reported that adequate billable hours, negotiating fair project fees or hourly rates and receiving timely payment of invoices (or receiving full payment of accounts receivable) could be problematic.  On average, full-time Freelance Consultants obtain 36 billable hours/week. When the billable hourly rate or project fee is considered inadequate,  cash-flow is impacted and there can be a struggle to meet financial obligations.  As a result, the survey also found that debt is a real concern for us Freelancers.

Access to health insurance and retirement benefits remain major concerns.  Full-time Freelance Consultants rank medical and dental insurance as a primary concern; 20 % of us have no health insurance.  Of those who had health insurance, 54 % faced increased premium rates or deductibles in 2015 as compared to 2014.

Surprisingly, the matter of retirement funding was not addressed by the survey.  Freelance Consultants, unless we are moonlighters who have full-time traditional employment or we’re married to a spouse who receives that important benefit, must completely self-fund our retirement and many millions of us do not have the income to build a worthwhile retirement account. Please see my recent post on retirement planning for Freelancers Exit Strategy: The Retirement Plan

Shaping the future

As traditional full-time, middle class paying employment continues to disappear, the ranks of Freelance Consultants can only increase, making us a fast-growing segment of the American workforce.  Sadly, politicians have paid no attention whatsoever to either our special challenges or our voting-bloc potential.

85 % of survey respondents said that they planned to vote in the 2016 election cycle.  If that statistic can be applied to the entirety of Freelance Consultants in this country (and I feel it is unrealistically optimistic) it would represent nearly 47 million voters, more than enough to influence a presidential election.  70 % of survey respondents would appreciate candidates and political representatives addressing Freelancer needs, because no matter how lovely things may be for the chosen few who command lucrative project fees, Freelance Consultants (and most part-time workers) are vulnerable.

The holiday season approaches and that means drastically fewer billable hours will be available to the vast majority of us, as many clients limit work from about December 15 to January 2.  We will not receive holiday pay for Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day.  How do we fund our retirement accounts and buy health insurance when it may be all we can do to cover basic living expenses? We need political representation, advocates and activism.  The Freelancer’s Union is what we have now.  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/business/freelancers-union-tackles-concerns-of-independent-workers.html

Thanks for reading,




Vive la Difference: Coaches and Consultants

Freelance professionals are external consultants who bring agile talent to mission-critical special projects at thousands of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations throughout the world.  Freelance consultants play an increasing role in many organizations, providing vital ad hoc staffing as full-time work forces contract.  We are highly effective,  reliable and adaptable.  We work alone, usually from a home office, and that keeps our operating expenses low and our billable rates affordable.

We are disciplined self-starters who treasure our independence, but there is a downside. Every once in a while, it would be helpful to have team members in the office with us.  We have no one readily available to duck out and have a quick cup of coffee with, no one to help parse a tricky question or lend a sympathetic ear when we hit a rough patch.  We most likely have a support system of colleagues and friends,  but they are not on site and may not have the wherewithal to help us address some of our most important questions.

As a result, many Freelancers consult with a professional to help sort through the array of challenges and decisions that we all eventually face.  Working with the right coach or consultant can bring many benefits to one’s business or personal life.  You may feel the need to receive some expert guidance, but wonder which type of specialist you should hire?

Follow the wisdom of the late management guru Peter Drucker and ask (yourself) questions that will reveal the right answer. Before you call in a specialist, clarify your desires or dilemmas, at least superficially.

For example, you may have a time management problem that results in a work overload that undermines your ability to have a social life.  Your task is to determine its source.  Might you need to hire a bookkeeper to compile the monthly financials, or an administrative assistant to do your billing, or some other professional to take certain tasks off your plate? To resolve business matters,  a business consultant is the go-to person.

If your time management problem results from your inability to set boundaries and understand that you cannot say yes to everyone, which then results in a work overload that undermines your ability to have a social life, then it will be useful to see a business coach to help you to identify priorities and establish boundaries.

Let’s take a look at the focus of each specialty. A business coach will:

  • Help you to enhance competencies you already have and help to bring out the best in you.
  • Help you to identify your passions, acknowledge what motivates you and then brainstorm with you to discover avenues for their expression.
  • Acknowledge and remedy a fear of success, fear of failure, or self-sabotage that you may fall victim to.
  • Provide encouragement and accountability to ensure follow-through of the action plan that the two of you develop.

