Five Tips Before You Hire a Consultant

Recently, I discussed how freelancers often hinder themselves by being too tight with their money, trying to bootstrap to get ahead. Sometimes an expense is an investment, and hiring a consultant can flip your business right onto Easy Street.

But hang on a second. Don’t run out and hire a consultant just yet. First you’ll need an idea of what you’re looking for – and how to know when you’ve found it.

You Need a Good Business Fit First

If you’re a freelancer, choosing to work with an expert who has never worked on the internet, has never worked with online businesses or who has never been exposed to the freelancing lifestyle is a big mistake. The advice you get might be rock-solid, but if it just isn’t applicable to your business model, that good advice becomes as good as useless.

It could even end up causing damage to your business as you try to fit the square-shaped suggestions into your round-shaped business.

Been there, done that. I don’t recommend it.

You Need Someone Who Understands Your Lifestyle

Before you hire a consultant, make sure this person understands what it’s like to be a freelancer. He or she needs to already have a good idea of the kind of lifestyle you have, including the fact that you don’t work 9 to 5 hours, the type of industry struggles you face, and the typical financial concerns of freelancers, like the feast or famine roller coaster.

You shouldn’t have to explain how freelancers work. Your consultant should already know.

To that end, your consultant should have done their homework when it comes to you. Any consultant worth his or her salt checks out a potential new client before walking into that first meeting, and that’s a good indicator that this consultant is ready to help you – instead of handing you the exact same spiel they give all their clients.

If they haven’t done time in the trenches with many people in your field, that’s okay – but it’s essential that your consultant has at least put in the research to discuss your business with you easily.

You Need a Flexible Perspective

That said, don’t discredit experts who mostly work with brick-and-mortar establishments. Many business principles apply to any type of business, virtual or not, and what you learn from the expert who works for the store down the street can be just as valuable to your online storefront.

A good indicator is that the brick-and-mortar businesses your consultant works with also have online presences, and that he or she has the chops to get results in that venue. Your consultant may be incredibly talented, but if they’re not even sure what Twittter is for or all the components that go into a website, you’re probably not going to get what you need for your online business.

You Need a Specialist

I highly recommend working with consultants who have a specialization. Generalists tend not to be as skilled as specialists who do one thing, and one thing only. Specialists hone right in on exactly what you need, and they don’t spread themselves thin.

Ask about their particular qualifications, credentials, or any specialized areas of knowledge that might be especially useful to your business. Your consultant doesn’t need to have degree to prove his or her worth – some of the best experts I’ve met are self-educated and self-taught pros – but they should be able to explain which of their skills will be most valuable to you, and to give you some idea of how they earned those skills.

You Need to Feel Comfortable in the Nude

Finally, make sure that you feel comfortable with the consultant. Since consultants are going to be behind the scenes of your company, they’re going to be privy to a lot of sensitive information or business plans. It’s like dropping your pants and standing naked in front of the person, so you should have a good feeling that you can trust this person not to laugh, criticize or go whisper behind your back.

Professional, expert help is worth every penny, and it’s worth spending now, not later. These people’s job is to make your life more efficient, more productive, more lucrative – just plain better. Their whole career is about taking your $500 and helping you turn that investment into $1,500 – not just once, but many times over.

Even better? With expert help, it happens with a lot less effort and much faster than you could have done on your own.

Need a team ready to help you invest in yourself? Contact us today – we’ll help your website make your life more efficient, more productive and more lucrative so you can reach your goals of success.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. Its the first time i read your post and i’m impressed. All the above tips are very helpful in choosing a consultant. Especially you point “choosing to work with an expert who has never worked on the internet, has never worked with online businesses or who has never been exposed to the freelancing lifestyle is a big mistake”
    .-= Web design firm´s last blog ..20+ Awesome Photoshop Tutorials Created In 2010 =-.

  2. Hi James,

    I am James too :)

    I agree it is very important to have an understanding of what you are doing before you jump right into things. I see more and more people being sucked in by “Work at Home” schemes to be an affiliate marketer or otherwise. And yes there are still and will always be plenty of opportunities but with out the knowledge of what you are doing. (which most “Learn how to work at home programs” fail to provide” You will definitely fail. I ended up using one of the Website Consultants from Cyber-solverZ which although got the job done I always wonder if I could have gotten more.

