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Welcome to the home for information, tools, tips and resources for a new consultant (and a not-so- new consultant). We're glad you joined us! Take a look around to find the resources you need!

Networking for New Consultants

Posted March 15th, 2011 in Building Relationships, New Consultant Basics by Lee

networking for consultingNetworking – this buzz word is thrown about considerably now, both in terms of job hunting, business development, and as an important skill for new consultants. But if  you ask 20 people what networking means, you’re likely to get 20 different answers, each depending on how the person responding makes use of networking.


Why Network?

At its essence networking is simply a way to link yourself to others in order to tap into additional expertise, share knowledge and interests, and identify or create new opportunities. Just a computer network, a social or professional network connects you to others.

Whether you are just hanging out your shingle as a new consultant or have a long history of consulting, developing your professional network can play a critical part of your business strategy. A strong network provides the seeds for new business and for building your own capacity as a professional. Important as it is, though, it’s a process that is difficult for many and avoided completely by some. It helps to remember, as Wendy Gelberg states in her book, The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career, although networking may seem self-serving (part of the discomfort of it for many people), “in reality, networking is a mutual process…” 

At its broadest, networking takes two dominate forms – person-to-person (face-to-face or business-to-business) networking, and online social networking. Both of these forms deserve their own focus, but a quick look at both is worth doing here.

Face-to-Face Networking

networking for consultants
Face-to-face networking occurs as you meet with people during things like professional association meetings and business-to-business gatherings. It can also be as simple as maintaining contact with people you know personally or professionally – that periodic lunch out, or a quick cup of coffee together before work. Regardless of the specific context, it’s important to remember that this needs to go beyond the “Hi, here’s my business card, call me” kind of thing. For each and every networking conversation you need to have a clear goal in mind – what is it you have to offer, and what is it they can help you with? Start with your purpose in mind. Be always respectful to others, and remember that networking meetings are not sales calls! Getting and giving as a part of  the network relationship is key.  (Creative Commons License photo credit: Aidan Jones )


Online Networking

networking for consultingOnline social networking occurs via the Internet on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and dozens of other places where people can come together around mutual interests and needs. Just as with person-to-person networking, start with a purpose in mind. Many networking sites have groups organized around particular personal or business interests – seek these out, join them, and participate! Keep in mind potential dangers, however, such as data theft and viruses, or people who claim to be someone they’re not. Use good common sense. Keep in mind, too, that online networking is never a replacement for phone calls and meeting in person, but it’s a great addition to what you do in person.

Whether you’re networking online or face-to-face, networking is an interesting and easy way to connect with others, gain exposure, build your expertise, and create new opportunities. Be generous in sharing your experience, ideas and talents, and remember the mutuality that networking depends upon. Have fun with it!

7 Tips to Create Work Life Balance When You Work from Home

Posted March 15th, 2011 in Challenges for New Consultants, New Consultant Basics by Lee

work life balance for new consultants

Work-life balance is a popular topic for new consultants and everyone else that works.  We all have more to do: we’re mothers and fathers; friends and siblings; people with hobbies and social lives and work responsibilities.  And the more we have to do, the harder it is to keep ourselves and our lives in balance.

What is work life balance? 

This idea of ‘balance’ is described many different ways but it basically refers to intentionally creating a life that reflects your personal values and dreams. Balance occurs when work and all those other aspects of your life that are important to you mix in a way that is comfortable for you. There’s no formula for it – what is balanced for one person may be very different than for someone else.

Why is work-life balance extra challenging for the work-from-home consultant? 

 As challenging as work-life balance is for everyone…it may be even more challenging for the new consultant working at home. Why is it so challenging to maintain work-life balance as a new consultant working from home?

  • You’re launching a new business. And a new business is hungry for your time and energy. You need to find customers and start stacking up some “wins” while at the same time creating the structure needed for a business that will last.
  • With a home office, you never really leave work. When working from home, schedules are often more flexible and time management may be entirely up to you — it can be so tempting to “do just a little more” at night or on the weekends, which eats into your family time, leisure time, or time with friends or hobbies.

In spite of this, though, it’s vital for you to maintain a work-life balance that allows you to thrive both at home and “at work.” Imbalance can lead to negative stress, fatigue or illness, time lost with friends or family or with other interests which can never be regained, and a drop in productivity.

