Why You Need to Work with a Consultant

You network, you use social media, you’ve done a joint venture, and you work with other freelancers to handle your workload. You’re all set and teamed up with professionals, right?

Sorry, no.

The professionals who can do you the most good in the shortest period of time aren’t peers – they’re advisors. I’m talking about consultants, the people whose job it is to help you earn more money, save more time, get more clients, stand out from the crowd, push your business, and take it to the next level.

Freelancers avoid consultants. They often think they can’t afford consultants in the first place. Money isn’t always pouring in, competition is tough and gigs can be hard to win. So they try to be do-it-yourselfers, learning from blogs, ebooks, and other sources of free information.

That’s great, but here’s are the problems with that kind of thinking: You have to figure out how to apply that information to your business. You’ll need the time to figure it out. And if you’re short on money, you’re definitely short on time. You also don’t actually have the expertise you need to figure out the best way to use that information, and you’re likely to screw it up.

Those screw-ups cost you money.

It’s better to hire a consultant. Consultants have a mission, and it’s to figure out the right strategy for your business. They’re experts, they know how to apply the principles to different companies and different people, and they can make sure you don’t make any costly mistakes.

In fact, the expertise of consultants is going to make you money. If you hire a good consultant, you’ll get back what you paid that person several times over in new clients or sales for your business.

It’s called making an investment. And it’s time more freelancers got on board.

A consultant’s job isn’t to soak up your cash. It’s to get you new clients, new projects, new referrals and better success – quickly. That’s the big point here. Most freelancers put off hiring a consultant because they don’t think they can afford one – so they keep scrimping along with their hopeful strategies for months, even years.

Meanwhile, that professional consultant could have showed the freelancer a new strategy that made an extra thousand dollars every month – more than enough to pay for the consultant’s fee and still have lots left over.

Even better? Consultants can do that in a week. Sometimes a day. Sometimes even in just an hour.

Let’s recap that: If you don’t hire a consultant, your financial situation doesn’t improve. If you do hire a consultant, you put up a fee in advance, and your financial situation does improve. Permanently. Not just this month, but every month thereafter.

Freelancers do have one theory right, though: Good consultants aren’t cheap. Personally, I set aside $500 to $1,500 to start with.

I know. Setting aside $500 and then spending that money on something other than that flat screen TV you were eyeing is hard. It doesn’t sound appealing. It’s not immediately gratifying. What we get from that expense isn’t tangible. It’s just… advice and more work.

Here’s the thing: That advice and that work are specifically designed to make you more money. The consultant’s mission is to bring you some serious dollars for your investment. Their whole career is about taking your $500 and turning it into $1,500 – not just once, but many times over – and with a lot less effort and much faster than you could trying to figure it out on your own.

Think about the kind of flat screen TV you could get for yourself then.

Most freelancers think they have to hire a consultant for the long haul, so they don’t hire anyone if they feel they can’t pay for a consult that month, the next, and the one after.

Here’s a newsflash: Most consultants can give you tangible results in a single session. A website critique, a business consult, or a copywriting audit gives you a substantial report packed with info and suggestions for improvements for one a flat fee.

Some experts may want to tune in and adjust your strategy now and then, or check in to see how you’re doing and where they could suggest tweaks that create even more impact, but even that doesn’t need to be a monthly expense. You can work with a consultant to get a schedule and a billing cycle that works for both of you. This doesn’t have to be a drain.

If you really can’t afford to hire a consultant right now, then make it a goal to be able to afford it soon. Start setting aside 10% of your earnings from every project you work on. Even people working at 5$ articles can use this method. Start building up that pot of money to hire an expert.

Then hire one. And you’ll find out that their advice was worth every penny – because your profits increase.

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. Thanks for writing this James. There is so much that a consultant can do for a business and it’s long benefits can be astounding if you put into practice his/her suggestions and recommendations.
    .-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..Weekend Reading: My fav’s from this week: 3/12/10 =-.

  2. One other point I’d like to add James is that often you’re too close to your business yourself and you need that outside view. Someone who is not involved in your business, who doesn’t have the emotional hold on it that you do.