    I think I will be trying your services on my next venture.

    BTW love the Captain Jack quote at the bottom there. (he is one hell of a pirate) lol

  3. Nice article James. I wish people were more careful when they pick their consultants. Then they wouldn’t be so frustrated before coming to us :)

    P.S. The picture scared me :D

  4. I agree that the right consultant can make a big difference. I use consultants selectively, for a specific purpose and for a specific time.

    For me it’s about getting the best return on investment for my time and money.
    .-= John Soares´s last blog ..Problogger’s Darren Rowse on Successful Foundations of a Blog =-.

  5. I needed this article today, thanks. I’ve been trying to swim through my goals and business plan, consultants, and lifestyle experts to figure out what exactly I need. I think the most obvious is that I need someone who completely gets what I’m doing and isn’t trying to steer me into a completely different direction.

  6. i can see how that would really come into play. i can see how they might not understand the lifestyle of a freelancer. thanks for the post.

  7. Sound advice about how to choose a consultant. I can’t imaging hiring a consultant without specialization… otherwise, what’s the point?
    .-= Mark Dykeman´s last blog ..The essential skills that every thoughtwrestler needs =-.

  8. I think it is the most important to have a consultant understand you and your needs. If that consultant doesn’t then you are in for a lot of arguments and misunderstandings. I think this should be made a priority.

  9. Can I add that you have to be willing and able to listen to what the consultant says? Also, let me add that you have to be willing to change. Else, ask yourself if you’re just asking the consultant to rubber stamp your current business practices and methods.
    .-= Phil Simon´s last blog ..Travails of a Technology Consultant #9 – Book Release Party =-.

  10. I appreciate the emphasis on having a consultant be the right fit for the business owner and the right fit for the type of business at hand, as well as making the consulting fee almost free by the return that the client receives.

    So, pants down to you James (or hats off I suppose) for showing us that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all consultant and that we need to keep our eyes peeled for the right fit to our businesses.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire
    .-= Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire´s last blog ..Small Business Advice From a Junkie? =-.

  11. @JamesK – Agreed; I see a lot of people get involved in all sorts of businesses and then suddenly realizing that they actually need to work at it – and have no idea how to do that, or how to make it work. They usually just drop the biz and lose the money, which is terribly discouraging!

    @Dena – I tried to choose the sexiest ankles possible…

    @John – Exactly so. I very much like consultants that offer me a fast, couple of weeks help that gets me a leap ahead.

    @Susan – If I might be so bold, the best possible consultant in your case might be… you. Take a step back. Put everything on hold. Get away for a couple of days. Try to remember what you wanted to do in the first place, and why you wanted to do it. Think about ONE thing that you would need help with to get you to that place. Then come back, and pick ONE person in THAT area only to help you get there.

    Because I do understand – sometimes all the advice can be incredibly overwhelming. One consultant at a time is the way to go :)

    @Mark – A lot of people think they get more for their money when they hire generalists that dabble a bit in everything. And while those people do offer results, I think it’s more effective to get twice the results from one person.

    @Michelle – Tell me about it. I hired a consultant once that nearly brought my whole team to mutiny. They were pretty unhappy and feeling like their needs weren’t being met. Not fun! (Don’t worry, they’re all happy now!)

    @Phil – I don’t know – can you? ;) Kidding. Those are two very good points. Consultants do tend to bring in new ways of doing things and those may seem impossible at first… but always be willing to try for at least two weeks and really giving it everything you’ve got for a fighting chance. You might be surprised, eh!

    @Joshua – Pants down, man. That’s awesome. That should go right up there with Niebu.

  12. Hi James,

    It was helpful to read your post. Knowing where you want to be and what you need help with before hiring a consultant is crucial.

    It’s always good to give a prospective consultant a test. They should know much more than you on that particular subject you need help with and be able to prove it.

    Sometimes the so called experts are experts in name only.

    Once the right match is found the money spend is indeed a good investment.

    Vance
    .-= Vance Sova´s last blog ..Marketing With Alex 3.0 Preview, Gurus Nightmare Alex’s New Ebook =-.

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