7 tips to find your work-life balance: 

  1. Identify what matters to you. What really needs to be done, and when? What matters most in terms of your work and in terms of the rest of your life? Before you are able to focus on either work or other interests, you must know what it is that really matters.
  2. Complete a wheel-of-life assessment. These are readily found online and are a simple exercise to help you identify important areas of your life. Once identified, you can see just how much of your time is being devoted to each vs. how much time you would like to focus on each, at this point in your life. From this you get a clearer sense of balance as well as ideas on where to cut back or put more effort into.
  3. Manage your time effectively. This may include putting clear boundaries around what is work time and what is family or home time, or leisure time, or friendship time. Maintaining these boundaries will be a continual challenge, but having no boundaries at all will make you too scattered to be effective in any of your pursuits. Take control of your day, and at the end of the day be sure to leave work at work!
  4. Learn when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no.’ It’s tempting to say ‘yes’ to anyone who asks for your help – taking on an extra project, for example, or chairing a fundraising drive at your child’s school. Afterall, you don’t “really” work, right? Keep your focus! It’s ok to respectfully say ‘no’ to requests. By doing so you’ll make more room for the things that you’ve said matter most to you.
  5. Ask for help. There’s absolutely no good reason to try to be everything to everyone, including yourself. The strongest people know what they can reasonably handle themselves, and when to ask for assistance from others. Join forces with others to get things done and strengthen your own support system.
  6. Adjust your self-expectations.  Does the house really need to be spotless? Is it time the kids (or spouse!) learn to do their own laundry? Think about what expectations you have of yourself and of others, and see what can be adjusted.
  7. Take care of yourself. First. Because if you’re not doing this, it’s unlikely you’ll be of great use to anyone else. That means you do what you know to do in order to be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and vocationally. Stay physically active. Sleep. Eat healthy. Do something just for fun. Make sure each and every day you are doing something just for you (and putting your laundry away first doesn’t really count!).

Work-life balance is never set in stone – it’s a continuous process of re-learning and re-focusing on what matters most to us and then acting on that. Balance in your life today may look very different from what it will 1 year from now, or 5 years from now. The point is to know what balance and imbalance feel and look like in your life, and make balance your priority today for the success of you and your business!


The Consultant Image

Posted March 13th, 2011 in Challenges for New Consultants, New Consultant Basics by Lee


consulting image

Is your consulant image important? You bet it is! Not just because it shapes others’ first impression of you, but it also shapes your own impression of yourself as a consultant. The consultant image you portray – in person, on the phone, in writing, even online – can make a difference in whether people trust or distrust you and whether you’ll land that new opportunity or lose it to someone else. Image also can impact your own perception of yourself and what you have to offer.


What image do you convey (and want to convey)?

As a consultant, people turn to you because they trust you. Or they don’t. Take a hard look at your image – what is it you WANT to portray, and to what extent does your physical image fit this? Do you present confidence and competence? Carefulness or sloppiness?  Attention to detail or disregard for ‘the little things’? You may be the most skilled person around, but if your dress, hair, cleanliness, even scent say “I don’t care” then it’s unlikely you’ll be viewed as credible and competent by others.

The little things DO matter

Not long ago I heard someone mention that they had sent out a marketing email that had a couple of small typos in it. “Oh well,” this person said, “people probably won’t notice, or they won’t care.” Wrong! People WILL notice, and they WILL care! If I receive that email my thinking will be something like this: if this person or company doesn’t care enough to get their email communication right, why should I trust that they’ll get things right when working on my project? Given the choice between someone who cares about the little things, and someone who clearly does not, I’ll go with the former every time. No contest.

Be professional

We hear that all the time, don’t we? But it’s worth digging deeply into this. What, precisely, does it mean to be “professional” in your field or industry? I know some companies where being professional means showing up to work each day in a coordinated suit. I also know companies where showing up in a suit would be considered very unprofessional and totally impractical. So what is “professional” in your work? In this regard, professional image goes beyond what you’re wearing or your ability to write an error-free email, and extends into the image your portray by being on time, every time, for example. It means following through on your commitments and delivering on what you say you’ll deliver. It means carefully cultivating the trust that is at the heart of all consulting relationships. Take time to consider just what is means to be professional in your line of work, and the extent to which you convey that image.

Your consultant image is more than just what you wear or how you conduct yourself. It’s all the hundreds, maybe thousands, of little things you do to manage the perception others have of you. Reach out to trusted friends and colleagues and get their assistance in evaluating your image. Ask them to act like a potential customer and check you out online, in person, over the phone. And encourage candid feedback – just take it all in, being neither apologetic nor defensive. Then, take what you learn through this and begin polishing the image, so your image is as outstanding as your credentials!

The Top 7 Challenges for New Consultants

Posted March 13th, 2011 in Challenges for New Consultants, New Consultant Basics by Lee

Once you’ve made the decision to become a new consultant, you will begin to experience the advantages of consulting: you’ll have increased control, flexibility and independence.  And as appealing as the advantages are, consulting also has challenges!  The consulting road is filled with unexpected turns, and the occasional pothole.

Many new consultants begin their role with only a vague sense as to what they can expect, and an unexpected pothole has sunk more than a few new consultants! It helps to be aware of what major challenges might lie in the road ahead and to steer clear of these whenever possible.