    Just like in personal relationships, having someone from outside who can look in – with their expertise and experience – they’ll see a lot clearer than you looking from the inside of the situation. Usually they’ll have dealt with other similar situations and will have a whole arsenal of techniques and strategies that you’d never have thought of to use!
    .-= Melinda | SuperWAHM´s last blog ..Why a Business Plan Will Save Your A$$ =-.

  3. Any recs? 🙂

    Personally, I get excited when I spend money on building my business. I could care less about a flat screen TV though, heh.

    I’m still not 100% sure what the difference is between a coach and a consultant. I gather that consultants talk straight business, while coaches talk about your feelings and stuckness in addition to the specifics of your business.

    I am currently in 2 membership sites that I joined with the aim of improving my business, but hiring a coach or consultant is also on my to do list. I’m just not sure who to hire.

  4. @Kathleen – As a matter of fact…

    Heather Villa (www.hireheathervilla.com) *points up* is someone I’ve worked with several times and who I’d recommend hands down for business or financial consultantcy.

    IAC Professionals (www.iacprofessionals.com) (full disclosure: Heather owns it): She also helps with accounting, virtual assistance and other good stuff. (The woman has five degrees, for pete’s sake!).

    Kelly Erickson of Maximum Customer Service (www.maximumcustomerservice.com) does these kick-ass web audit reports on customer experience and works with me now when we create our drive-by critiques. She’s helped me develop a couple of brand-new businesses in my empire and it’s saved me a ton of time.

    Note: A customer experience web audit is NOT to be confused with a drive-by – Kelly figures out who the idea customer is and needs to see in a site; a drive-by figures out what’s not working with the site and suggests improvements.

    Oh, I also recommend us for our drive-by critiques. There are a lot of sites out there who could do with one of those.

    Dave Navarro of The Launch Coach (www.thelaunchcoach.com) on how to really push your services/products to get more out of them, and how to build your online business to SELL.

    Naomi of Itty Biz (www.ittybiz.com) for fast, off-the-cuff, on-the-fly marketing advice that makes you go, “Oh shit, what a great idea…”

  5. (Disclaimer: I know TONS of great people with fantastic specialties. If I didn’t name you, it’s not because I didn’t think you were good.)

  6. Cool, thanks! There are a few people I haven’t heard of on that list, so I’m going to check them out. I’m still not finished with my site, so I won’t be needing a drive-by quite yet, but I’m definitely going to keep it in mind for the future.
    .-= Kathleen K. O’Connor´s last undefined ..Response cached until Mon 15 @ 12:16 GMT (Refreshes in 11 Minutes) =-.

  7. A good article but you’ve danced around the hard fact that there are a lot of crappy consultants out there.

    A top tip for finding a really good consultant is via referrals from people in similar sized businesses. (If you’re a small company you don’t want to go to the biggest accounting firm in the world, stick with someone who has lots of clients that are of similar size to you.)

    Good luck to all.

  8. @Craig – I actually disagree with you. Most of my poor experiences are with similar sized businesses and consultants that have been referred to me. Anyone who says, “My friend,” is a huge red-warning flag.

    Every single consultant I’ve worked with that has gotten me *serious* results has been from someone who has a larger business and a serious company. Think about it: Someone who is the same size as you may not be the person you need to help you grow.

  9. Michael Martine says:

    If your consultant is more affordable than you are, something’s wrong. 🙂

    I felt like you were speaking for me as I read this. Kudos!
    .-= Michael Martine´s last blog ..Six Ways To Get People Tweeting About Your Blog Launch =-.

  10. James, what’s the difference between a consultant and a coach? or are they pretty much the same?

    I invest in coaches. I get into a person’s group coaching program if I *think* I can’t afford individual sessions.

    You’re right, investing in my business has really paid off. However, you need to pick the right people. I usually look at the person’s free stuff first, look at where they are in their own business (I only want to learn from people who are where I want to be). And the rest of it, I just follow my intuition. Does it “feel” right?

