Consulting can be a pathway to success for many people who have experience in the corporate world. However, it’s not a guaranteed winning move. Many people fail to understand how competitive the world of independent consulting is. In order to really make a go of it, it’s important to be prepared for the move from the corporate world to the consulting one.
One of the biggest problems for newcomers to the consulting world is the lack of identity. To put it simply, not enough people understand what it is that they do. Consultants tend to be people who worked their way up through several levels of the corporate world. The problem can be that they have so much experience in so many areas that no one thinks of them as the person who does X or Y. They just see them as a knowledgeable figure. The problem becomes one of self-definition. Successful consultants are those who can craft a firm, clear pitch for themselves.
Even successful consultants tend to admit that their first year or so was rocky. It can take time for consultants to learn how to brand themselves. Sometimes, they’re over-confident about referrals. While former colleagues can be a great source for new work, it’s important to have a pitch down pat, even for them. They must be able to justify bringing a new consultant into the picture. An understanding of mission and branding is very important in landing new clients.
The market for consultants is crowded. There are almost 700,000 consultants in the US. That’s not including people who do similar work but brand themselves as business coaches. What’s more, it’s competitive out there. Over 80% of consulting practices fold before they enter year five of their existence. That’s much higher than the 50% failure rate for new businesses generally.
Now, it’s possible that some of this difference is due to people leaving the workforce altogether. Consulting is often a post-retirement career. Consultants are people who are used to being successful. That’s why they have so much to give. But their skillset must be easily understood. It’s a good idea to run a pitch past laypeople, like family members, to ensure that it’s totally clear. Clarity of purpose is key in consulting.