OUTCOME: An action plan that addresses business and personal development goals and strategies.

A business consultant will:

  • Work with you to assess business strengths and weaknesses and evaluate its preparedness to take advantage of opportunities and overcome obstacles.
  • Improve the viability of the business and position it for growth, scalability and sustainability.  Operational efficiencies, strategy development, the business model, customer acquisition and retention, packaging of services, strategic partnership possibilities, the marketing message, niche market development, pricing, technology needs, staffing and customer service protocols are among the areas that will be examined and evaluated.
  • Work  with you to set reasonable short and long-term goals and objectives for the business, devise strategies and create action plans and time tables to ensure that strategies are implemented.  Follow-up and further consulting services to support and enable your plans can be arranged.

OUTCOME: SMART goals for your business and a way to make them happen.

So which do you need? A coach is like a partner and a consultant is like an adviser. If working on aspects of your personal life, that is if behaviors are the issue, then a business coach may be the better choice, at least initially.  But if you would like to grow and optimize your business , then a business consultant is the way to get the best results.

Thanks for reading,




Business Coach Or Business Strategy Consultant?

It has become increasing popular for leaders of organizations large and small, as well as Freelance consultants, to work with a coach, as a way to become a more effective leader, manager and decision-maker. Launching and sustaining a business venture is a significant undertaking. The stakes are very high and the margin of error is exceeding narrow. I’ve briefly worked with a coach myself. But is working with a coach beneficial, or a waste of time and money? Experience told me that it depends on your goals and your choice of coach.

Here’s the good news. The International Coach Federation, a support network for professional coaches, has data that demonstrates 86% of coaching clients recouped in business revenue at least what they invested in their coaching sessions. Further, 96% of those business owners/leaders would seek coaching again in the future. The ICF found that working with a coach improves productivity:

  • It keeps you on track. Through regularly scheduled sessions, business coaching provides accountability that encourages you to pursue your goals.
  • You have a forum for reliable and confidential business advice. A good business coach is positioned to use his/her expertise and judgment to guide you through the minefield of business challenges and difficult decisions.
  • You learn to set meaningful and attainable goals. Recognizing the goals one should set and can achieve is one of the keys to success in life and business. Ideally, your business coach will help you identify short and long-term goals and work with you to devise strategies and action plans that will bring your organization into the winner’s circle.

Now for the reality. As I see it, most of the certified coaches operating today have no business experience. Their background ranges from laid-off human resources / organizational development specialists to psychologists who can no longer make the money they want in the counseling field, due to restrictive health insurance reimbursement rules. Precious few of these individuals has ever seen the inside of a marketing department, sales department, finance or operations department.

They do not know how to create a business model; they’ve never participated in writing a strategic plan; they’ve never done a marketing plan; they’ve never so much as sold an umbrella on a rainy day; they could never interpret a profit & loss statement or a balance sheet. The only business decision they’ve ever made is to repackage themselves as a “business coach”, because they see financial potential.

When I prepared to open my consultancy, I saw a business coach who has an MBA from a very respectable program and who worked as a program manager at a mid-size local not-for-profit organization.  She was an acquaintance and so I consulted her for my launch. She was good with keeping me on track, but there were real deficiencies. She was not quite worth the $75/hour that I paid her in 2003.

She was useless in helping me to define my customer or devise strategies in how to reach them.  She was equally useless in helping me to either refine my business model, or offer feedback on the likely financial potential of the model presented. She, a single woman in consulting practice just as I aspired to be, had no words of advice regarding survival strategies, meaning the development of other revenue streams (such as teaching). She is still in business today, but she’s left the immediate area. I don’t know how successful her business is.

Many coaches may have glowing credentials, but the proper application for their experience and training is as a life coach and not a business coach. As I learned, even an MBA is not necessarily qualified to operate as a business coach.  A significant percentage of coaches are someone you call when work-life balance is an issue, or you need a plan for your under-employed husband, who’s become passive-aggressive because he’s envious of your professional success.

Qualified business coaches are available, but like any other professional services provider that you seek, conduct your due diligence. Coaching credentials are not your primary yardstick. Organizational development specialists and psychologists do not know business, so why would you hire one simply because they have some piece of paper?

