Staying Organized as a Consultant



The job description of a consultant often requires dealing with multiple clients at the same time, which makes staying organized essential. Even if they are tackling a single client at a time, a consultant will need to be thorough and show expertise in all areas while handling tons of documents, files, and information. That is why it is imperative for them to assign a specific order to everything, so skimming through it doesn’t prove to be a hassle for them. Also you need to ensure that no details fall through the cracks. Following these guidelines will help any consultant in going through the workday -every day- without getting caught up in chaos.

Keep an Organizer and Structure Your Day on it

It is very important to keep a schedule of all the activities that you have planned for that day. By looking at the schedule, you will not forget any of the important tasks and will also be able to determine the time you need to devote to each activity. There are times when your schedule is flexible and the spaces can be used to carry out other activities. Keep in mind to develop a schedule which is not overwhelming and does not require you to perform one daunting task after the other.

Always a Good Idea to Take Down Notes

Taking notes is essential whether on a handheld device or on paper. There is no way that you’ll be able to store tons of information in your mind. Without leaving any room for error, the better option is to get everything jotted down so that you can always return to it in the case of a confusion.

Use the Amazing Features of Your Smartphone

Smartphones have eased our lives to a great extent. It acts as an organizer as well as a medium to take down all the notes. You can even set alarms and reminders to remind you of an important task right on time. Most of all, it helps you staying in touch on the go with all your clients not only through phone but also through the emails.

Keep Everything in Files and Folders

All the important documents and information must be organized in files and folders according to the name of the client. This way you will not be able to lose any of it and there would be no chance of mixing the materials of two clients. Rushing through all the papers will make you look irresponsible and non-serious in front of your clients.

Prepare a Kit of All of Your Essential Tools

All the essential tools and accessories should be with you at all times. Whether you are driving or in another city, you’ll need to have an access to all the necessary items right away. This will help you in not spending a minute of being helpless or unproductive and will also serve to enhance your reputation in front of the clients.

Have you been able to manage all the chaos? If there was something else which helped you greatly in being organized then do share in the comments below.

How Do You Keep The Momentum Going?

This can be a scary time, and it will probably happen to you at some point. It can lead to feeling flustered and pulled in many directions, scrambling to keep up and to sign new work, regardless of the type of work.

Take a deep breath, and keep calm. Nothing can hurt you worse than desperation, which can lead you to accept terms you normally wouldn’t, lower your pay scale, or even cause you to panic which might turn off potential new customers.

So what can you do to keep clients around, to keep them coming back, and to help bring in new business, without having a dry spell? Here are some tips:

Retention: Keep existing clients happy and coming back. It’s an old adage but it’s true, your best customer is an existing customer. A client who knows your work and is happy with your results is a client you can turn back to in lean times. Keeping up with the client and reaching out with new ideas or projects is much more likely to be successful than cold-calling strangers. Having continuing small projects for a client, can make the dry spells a little bit wetter. The Harvard Business School says that increasing customer retention by just 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. Do your homework and keep doing it, sometimes you can see an opportunity for a past client before they do.

Stay involved with them: In business, it is very easy to fall into an employer-employee dynamic, where you are being paid to perform a service. Involving a client in the process turns them from employer to teammate. They know the needs of the work better than you, even at your most researched. Giving them tasks, asking them for advice, running drafts past them makes clients feel part of what you do and part of the solution, which gives them a sense of pride in the work that you do with them. This alone can seal the deal for future work.

Only as good as your last job: Do good work, always. Starting your business and becoming a consultant is a rewarding job, but it isn’t an easy one. Put in the hard work, always. Go above and beyond. Drop the jargon and really connect with your clients. A lot of consultants like to obfuscate the work, to make it seem like an esoteric or mystical formula for success. Instead, make it accessible, and teach them. Word of mouth is key to bringing in new business, so for each client, show them that they are paying you for a job that you know how to do and that you will work hard to get it done. If you do it right, you’ll get more work just out of the word of mouth that helps build your reputation. Don’t sell yourself short in money, quotes, or time just to get the work in the door. That will only come back to bite you in the end.

Stand for something: An emotional bond is the easiest way to make a potential client into a lifelong customer. Shared values, creating a fun work environment around you, and being a simple, straightforward and honest consultant can make you a brand that your clients believe it.