    If you find somebody you really want to learn from but think you can’t afford them, I suggest making a list of stuff you can sell on ebay so you CAN afford them 😉
    .-= Lexi Rodrigo´s last blog ..Do You Really Need A Long Sales Page? =-.

  11. No way do i mean to discourage the consultancy practice but I feel we must also look at a higher human value based perspective. Beancounting or focusing on profits is okay but it shouldn’t come at the expense of organizational values. Would a consultancy firm look beyond strategies and the profits earned by applying them? I doubt. Sometimes, firms need to ‘take care’ and do the right thing instead of thinking about expansion and profits. I read a Harvard Business Review blog on the topic a few days back and it touched my heart so i felt it was important to share. Nevertheless, that’s just the author’s perspective and I strongly back it. Here’s the link if you wanna read it:

    http://blogs.hbr.org/haque/2010/02/the_wisdom_planifesto.html?utm

  12. Coaching and Consulting are two different creatures – and mentoring is yet another. Yet while they’re all different, there’s a lot of overlap as well.

    Very much simplified:

    Consultants – are experienced in the subject that is being discussed and will tell you what you should do. “Ok, you need to do a, b and c. Then we’ll look at xyz”

    Coaches – don’t tell the client what to do. They facilite the client finding and implementing their own solutions. “What do you want to do? What’s the fastest way to get there? What’s it going to do for you?” They’re the motivators, accountability expert, communication expert and personal cheer squad. They’ll stretch you and ask more of you than you thought you could do. No matter what field of coaching it is, life, business, executive, whatever, the process and strategies are the same – it’s just the focus that is different.

    Mentors – someone who is in your field but a lot further ahead than you. They’ll guide you, teach you, introduce you to others. They’ve been there and done that, you’re basically following in their footsteps.

    I really need to go and write a full post about this, I’ve been saying I would for ages and it’d be nice to have a good resource to point people to.
    .-= Melinda | SuperWAHM´s last blog ..Why a Business Plan Will Save Your A$$ =-.

  13. @James

    A bit long winded but I want to clarify…

    You are right about the “I recommend my friend” bit. That’s not the sort of referral I meant. I was talking about other (successful) people who are happy to recommend a professional consultant who has helped them, and not their idiot cousin.

    As they say, size matters, and I’ll explain why. I had a poor experience when I was starting out and we went to one of the “Big 8” accounting firms for consulting. I would not recommend a size-mismatch like this because:

    A. Their experience is dealing with big companies, not small ones, and their advice tends to reflect that. Many times we were given advice that was impractical for a small operator to implement.
    B. Their invoices were horrendous and when I made mention of this was told that “that was what they usually charged but we’ll see what they could do”… After 6 months of further impractical advice from them I let them know we were terminating our relationship. They took umbrage and sent me an invoice for $18.000 with the message that until it was paid in full they would not release our ledgers/journals.

    My experience is by no means isolated. I was probably naive (I was certainly young) but I won’t be making this mistake again and would like others to avoid the same.

    If you are saying that you want a consultant you can grow into, and not out of, then we’re both on the same page.

  14. @Craig – We’re totally on the same page then. Yes, you want a consultant you can grow into (and hopefully even outgrow!).

    But, is that truly a size mismatch or a “you’re not our ideal customer and we don’t really know how to help you” mismatch? My turn to explain!

    I once hired a consultant with some credentials that were pretty seriously strong. And, this person did help, a great deal. I still apply some of the cousel today.

    But this person had no experience working with freelancers, who have a very different mindset and work ethic than companies. The information was valid. The application was a FUBAR.

    Within a few weeks, there were soft mutters from the team. I chalked it up to “change is tough” and held firm. But I realized, later on, that they were totally on board with change… they just didn’t want to become a cubicle company and didn’t become freelancers to achieve that goal. That’s what they *left*.

    And that’s what they saw happening. The fit wasn’t in the size or the expertise. It was in the customer experience and a mismatch of ultimate goals.

    We had to backtrack. We lost a lot of ground. We had to alter some of what we did, keep the good stuff, toss the bad. And the fact that I stood up and said, “I want my team to feel happy and comfortable” got me a huge sigh of happy relief, and a team that’s behind me all the way.