Business experience and the ability to work with others one-on-one, or as group leader in CEO forums, is the skill-set that matters. Leaders who seek business coaching in fact need a business strategy consultant,  a seasoned professional who has been in the trenches and knows what it’s like to outwit, or get shot down, by competitors and the changing winds of business fortunes. Organization leaders are best served by a wise and savvy pro who has been to the mountain top and returned, to show us how to reach the summit.

Thanks for reading,


I, Consultant: Value-Added

Solopreneur consultants and other business owners are always selling,  sometimes overtly and other times discreetly.  To sell effectively,  we must understand and articulate the reasons that clients hire us.  We need selling points at our fingertips and as as always,  it is necessary to adopt the prospective client’s point-of-view.  Why would an organization leader hire me?  What is my value-added?

1. You provide expertise.

Convince prospective clients that you possess the know-how that organization staff members lack.  Let them know that you have the answers  (without revealing specific solutions before you sign a contract).  A high-ranking job title acquired in previous employment confers to you significant credibility.  Well-known clients confer significant credibility.  Speaking engagements at prestige venues,  especially if you met the prospective client there,  inspire confidence.  Blogs,  newsletters and social media serve to support one of the above,  but neither alone nor in aggregate will they convince an important client to hire you (unless you get enormously lucky).

2. You identify problems or gaps.

The ability to quickly and accurately grasp the big picture is essential.  Nevertheless,  be advised that the client may not appreciate hearing the truth.  Be diplomatic in how you bring problems to the client’s attention.

3. You supplement the company’s permanent staff’.

Downsized workforces became a fact of life in the early 1990s and nearly every for-profit and not-for-profit organization is under-staffed.  Big companies can often afford to hire and would be wise to hire,  but company leaders would rather keep payrolls light.  The loss of productivity that under-staffing causes does not show up in an income statement,  at least if acceptable top-line growth occurs.  All organizations have been hit hard by health insurance and other operating costs.  Consultants are hired to fill in the labor gaps because we do not receive benefits of any kind and when the project has been completed,  we leave.

4. You introduce change.

For political reasons,  it may be easier to call in a consultant to implement changes that management would like to make.  The consultant is better equipped to defuse or prevent any push-back or sabotage,  because he/she is a neutral party.

5. You provide training for staff.

Maybe you once ran a sales department and you will provide sales training,  or you ran the human resources department and you’re hired to conduct team-building or diversity workshops.

6. You assist with a turn-around.

This assignment could start with a request to facilitate a strategy planning session.  Vision-Mission-Values,  or Goals-Objectives-Strategies-Action Plans will drive the turn-around.  You ensure that there is follow-through,  enthusiasm and support for the plan and that achievement of milestones and other successes are communicated throughout the organization and celebrated.

7. You assist with a new product (or service) launch.

You may do market research and confirm the prospects for the product or service and discover or confirm key target markets and their expected dollar potential.  You may take an active role in the launch,  joining with the marketing team to define the primary marketing message,  timing of the product roll-out,  formulate the advertising strategy and approve the PR strategy.

Finally,  independent consultants must pay particular attention to how we will obtain clients.  That process forms the heart of our business model.  Speak with friends and colleagues who are highly placed within industries where you expect to work and figure out if projects can at least occasionally be awarded to you.  Further,  if you work with your employer’s clients,  inform your very best friends of your plan and discreetly recruit at least one or two to follow you.

Thanks for reading,


Avoiding Exploitation: How Much Free Advice?

You’ve seen this movie before.  You are excited by an invitation to visit the office of a promising prospect.  There is a great discussion about the business and where your services would fit.  Serious questions are asked and,  anxious to demonstrate your understanding of the your  (almost)  clients’ needs,   you supply straightforward and practical answers.  The prospect seems impressed with your business acumen;  the energy in the room feels good;  you can visualize your first day on the job.  At the meeting’s end,  there is talk of bringing you in to specify the details of a working relationship.

A week slips by and then two.  Your email or phone call is either unanswered,  or the answer you receive is that your prospect is unable to move forward at this time.  Can you call back next month? Ten days into the new month you call and realize,  with much regret,  that the trail has gone cold.  Who you thought would become a new client was just an imposter,  who robbed the stagecoach of your expertise and disappeared.