Find pain points: Somewhere out there is a business who is struggling with the exact thing you can help them with. Somewhere out there is someone who is craving exactly what you are selling. Figuring out who that is and finding them is no mean feat, but it is a key to constantly sourcing new business. This article from Forbes is about writing a “pain letter” rather than a cover letter to get hired. But read this from the perspective of a consultant, and think about how it can apply to potential clients:

“If the organization is growing fast, they’ve got growing pains. It’s hard to keep on top of everything that needs to be done. Sales may be booming, but infrastructure undoubtedly lags behind. That makes customers unhappy. Systems are breaking at the seams.

If the organization is large, it may be slow to react to market changes – most large organizations are. They may be having trouble responding to their clients’ needs. They may have so much red-tape bureaucracy that important projects get stalled.

Universities are short of cash. They’re competing with private educational options and community colleges for dollars. Most universities have done a horrible job staying connected to alums, students’ families and their own communities, because they didn’t need to do those things before. Now they do.

Not-for-profits are learning that they’re competing against one another for mindshare and funding, and competing with for-profit companies too.”

Google alerts should become your best friend. Narrow down the pain points that you are best equipped to soothe. Can you help step in as management in the merger of two companies? Have Google alerts set for companies being acquired and mergers. Reach out before they even realize there might be a stumbling block in the road, and you can quickly become a savior.

These are just a few tips. There are so many ways to keep clients coming back and to bring in new work, you just have to be consistent, keep calm, and work hard.

Landing your First Consulting Gig

pexels-photo-largeSo you’ve decided to start consulting, perhaps based off of this post I wrote. That’s great! The only thing you need to do to start down the road of being a consultant is call yourself one. Startup can cost as little as business card printing and getting a business license. But becoming a working, professional consultant, that’s a different story altogether.

So how do you land that first client, and move into the professional sphere?

First, I want you to think about where you want your business to be in 1 to 5 years. The best way to achieve success in the highly competitive world of consulting is to focus on a specific aspect of consulting and become the go-to expert. So one of the things to keep in mind before getting your first client is how you want to attract the second, third, and future clients to you and your consulting.

What is your elevator pitch? In just the time it takes to get from the lobby to the office, can you explain concisely and passionately why you are the right choice for any business? Why are you the best consultant they could find? Refine this pitch before you start your search for the first client. Make sure it lines up with your future vision of your work. What makes you and your services different? What kinds of consultation do you provide? Financial management? Marketing development? Operations streamlining? Management assistance?

Develop a marketing plan. You’ll need to know which businesses can afford you. Which will benefit from your services. Which have pain points that need immediate addressing. Set out a marketing plan early.

When someone asks you what time it is, don’t take away his watch. By this I mean, it is easy for a new consultant to remove responsibility and place it on themselves. But doing a task yourself correctly doesn’t fix the business, it just shows you can do that task. It’s not sustainable for yourself or for your client to just do what needs doing. You need to communicate effectively, teach others without talking down, prepare effective data and proposals that can be referenced later. That’s the only way you will address the systemic issue that called you in in the first place. You need to teach your client how to read and use his watch efficiently. Don’t just give him the answer and walk away. Don’t just take his watch because he doesn’t know how to use it. You are there to teach him how to use his watch.

Don’t just focus on the subject matter. Yes, you have to be an expert to consult, and study in your field is tremendously important. But you also need to be able to explain concepts to the layperson. You need to understand the process of consulting, not just the area of business that you consult on.

Do your homework on fair market value for your work. Know what the competition is charging, know what organizations are paying, and understand that you are just starting out. Your value is what you say it is. You don’t want to overvalue yourself to start out, since you are new to consulting and just starting out you might dig your own grave with your contract price. Charging more than you can provide in service will be an early nail in your coffin. On the other hand, don’t undervalue yourself. You have to make a living, and set the pace for future jobs. You don’t want to be seen as hackneyed or cheap and unqualified.

Start organized to stay organized. There are few places in life where documentation of work accomplished and hours accounted for is as important as it is in consulting life. Most clients don’t look for a consultant until there is a need for one. That is, there is something already broken that they need fixed yesterday. There is an urgency to the client’s needs when you come on board, and you must stay organized and well-document while hitting the ground running. Focus on what is a priority, and what your workflow is on a day-to-day basis. Keep a running to-do list that changes every day based on necessity, but never loses projects or lets tasks slip through the cracks. Consulting is a results-based business, so make sure you understand that you are proving your worth every day, and what can you do, right now, to make the biggest impact?

Once you have all of this under your belt, it’s time to go get your first client.

Tap your network. In the days of Linkedin and marketing events, it’s extremely easy to get in touch with past employers, coworkers, and peers. The clearest path to a client is your network who can make introductions for you. Start the conversation with them. Use them for introductions. Remember faces, names, cocktail party stories.

