Are you new to consulting or freelancing? If yes, then you should read this article. You will learn some common mistakes that new consultants often make and how to avoid them.
As mentioned here, according to a survey conducted in 2020, the main business challenges for consulting companies worldwide were the unpredictability of the marketplace and changes in how clients acquired their services, indicated by 48.9 and 47.1% of respondents, respectively. A talent shortage was also stated by 32.4% of respondents as one of the top business challenges for consulting services providers.
As a consultant, you’re responsible for delivering high-quality services to clients. To achieve this goal, you need to be aware of the common pitfalls that new consultants face. By avoiding these mistakes, you can improve your chances of success.
If you’ve been in business for some time, you might have made any common mistake entrepreneur make in the past that make you cringe when you recall them. These are my pick of the most extensive consulting business blunders to avoid in your business model.
Nowadays, we’re told to accept our mistakes, embrace our mistakes, and even celebrate the bad news that we’re making many mistakes. Besieged with countless memes quoting famous folk, they educate us to view our blunders as learning and growth opportunities.
Common Mistakes New Consultants Make
The term consultant refers to a professional who provides expert advice in their area of specialisation, e.g. marketing consultant, management consultant, etc.
Now a bit of a fun fact. Did you know that Mauco Enterprises started as an internet consultant before transforming into a consulting business, i.e. marketing consultants? Well, now, you know.
Don’t get confused if you see articles or directory listings that still address us as internet consultants. Either way, we are still a consulting business.
What separates the top consultants from the others? Below I share the biggest mistakes that consultants and business owners typically make and how avoiding these can help rapidly speed up any consulting career.
There are ample opportunities to make mistakes at the beginning stages of a consulting engagement. Unfortunately, errors at such an early stage in a project can often become magnified later in the process and lead to disastrous results.
Since no one is perfect, I have committed some of these consulting blunders at one point or another in my career or a project. But I try to learn from my mistakes and move on. Therefore, I’m motivated to write this article so you, too, can learn from my mistakes and not repeat them.
Promising What You Can’t Deliver
Your business needs clients to survive. So as a business owner, it is not unusual for you to go overboard with your business idea and promise anything to attract a potential or keep a current client.
But this is a huge mistake. As an independent contractor, if you over-promise and under-deliver, you will lose your client when you cannot deliver as promised. This is a simple fact that you don’t need to go to Harvard Business School to understand.
So it is better and a lot safer to under-promise and over-deliver. Under-promising allows you to provide something ‘extra’.
This ‘extra’ is something the customer is not expecting. It will help to create goodwill with your customer.
It may also translate to the customer speaking well about you to others, i.e. client relationship. They may refer new customers to you, leading to business growth.Avoid the temptation to give a quote without knowing the entire project scope. Click To Tweet
Not Knowing the Project Scope
Clients are often most interested in your prices when they call you to inquire. Avoid the temptation to give a quote without knowing the entire project scope. Instead of allowing the customer to lure you straight into discussing price, ask yourself, are you selling value or price?
Focus the client’s attention on the value they will derive from doing business with you. To get expert knowledge of the project scope, put a system in place.
If possible, let the client give a detailed written document of their objectives and the project scope. Don’t give a quote or talk about cost without knowing the project scope.
Understanding the project scope will help you prepare a proper quote for the project since you will learn more about administrative costs, human resources required, legal costs, etc.
Arguing With Your Client
As much as possible, avoid arguing with your client during client meetings. Do as much as possible to accommodate your client’s terms and requests. But don’t compromise any of your principles.
But if the client’s requests prove too much for you to bear, it is better to part ways in peace than argue. Arguing is not professional.If possible, let the client give a detailed written document of their objectives and the project scope. Click To Tweet
Using the Wrong Employee or Technology
After you understand the project scope well for a consulting project, you can assign resources to the project. It will also help you know the technology to deploy to make your job easier and better delivered. For instance, as a marketing consultant, I must keep abreast of the latest tools and technology. It helps me know which tool would be the right fit for a particular project.
Not Seeking Expert Advice
You might be an expert in your field, but that does not mean that you know everything. So, there’s nothing wrong if you seek your colleagues’ advice or advice from mentors in the business.
It will help you avoid potential pitfalls that you might not have known. Having a crop of friends, colleagues, and mentors you can turn to for advice is good.
Taking on The Wrong Client or Project
As mentioned earlier, you need customers to stay in business. But this does not mean every customer or project will be the right fit for you. Sometimes you have to know when to call it quits with a project or client. It doesn’t sound nice, but it’s for the best.
Have a clear image in mind of the customer or project you feel comfortable taking on. Stick close to that image. Don’t take on all clients and projects or be a jack of all trades.
Focus on a particular niche and specialise in perfecting your solutions to your niche market needs.After you understand the project scope well, you can assign resources to the project. Click To Tweet
Being Arrogant and Overconfident
Avoid being arrogant and overconfident. Portraying confidence in front of your client is essential. This quality will help to make them trust you with their business.
But this does not mean you should go overboard and become arrogant or overconfident. Doing so will lead to you losing clients.