That scenario is repeated more than one would think at for-profit and not-for-profit institutions alike.  The fact is,  unless a consulting professional works at Bain,  McKinsey,  or some other big consulting group,   rip-off artists may conspire to defraud you of actionable business information without paying you a dime.  I’ve been invited to two or three interviews where in hindsight I came to realize that the  “prospect”  was merely fishing for free ideas that would resolve a dilemma that would be handled in-house.

Certain salaried predators find it very clever to pretend that there is a nice project available,  call in a few Freelance consultants and pepper us with questions that we answer because we neither eat nor pay the rent or mortgage unless we obtain clients.   The schemers take copious notes and laugh as we walk out of the door,  filled with false hope and visions of paid-off credit cards.

The business press occasionally takes this subject on and presents an article that provides strategies that Freelancers might use to protect ourselves,  but I have little faith in the proposed remedies.  Reading them,  I’ve seen almost nothing that I would expect to work in real-time.  The prospective client asks questions about a project.  How do you avoid providing answers and demonstrating your ability to do the job? Giving a wonderful sales presentation only means there will be better quality information to steal from you.  Recommendations to find out who will be in the meeting and searching for common ground that will allow you to connect on a personal level with at least one person on the team  (oh, you grow roses, too?)  means nothing to someone whose agenda is to exploit.  Knowing when to try to close the deal means nothing because there is nothing to close,  except the door in your face.

There are few effective solutions for this troubling occurrence.  To date,  the best I’ve read was contributed by Grant Cardone,  sales guru and best-selling author of Sell to Survive  (2008)  and Sell or Be Sold  (2012): “I would like to work with you on this issue and I have a few ideas on how we might proceed,  but at this time I don’t know your company well enough to give you answers that either of us could trust to be correct”.

The beauty of this response is that it’s true and it can most likely stop the ” client ” from continuing to press for free consulting advice.  Brazen types may threaten to snatch the  “opportunity”  away from you but if that does occur,  take it as a clear sign that there never was an intention to hire you or anyone else.  Graciously and immediately end the meeting.  If by some miracle the client is real,  your statement will be respected and taken as a sign of integrity.  Your candor might even win you the contract.

Good luck and Happy Easter,


Get Your First Impression Right the First Time

Congratulate yourself.  You were lucky enough to get a good referral from one of your clients and you’ve been invited to meet with your newest prospect.  Because you’re smart enough to know that first impressions set the stage for success in any relationship,  you want to get this right. 

Allegedly,  there is research that shows a prospect will decide whether he/she might be willing to work with a Freelance consultant within five seconds of their initial encounter.   To get the most of those precious few seconds,  why not do some preparation to make sure that your first impressions do the job for you—and not on you!

Keep fit

Good health gives you a glow that makes you appear more attractive and competent.   It’s not necessary to emulate a runway model or ironman triathlete.   Just follow some sort of fitness regimen that suits you,  whether it’s 3-4 hours/week at the gym,  biking or walking to work,  or maybe playing in a softball or volleyball league.  Regular exercise brings many benefits,  including more restful sleep,  decreased levels of stress and higher self-esteem.  

A diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and modest amounts of protein and carbohydrates,  about 60-100 ounces of water each day and limited alcoholic beverages  is the other half of a good fitness regimen and will make you look alert and capable.  Top it off by getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night and abstaining from nicotine.

Visual signals

Like it or not,  everyone makes snap judgments based factors such as looks,  weight,  hair,  jewelry,  make-up,  facial expression and more.   Be sure your visual signals  communicate that you are the type of person your prospect will want to do business with.  Always look sleek and professional,  neither too casual nor overly formal.  If possible,  find out what the company dress code norms are before  your meeting.  However,  even if the company dress code is jeans and polo shirt,  you must do a little better  (think business casual in that instance).

Good greeting

Your greeting consists of your smile,  your words and your handshake  (or bow, as appropriate).   A smile conveys that you are pleasant and approachable.   The words you choose for your greeting should be appropriately formal and never too informal.   Your handshake should be firm and neither limp nor crushing.   Lastly,  make sure that you use the appropriate honorific:  Mr.,  Ms.,  Admiral,  Captain, etc.,   to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and know how to address your prospect.