Next, you’ve done all this research and narrowed down your skills and the market they apply to. Start knocking on doors. Start taking people out to lunch. Find them where they live (proverbially speaking, don’t literally go to their homes) and meet them there.

From Ramit at First step is to niche down your market. By age, location, interest, income level, and so many more options.

 Then, find out where they go to find solutions. Get in their heads:

  • -Want to pitch to moms that blog about children? Go to The Mom Blogs and start with the ones under “Popular Blogs.”
  • -Looking for physical or massage therapists within 50 miles of your house? Yelp should get you started easily.
  • -What about tech startups with over $1 million in funding, with more than 10 employees, but less than 50? Here’s 100 of them.
  • -If you want to do… large dog grooming and sitting, well there’s probably a local pet store or dog park near you where owners are all congregating just waiting for you to offer them a solution.

Listen closely. Over the last few weeks, people have been coming to my weekly video office hours saying things like, “But Ramit! I have this idea and have NO IDEA where to find customers!” My response is always calm, yet you know that anger boils closely below. “What have you done to research your audience?” Have they emailed a few people? Taken them out to lunch? Asked complementary service providers if this is a good idea? The answer is almost always no.

5 More Tips For Being A Top Notch Consultant

Startup Stock PhotoThe consulting industry is a highly competitive one, which is full of people who have all kinds of professional experience and years of knowledge-building under their belts, or young, eager people who performed well at top schools. Making yourself stand out among the best of the best can seem like a daunting task. But the truth is, there’s more to success in this industry than simply having a perfect resume. Here are a few tips to help you reach success in the field of consulting.

1) Be reliable

One key to being a good consultant is being a “safe pair of hands”. This means that you can be trusted to do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. While this may sound obvious, it is less common than you think in today’s society. Nowadays, people often get busy and end up doing things late or not getting to them without a reminder. Being a top notch consultant means not being that person. Keep your promise and keep the quality of your work consistent.

2) Pay attention to detail

I’ve said this in a previous blog post, but it bears repeating. One of the ways that a consultant builds trust with a client is by producing deliverables without errors. Make sure there are no grammar, spelling or calculation-related mistakes in your work, because this reflects your entire team. Some people are born with a natural attention to detail, but if you’re not one of those people, there are ways to improve. If you’re doing math, show your work. This may sound rudimentary, but it is a great way to make sure you’ve thought of everything. It also demonstrates to your manager the steps you took. Another good idea is to make lists of everything that you need to double check before submitting something.

3) Remain flexible

While being organized and meeting deadlines is a crucial part of being a consultant, that doesn’t mean that you have to be rigid. In the field of consulting, and in any field for that matter, things are bound to change. You will be faced with new projects, new colleagues, and changes to the work culture. One of the best qualities of a good consultant is being able to adapt to these changes. You will need the soft skills and technical expertise to take on roles without difficulty, as well as the agreeable nature to be go along with changes that occur in the workplace.

4) Be persistent

When you’re working in the field of consulting, it is important that you don’t give up easily. When you’re given negative feedback, take it and learn from it. When frictions or unforeseen circumstances arise, keep pushing. Analyze each and every setback you experience so that these setbacks don’t occur again. Being a strong consulting professional comes from learning from your mistakes.

5) Become the “Go-to” person for a certain skill

During your first few years working the consulting field, you are likely to work in a number of industries with a number of clients. These broad experiences are likely to leave you good at several tasks, but not exceptional at any. Make sure you begin to develop a skill that will differentiate you from your peers. The consultants who tend to do the best are the ones who excel in one particular area, often an area that nobody else seems to be skilled in. Make time to figure out what you can become the “go-to” person for.

With the stiff competition, reaching success in the consulting industry is difficult, but not impossible. If you work hard to make yourself stand out, you can be sure to reach success.

Is Consulting for You?

consultant-779590_1280There are many kinds of consulting jobs, across many industries and dealing with many areas of expertise. Consulting is great in that way because it gives you flexibility and choice. If you are an experienced professional in some way, consulting can be as busy and lucrative as it can be flexible and help you maintain a work-life balance on your own terms. It can also be beneficial for those who are looking to work part-time with a steady income while they start their own business, begin to retire, or who want to switch career paths but have a safety net woven from their own expertise.

