5 Rookie Consulting Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

After 10+ years of running my own consulting practice, you can bet that I made my fair share of mistakes. I want to share with you my top 5 mistakes so you can sidestep the agony of wasted time and resources. Along with my mistakes, I will also be sharing my hard earned best practices so that you can accelerate the growth of your consulting practice. 

MISTAKE #1: WASTING MONEY ON A BROCHURE WEBSITE

When I started out, money was tight. It’s not that I didn’t have any money, but I was terrified of parting with any of the little cushion I had safely in the bank. I almost had a heart attack when I started researching how much it was going to cost me to get a website up and running. So, I did what many of my mentees do – they go with the cheapest option they can find and get little to no results from their website. Once I finally invested properly in my web presence, my business took off and I literally doubled my revenue within the first year.

Invest in a strategic partner who can help you create a website that has:

  • A solid strategy based on the demographics AND psychographics of your ideal client and how you can help them.
  • An attractive design that conveys the substance of who you are and what you have to offer.
  • Well-written and engaging content that uses pull (needs-based) vs. push (aspiration-based) language.
  • Clear site visitor calls to action.
  • Meaningful analytics to ensure that your website is helping you grow your lists and lead conversion.
MISTAKE #2: LACK OF A SUSTAINABLE PRICING STRATEGY

Here’s the logic of my initial pricing strategy. I figured out that the going daily rate for consultants was somewhere between $1500-$3000 per day so I set a daily rate for myself at $2500 per day. So when I was doing my initial contracting meetings, I was motivated to offer detailed solutions to my clients because the more steps, the more money I made...for this ONE client.

It took me a while to see that my pricing model was:

Inefficient – I created labor intensive solutions (because I earned more.)

Blocking my ability to generate great revenue consulting – I was overly invested in one client.

Borderline unethical – My pricing model was not in my client’s best interest.

Values based fees is NOT about tying your actual compensation to your client’s results. It IS about setting a fee range that offers a return on the investment that they are making with you. Thinking about yourself and your fees in this way will literally transform how you show up in a client contracting meeting. Imagine the difference it will make when you can say to a potential client with full confidence:

“Investing in a strategic partnership with me is NOT an expense to be managed, but rather an investment that will generate a return.”

When you offer that type of promise and guarantee, imagine the impact to your close rates and eventual compensation. 

MISTAKE #3: FEARING TARGETING AND NICHING

I am confident that if you are like 99% of consultants starting out, you will at some point face the fear of financial scarcity. This fear often shows up when faced with identifying ideal clients and relevant products and services to meet their needs. Many struggle with the idea of making this type of decision out of fear that this type of focus will not pay the bills or generate sustainable revenue – even though all the marketing facts out there tell you otherwise.

The impact of not leveraging your best talents towards meeting the needs you are most equipped to help are huge when it comes to long-term sustainable success:

  • You take work that is not especially in your wheelhouse.
  • You don’t do your best work; nor does it energize you.
  • You may get fans…but not raving ones.
  • You eventually burn out and have to start asking the questions all over again.
  • Best Practice: When you struggle with identifying your ideal client and what you can offer them, don’t mistake your fear of scarcity for actual logic. It takes more time and effort to market a lot of things to a lot of different audiences (and creates a smaller return) than it will take to market your best talents to help your best clients.

What this best practice looks like in action includes really considering who comes to you naturally for help. Who are they? What needs do they have? Start here vs. trying to imagine a hypothetical person you wish to help. Then become mindful of what it is that you do that actually helps them. Somewhere you know your best gifts…although as we age we forget them. The things that you do so naturally that when complimented on them you shrug them off are indicators of what you were born to do.

MISTAKE #4: LACK OF CLEAR BOUNDARIES

As a card carrying member of the “People Pleasing Club,” I can tell you myriads of mistakes I made (and sometimes continue to make) in this area. I have given away my time and intellectual property for free to people who asked me for coffee but really wanted to pick my brain for free solutions. I have partnered with other consultants who were not equally matched in terms of experience and expertise and allowed myself to carry the lion’s share of the work. I have continued business relationships with vendors that were not delivering what was promised. I could go on and on and I know for a fact that I am not alone.

It took me years to recognize the impact of my lack of boundaries on my life and capacity to do what I needed to do to achieve my goals and be the person that I wanted to be. Being burnt out is not in my best interest. Enabling others is not in their best interest. 

  • Best Practice: Shift your perception on your worth and consider your expertise and money highly valued. Being liked is not as important as liking yourself and standing in your own power.

Boundaries in business look like:

  • Being picky about who you partner with and hire. Before making these types of decisions, assess for values and competency fit.
  • Being clear up front about roles, expectation and compensation.
  • Offering limited free value and knowing when a personal relationship is becoming professional.
MISTAKE #5: NOT INVESTING THE RIGHT HELP SOONER

A lot of initial business development mistakes could be avoided simply through finding the right help AS SOON AS the need presents itself. Do-It-Yourself learning can only take you so far because with no matter what information you obtain, you (without experience) have to figure out how to apply it. This self-directed application is where many of the unnecessary mistakes happen. If you want to avoid wasting time and money and want to maximize your investment, you have to find people who have “been there” and “done that” to give you real time advice on what to do today, tomorrow and in this moment.

  • Best Practice: At every juncture of your business development - when you are starting out, growing or re-investing yourself – hire a mentor.

Hiring outside specialized help is a good business practice. But you already know this because you are a consultant. You are specialized outside help that companies bring in to enhance their results. If you know this for your clients, then apply it to your own business.  The cold hard facts is that when you hire a mentor you are walking your talk and positioning yourself to be full integrity with your clients. Why should they hire you and trust your words about the return on investment in using you when you do not do the same thing in your own business?

The Ultimate Best Practice

Shift your perception FROM marketing and sales as something you have to get through in order to get to the work TO an integral part of the work you deliver to your clients. When you see that marketing and sales are opportunities to engage with potential clients and offer real value, you will naturally want to invest in those activities as you would the other consulting services that you offer.

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Struggling with finding the words to communicate the value of your consulting and it's keeping you from acting on what you need to do to launch or grow your business?

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