Some of these mistakes mentioned in this article stem from arrogance! If you’re arrogant, you’re bound to forget that potential clients always have multiple options. So instead of being arrogant, listen to what they have to say and learn about them–instead of just focusing on the next buck–you will have a more successful consulting business than you ever imagined.
Do not fail to have a written contract in place which explains the scope of the project. Many freelance consultants are eager to take on clients. And those in developing countries fear losing potential clients by asking them to sign a contract. But it’s critical to learn to stick to the agreed-upon project contract. Not having a contract sets you up for problems later on during the project. For example, your contract may stipulate a 30-day payment period, unpaid invoices and any penalties for late payment.Make clear what type of client or project you are comfortable taking on. Click To Tweet
No Insurance Coverage
If practised in your country, it is good to have professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance, to protect you and your assets from mistakes, claims of negligence or errors made regarding your consulting services. According to this article, professional liability insurance and other insurance coverage will determine who pays in case of a claim or legal action.
Not Having a Plan
The first mistake many independent consultants make is not having a business plan. They don’t have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish in their consulting practice. This leads them to make decisions based on emotion rather than logic. To operate a successful business, you need to know precisely what you want to do before you start doing it.
Being Too Ambitious
Another common mistake is being overly optimistic about your ability to succeed. You may think that you can take on several projects in a short period. However, if you try to grow too much too fast, you could end up burnt out and wasting money.
Failing to Prepare
You should always be prepared for any situation that might arise. When you’re ready, you’ll be able to handle anything that comes your way.
Don’t Charge Too Much.
Charging a fair price is what allows you to create long-term value. If you have to reply negatively to the customer’s request for a discount, do so politely. Say you’re sorry, but the price you offered them is the best value package. Stand your ground without getting defensive or forceful, even if the customer insists.
Don’t Neglect Your Clients.
Good customer service is the backbone of any good business. Without proper customer service, your business could sink very quickly. Neglect happens slowly. It creeps up on customer relationships. Consultants often get into the habit of fighting fires rather than preventing them.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for More Money.
It is money that pays bills. If you go out of business because you are afraid to ask for a service fee, that will be your problem. So if you’re good at what you do, don’t be scared to ask for more money. Know the prevailing rates in your geographic area. If you learn you are grossly underpaid, ask for more money.
Don’t Forget About Client Retention.
There is nothing wrong with being proactive and finding new clients, but don’t neglect existing ones while creating new opportunities and reaching out to new customers. The reality is most customers are lost because of neglect. They feel taken for granted and unimportant. Remember that it is cheaper to keep your existing clients than to acquire new clients.
Don’t Waste Time
Wasting time is a common problem. Take control of your time and manage your days and hours better to have a more work-life balance.
Don’t Ignore Feedback.
Clients hate to be ignored. When you ignore client feedback on social media or elsewhere, you miss the opportunity to improve your services positively. Customer feedback is critical for making operational improvements.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
These are some frequently asked questions I receive from new independent consultants.
What Should a Consultant Not Do?
What a consultant should not do is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive from new independent contractors. As mentioned above, independent consultants should not make any common mistakes already mentioned in this article.
Most importantly, a consultant should never be afraid to say no. If you don’t know how to do something, then you shouldn’t try to do it. This is especially true when working for a client who wants you to do things that you feel are unethical or illegal.
What Can Go Wrong with Consultants?
A consultant provides advice or guidance to another person or company. There are two types of consultants: independent contractors and employees. Independent contractors work for themselves and provide their services directly to clients. Employees work for a company and provide their services to clients through the company. The most significant difference between these two types of consultants is their pay. Independent contractors are usually paid hourly, while employees are typically paid per project.
Not understanding which category of consultants you belong to is one of the earliest things that can go wrong with consultants.
What Is the Hardest Part of Being a Consultant?
The hardest part of being a consultant is dealing with clients who don’t understand what they want and how to ask for it. This problem is compounded when clients do not know precisely what they need. Clients often think they need something that they don’t. They also tend to be vague about what they want and then get upset when you tell them they cannot afford it.
How Can an Independent Consultant Succeed?
An independent consultant has a lot of freedom, which means they can work from anywhere at any time. However, working independently also means that the consultant must be self-motivated and able to handle all aspects of their business. The best way for an independent consultant to succeed is to find a niche market where they can provide unique value to customers.
With decades of experience, I’ve seen some terrible practices with how consultants work with clients. Running a consulting company is tough, and sadly it’s a lot less sexy than it seems.
Being new to the consulting game/consulting industry can be a challenge–especially if you’re going it alone as an independent consultant.
You do not always know things, from a new industry, geography, functions to new people to work with, etc. And the other consultants in the firm are just as competent as you are.
Avoid the growing pains of self-employment by learning about common mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.
With the pandemic and more companies entering the marketplace, the need to attract and keep customers will increase.
Remember that mistakes by your team members are not to be punished but learned from! Keep encouraging your team to do their best.
These are my pick for the most prominent consulting blunders. If you are a marketing consultant, try to avoid making these blunders. What about you? What would you say are the most significant blunders that you’ve made? Comment on our Twitter or LinkedIn page and let us know.
In conclusion, independent consulting is a great career choice, but knowing the blunders to avoid is essential, so you don’t make costly mistakes.
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