Here are 7 ccommon challenges for new consultants:

1.  Feast or famine

As a new consultant, we seem to have either too little or too much business. Revel in the feast, but plan ahead for the famine!

2.  Attracting and retaining skilled people and support resources

During the feast times, having others you can trust and call on for help is critical. Finding them when you need them isn’t always easy, though, so build these relationships as early as you can. Decide whether you need a regular staff or just the occasional help, and seek out these resources right from the start. Don’t take anyone for granted, though – those who work for or with you deserve your sincere appreciation and recognition.

3.  Time management

It’s great to be your own boss and have no one else looking over your shoulder telling you what to do and when to do it. Not having this structure, however, can make it easy to procrastinate or flounder. Create a system for yourself, complete with regular work hours and the means to keep track of all those things you must keep track of such as billings, taxes, inventory, meetings, etc.

4.  Work-life balance

Starting out as a new consultant often leads to a period of imbalance in your life, when time you would normally give to family, friends, or hobbies is suddenly sucked up by the demands of your work. Keep an eye on this! Though it’s expected that you’ll put in longer hours at first, don’t let this get out of hand or you’ll be no good at all to anyone.

5.  Staying abreast of new technologies

Technology changes in a blink nowadays, and it’s critical you stay on top of these changes. Your customers will expect you to be readily accessible, to be familiar with (or using!) the latest equipment and resources, and to be at the cutting edge of your consulting field. Keep up! It will be to your advantage to have the technology necessary to fully support your consulting work.

6.  Getting paid

Sure, we like to think that all our customers will pay us when it’s expected (and most will!), but the truth is this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes a check will bounce or someone unexpectedly finds themselves in a financial crunch and unable to pay us what’s due. Plan for this. Make sure you keep enough money in reserves so that when this happens it doesn’t create a financial hardship for you. Also think through what your process will be to bill people, what finance charges you’ll add in for late payments, and what steps to take to recover fees owed to you.

7.  Wondering where the next jobs or customers will come from

During times of feasting it’s hard to imagine that several months from now the famine may hit. A big part of the challenge of being a new consultant–or a more experienced consultant–is that you get so busy meeting current project demands that there’s no time or energy left to continue marketing or in other ways building your business at the same time. It often helps to designate a specific part of each week to business building, and then sticking to this schedule religiously.

There will always be challenges when we work as a consultant. But you can have a smoother ride if you plan ahead create a map that will  work for you!

Should You Become a New Consultant?

Posted March 13th, 2011 in New Consultant Basics by Lee

Creative Commons License photo credit: SMJJP
new consultant

Ready to be a new consultant?

I frequently get asked the question, “Should I become a new consultant?” That’s a question only you can answer, of course, but I think the question to really start with is WHY should you become a new consultant?

People take on a new consulting role or open a new consulting business for a number of personal and professional reasons. And the decision to make this kind of career move should never be made lightly!

Challenges of being a new consultant

As a consultant, you’re saying goodbye to a regular paycheck, the chance for benefits such as healthcare or company-sponsored retirement account. You may even be giving up regular work hours and the predictability that comes from having a daily and weekly routine you can always count on.

Advantages of being a new consultant

On the other hand your new consulting role can provide you with a lot of benefits.  Although the lack of predictability can be a negative, it is that lack of predictability that attracts so many people to a new consulting role!  Being a new consultant means you’re your own boss.  You are in control of your schedule, the type and amount of work you do and often the deadlines associated with that work.  You choose to pursue particular clients or projects.  You will manage your own time and track your own success. As a new consultant, you  no longer have someone else telling you to work 9 to 5, to punch a time clock, or to do the same (boring!) work day-in and day-out.  If you like variety and taking responsibility for your own success, then a consulting role may be just the thing for you!

How do you know if consulting is right for you?

To help figure out if consulting is for you, ask yourself the following questions–Do you: 

  1. Feel stifled by predictability stifles them and thrive on new challenges?
  2. Love the challenge of surviving by your own wits and skills?
  3. Want – even need – the chance to work your own hours and be your own boss?
  4. Need or desire for a flexible schedule, that you can adjust as needed?
  5. Have an entrepreneurial spirit but lack the funds usually demanded of many start-up and franchise businesses?
  6. Want to have your success, recognition and rewards tied to your work, efforts,  and contributions?
  7. Desire to have greater financial independence?
  8. Thrive on meeting new people and engaging directly with them to meet a need or find solutions to problems?
  9. Need to be more autonomous, to set your own sails and steer your own course?
  10. Have a strong desire to provide a meaningful service to others, and to be recognized for this service?

If you answer yes to these questions, then consulting may be the right step for you. The risks can be greater than when you work for somebody else, but the potential rewards are much greater too! But before you jump into consulting, it’s worth taking the time to really examine what it is about consulting that draws you, and precisely what it is you hope to accomplish – for yourself and others – by taking on the role of a new consultant.

Good luck on your new consultant journey!