I will not sugar coat this, becoming a consultant and being successful requires senior-level experience and knowledge. You cannot (as a general rule) jump out of grad school and into consulting on your own. However, it doesn’t mean you need to have C-Suite executive titles on your resume either. In consulting, skill sets, knowledge and experience are what matter most, not paychecks or prestigious titles. If you have the skill set and the knowledge, almost anyone can consult authoritatively and eventually be successful.

Businesses will be relying on you for a sort of specialized expertise that they do not currently have in the staff. This can be for many reasons, such as a new key project, a branding initiative, a new business model, streamlining finances, staff augmentation in a growth spurt for the company, interim management from an experienced professional in a change of high-level staff, and much more. These can range from part-time short term projects to long-term semi permanent staffing, depending on the project and the company.

There are almost as many types of consultants as there are type of business, from restaurant design to IT auditors, so if you have an expertise, there is most likely a place for you to consult. There are industry consultants, who have large amounts of experience in a field and who aid large companies in advisory services, decision making and business practices. Career consultants help develop the finer skills of professional life and utilize their expertise to help others build resumes, choose career paths, develop analytical skills, and more.

The three most populous areas of consulting are those with the highest demands, and tend to boil down to management/strategy consulting, economic/analytics consulting, and IT consulting. Obviously there are wide ranges of skill sets and strong suits that people need to do well in these various areas, as well as many much smaller groups that can still be in demand areas of consulting.

Consulting is an exciting, ever-changing industry, and one that is wonderful to be a part of. But caveat emptor: I will also point out is that in order to be a successful consultant, you will need to prove your worth, constantly and continuously. It is not for the faint of heart. You need to be able to break down the analytics of not just your field to show measurable results, but you will also need to show the evidence that those said results would be more difficult to achieve without you. If you do not like spreadsheets, PowerPoint, tables, and graphs, this might not be the best field for you. If you do not like ending a job without having another job lined up, this may be a rough industry for you to join, as there can always be dry spells. You will be conducting interviews of new hires, doing endless market research, breaking down the pros and cons of every computer system a company might employ, or auditing the same financial reports over and over again. If those sound like ideas you are able to stomach, then you just might be on your way to a successful career in consulting.

At the end of the day, my encouragement is for you to pursue your passions while you are looking for longer term gain. Start with what you know best and become excellent at it. And whatever you do, don’t go into consulting because you don’t like your current boss or to just work for yourself. You will always have a boss…they are your customers.

Tips to Take You to the Top

Consulting is an intense industry. There are a lot of opportunities to let projects and tasks slip through the cracks due to the transient nature of the job. But, if you don’t be careful, you too will slip through those same cracks. So, how does one become a fantastic consultant? Here are 3 things that will help you get to the top of this difficult industry.

Number 1: Follow Through

Glen Sartain Business MeetingIf a client or a coworkers is told they are going to recieve something on Monday morning and it doesn’t come, what happens? Trust is broken and whatever relationship was building is torn down. This seems hyberbolic but it is absolutely true. Even one missed deadline or one project that is turned in below the standard of excellence you should hold for yourself can change a client or coworker’s perception of you. And if that happens it can be hard to get things back on track, especially when you are just starting out.

Here’s the advice, set yourself up for success, not for failure. If you are overwhelmed don’t keep adding to your plate, this will leave you open to missing a deadline or being forced to cram out lower quality work. Instead, keep a careful schedule of all your responsibilities and when things get a little tight, don’t be afraid to ask for help early on. Don’t wait until the deadline to ask for help, ask for it when the project is assigned to showcase you are on top of your workload.

Number 2: Pay Attention

We spoke of globally paying attention in number 1, you can’t let a project get lost in the shuffle. It is also important to pay attention more locally on whatever particular project or assignment on which you are currently working. Ensuring that everything you turn in to a client or coworker is neat and free of errors is a great way to build confidence and trust in your abilities.

There are many strategies you can use to help you stay aware of the little details but the most important one of all is to review your work. Many times when we feel the pressure of a tight schedule we don’t take the time to look over what we put together. This can mean lots of little errors go unnoticed until it is too late. Add time for review and revision into your schedule and make sure to use it effectively! Having a trusted coworker go over very important documents and decks is a must.

Number 3: Be the Best

Glen Sartain BusinessThe consulting industry is rife with intelligent, highly qualified, confident people. So, how do you set yourself apart? The answer is by developing a very niche skill. Think about what area of consulting you are interested in pursuing, then think about what area of that area you are interested in. That is how specific you want to get. The idea is to be the most knowledgeable person in any room on that particular topic. Having a specialized skill like that is the way you add value to yourself. If you are the go-to person for a particular topic, then you are on your way to being remembered, respected and recognized!