Independent Consulting – Conspiracy, Partnerships and Forgiveness

I’m often contacted by people who know someone in my network who has directed them to me for advice on beginning their own consulting practice.   Convinced that the “abundance theory” really is valid and that the better we all work the more there is for everyone, I always share my experience and best practices.  At the same time, I’m also painfully aware that I’m equipping the next generation of competition which also feeds into my tendancy to be a bit of a conspiracy theorist.  And since I’m doing this to myself I may need a new stupidity theory. 

Having now convinced myself this is all going to end in disaster, why drag out the inevitable one competitor at a time when I can provide tips on my blog and if nothing else, be the author of my own demise. 

So, if you’re thinking about setting up your own practice, here are just a few tips you may want to consider.  (I’m keeping some to myself – oops, I think my abundance theory is slipping.)

Give Them More Than They Asked For

If you’re a project manager you’re probably cringing at this statement.  After all, the very core of good project management is remaining within scope.  Fair enough.  But in the world of consulting a little extra value is always appreciated and demonstrates you have the client’s best interest at heart.  It doesn’t have to be a huge piece of work, just something the client needs that exceeds their expectations.

Know When To Leave

There’s an old show biz adage that states “always leave ‘em wanting more.”  That should be your consulting mantra.  Have a clearly defined finish (date, result, etc) and then - get out!  Don’t try to drag it out with contract extensions or recommendations for additional services.  Occasionally, these are legit, but a lot of consultants just don’t seem to know when to leave and clients are very wary of the consultant who keeps finding more and more work to do.  Like any good guest, you’ll be asked back more often if you don’t overstay your welcome.

Know Your Limitations

Don’t fall into the trap of taking on work that’s not in your wheelhouse.   It can happen – the client likes you, there’s another piece of work to do, they want you to do it, and the next thing you know you’ve taken on something that could call your competency into question.  Don’t learn how to do something on the client’s dime.  Better to hand off to a consulting partner with proven expertise.


Building on the best way to mitigate your limitations, align yourself with other consultants or consulting firms who offer services that differ from yours but are complementary to the services you provide.  This allows you to bring in expertise while retaining the primary consulting relationship.  Just be sure you know the quality of work the other consultant brings to the table and that they can be trusted to partner with you.   The quality of their work will reflect on you and if they are not trustworthy they may poach your client.

No Forgiveness

Unlike a good employee who occasionally messes up, there is no forgiveness for an external consultant who makes errors.  Be prepared to hold yourself to consistently high quality, fast turnaround times, and measurable results in everything you do.

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