Smart agenda

A huge part of  first impressions hinge on whether you seem confident in yourself and what you have to offer.  Your prospect will sense whether you are prepared for the meeting,  or if you’re just winging it.   Therefore,  it’s important to know what you’d like to accomplish in the meeting.   A few days before the appointment,  start jotting down possibilities and come up with three or four reasonable meeting objectives.   Preparation radiates a poise that communicates credibility and competence.

Rehearse entrance

Now that you have all the components for creating a winning first impression,  give yourself the benefit of a dress rehearsal.   Practice how you’ll enter the room  (or if the prospect comes to you,   how you will stand and greet him/her),  how you will express your greeting and how you will shake hands or bow.   Rehearse it until you are comfortable with all aspects,  including the goals of your meeting agenda.  If possible,  videotape it and critique.  Good luck!

Thanks for reading,


Niche Market Opps for Freelancers

Developing new markets is essential for all Freelance consultants and business owners.  That means it’s necessary to be aware of major trends and even significant fads,  for there is money to be made over the long or short-term.   How does one learn about the existence of niche markets that may be promising for you?  Stay abreast of current events by reading good newspapers,  business articles,  blogs and magazines.   Talk to your friends,  family and colleagues.   Do volunteer work,   go to the gym,  out for a bike ride,  or drinking with your pals.   In other words,  be fully engaged in life and the information that you seek will either come to you or will be unearthed by you.   If you read the March 20 post on making your own luck,   you’ll know what to do.

Career Transition consultants

How to identify a second career and segue from one’s current line of work and  into what will be more personally and/or financially rewarding is on the must-do list of many professionals,  employed and unemployed.   Some folks are preparing for a possible lay-off,  some for retirement and still others want to make a career change while they’re still young enough to enjoy it.   Discovering the industry and job specs of work that resonates with you and formulating an effective career change recipe that leverages skills,   relationships and whatever additional training that will open the right doors drives the business of career transition coaches.   Also, companies that are in the midst of a major staff reduction often hire career transition consultants to soften the landing of employees who’ve been let go.

Generation Y Marketing consultants

Many businesses and large cultural institutions,   notably ballet,  opera and regional theater companies,   symphonies and museums,  are determined to add under 35 members to their aging family of donors and subscribers.   Generation Y is integral to an organization’s survival and to that end marketing and development departments have been offering discount subscriptions,   innovative social events designed with younger audiences in mind and other targeted marketing initiatives that might attact the Gen Y crowd.   Institutions cannot afford to slack off on these campaigns and consultants who specialize in marketing to the under 35 cohort are being hired to keep the audience-building strategies flowing.

Home Security consultants

Listen to your local television news report tonight and you’re guaranteed to be inundated with the horrific details of lurid crimes committed in both middle class and low-income neighborhoods.  Home invasions,  car jackings,  bullying,  identity theft and shoot-outs in Wal-Mart parking lots occur with shocking regularity these days.   As a result,  fear for one’s personal safety is on the rise and home security consultants have seen a significant uptick in billable hours as many individuals seek to protect their physical and online security.   Police officers and detectives are qualified to give advice on how to secure doors and windows and where to improve lighting,   as well as give useful advice regarding mail and newspaper deliveries when one will be out-of-town and pointing out the perils of announcing your vacation plans on your Facebook page  (why tip-off thieves?).   Electricians are qualified to install sophisticated home alarm systems and IT specialists will set up protocols for your computer.

Home Organizing consultants

When you decide it’s finally time to get your office,  closets,  basement and whatever else organized so that you can live and work at peak efficiency,   home organizing consultants will come to your rescue and help you purge the clutter and effectively organize,   store abnd label what you will keep.  The best will have training in Feng Shui.   Additionally,   most also give pointers on useful organizing accessories,  office furniture and other tips to make your home environment pleasant and conducive to attracting good energy.

Image consultants

We all want to look our best,   but many of us can use some pointers.   There is a critical mass of shoppers  (and not just the very affluent)  who are willing to pay a professional shopper or stylist to help them identify flattering styles and colors and devise a mode of attire that reflects their personality and fits with their professional and social lives.    Since the early 1990s,   high-end department stores have offered personal shoppers to work with customers and increase sales and loyalty to the store.   The notoriety of Hollywood stylists who dress the stars for award shows and other high-profile personal appearances has caused that service to trickle down to the middle class masses.

Thanks for reading,