    The consultant I work with today? Knows freelancers and people, and totally has the team on board and on her side. They’re coming to ME with ideas and suggestions, looking for ways to improve and change, instead of just watching change happen.

    Now that’s a good consultant.

  15. So how come people in big corporations, the ones that CAN afford consultants – how come they all hate consultants?

  16. Hi James,

    Yes, I believe in investing in my business! Many small business owners keep their money tight to the vest and since what goes around comes around, they don’t get very far. Handing over money helps me take myself more seriously. Whenever I’ve done it the money has returned to me either right away or a few months later.

    I do not barter. It’s a way for small biz owners to not get comfortable spending money on their businesses.

    Thx. G.
    .-= Giulietta Nardone´s last blog ..Three keys to success and happiness! =-.

  17. @Simon Townley

    “So how come people in big corporations, the ones that CAN afford consultants – how come they all hate consultants?”

    What gives you that idea?

  18. I agree with this wholeheartedly. As someone said previously, sometimes you’re too close to your business and you need a different perspective. I can imagine as a freelancer it would be quite difficult sometimes brainstorming by yourself, coming up with ideas and having no one to bounce them against.

  19. eddie ng says:

    those big corporations have their own technical and business support team, most of them. a consultant is just a extra QA for the business. i found that some of the consultant also fresh and not advisable.

  20. Thanks James! I totally agree with you. Hiring a consultant is essential for freelancers as they are the people who guide them in taking right projects and talk to others on their behalf.
    .-= Web design firm´s last blog ..30 Eye-catching Corporate Web Designs =-.

  21. Hi James,

    Great post. I completely agree with you.

    We usually call this form of advice and guidance Business Coaching (which is a separate discipline from Executive Coaching) … and this involves the provision of advice, guidance and consultancy to achieve specific, agreed-upon business goals and objectives. As you say, incredible value can be gained from a single session although it is often the ongoing provision of this consultancy that can create incredible momentum and lead to significant improvements in business performance.

    Best regards,
    David
    .-= David Kerr´s last blog ..What’s the Difference Between Executive Coaching and Business Coaching? =-.

  22. Hi James,

    After reading the article and all the comments (great by the way), these are my feelings.

    I agree that the fit has to be right, but most importantly the consultant must understand how freelancers work. Too many freelancers have been caught out by consultants who don’t understand the mechanics of their business model. This just generates the fear that all consultants are the same, expensive and a waste of money, which is obviously not the case.

    If these aspects are ok, then the consultant can provide a fresh perspective that the business owners might not fully appreciate (wood from trees, letting go etc) and their company can then benefit immensely.

    With these rapidly changing marketplaces, it is also crucial that Consultants are proactive. This ensures that the freelancers business will always continue to move forward and grow in the right direction.
    .-= spain seo´s last blog ..Welcome to the Spain SEO Blog =-.

  23. As a consultant myself I really think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. I’ve changed some of my business model in recent weeks as I recognise that not all clients want time measured in days, so I’m now offering time by the hour. Because sometimes a busy business person just wants to chat things through and an hour works fine.
    .-= Matthew Needham´s last blog ..Lessons from Lady Gaga and Luke Skywalker =-.

  24. I agree with this concept, but there are some areas where care needs to be taken. Freelancing isn’t something all consultants can advise on. You need to pick the correct person. You also need to be prepared to invest for your return – five hundred or a thousand dollars doesn’t get very much in the way of consulting (at least good consulting)

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  2. […] Why You Need to Work with a Consultant – As a consultant, I found this post to a breath of fresh air.  Many people think hiring a consultant is out of their reach and not cost effective. Yes, hiring a consult does cost money, but the benefits you reap will last long after your consulting period has ended. As James so clearly points out, “Consultants have a mission, and it’s to figure out the right strategy for your business. They’re experts, they know how to apply the principles to different companies and different people, and they can make sure you don’t make any costly mistakes.” […]

  3. […] 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. […]

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