Should You Really Call Yourself a Consultant?

Should You Really Call Yourself a Consultant?

These days, it’s cool to be a consultant. Everyone’s becoming one. Hey, it’s the easy path to fast cash, right?

You write a sales page, you promote your new service, and you become an expert. Simple.

And most likely, you rock. Your fans and friends tell you that all the time, so it must be true. And they’re great too, and you tell the world all the time about your fantastic consulting clients. It’s a nice way to market your services and get other people wanting to sign up, but it’s true! You love them!

Why wouldn’t you? Fast cash, remember?

People fall for fake consultants constantly. They have no way of knowing who’s good and who’s just playing around.

I worked years to build my skills and round out my experience online before even attempting consulting. I had decades more business experience from my offline careers as well. I didn’t offer consulting until I was sure I wouldn’t screw things up for my clients.

Other people? Meh. They don’t give a damn. I see bad advice flying around. There are some good ideas, and that’s great if you feel like experimenting with them, and there’s lots of support and encouragement, and that’s wonderful.

But ideas, experiments and encouragement do not a consultant make.

A peer of mine recently asked me to listen to the recording of a consult she’d received. So I did… and it had been bad advice. Wrong, all wrong. Just plain faulty with a lack of perspective, not much business sense, and way too many warm, fluffy fuzzies.

I wrote her a blunt email that went something like this:

“Just listened to that audio file and I wanted to let you know I HIGHLY counsel you ignore everything that consultant said. She’s suggesting a marketing message and strategy that’s totally wrong for the target market you’re aiming for. That is NOT your target market. Forget everything you heard on that call.”

Like I said: Wrong. All wrong.

I got a reply back from my peer that made me heave a sigh of relief: “Don’t worry. I know the market she was talking about, and I know they can’t afford me.”

And then she wrote something that stopped me in my tracks: “I also think she was talking about herself. She’s building something similar to what I’m aiming for, and it sounded like she was giving herself advice as she talked it through on the call.”

Wow. A consultant subconsciously self-consulting? Doesn’t surprise me a bit.

But it does scare me.

How many consultants are out there being paid to talk about themselves? They don’t ask about your target market – they assume it’s the same as theirs. They don’t ask about your concerns and fears – they assume they’re the same as the ones they feel. They don’t ask many questions about what type of business you have, how you run it or what your problems are – they figure they know most of that already.

They sound smart, these consultants – to people who don’t know any different, of course. Get on a call with one of them and they sound wise and sage as they say things like, “I know; I’ve been there! You should…”

Authoritative statements carry authority. They’re powerful. People listen and follow. (And if they don’t, in most cases they still nod and agree the “expert” must be right.) But just because you know how to sound like an expert doesn’t mean you should be offering your expertise.

Any idiot can grab a Skype line and tell people what to do. And that, my dears, is when sh** becomes dangerous.

If you don’t know how to carry out a proper consultations, which questions to ask, and which potential solutions are best, then you’re just pretending – and you can cause other peoples’ business some serious damage.

If you’re talking through your own issues and masking it as advice to someone else, you need to stop. Stop your consulting and fix your damned problems. Don’t use other people’s businesses as test grounds to see if your ideas might work.

And for the love of Pete, don’t do self-help on a consultation call.

Consulting is hard – very hard. Don’t think it’s easy. You might get lucky, sure. You might work with a few people who admire you, want to be just like you and ask to learn to do what you do. In that case, your advice might help. You might get customers that are in such desperate need that any help is good help.

Even when it’s bad advice.

But be honest with yourself. When you get a customer about whose business you know nothing, say nothing. Tell them you can’t take this consult on. Admit that you don’t know enough about their business or understand enough about what they do. Fess up that you don’t know their target market. Or what goals they seek. Or which tactics and strategies might help them reach it.

Too many people are out there playing consultant when they really have no right to be doing so. They have good ideas, that’s all. And sometimes those ideas might actually be worthy of trying out.

But if you’re not a true consultant and if people actually act on the advice you just tossed off without thinking, they’ll struggle. They’ll pick up the wrong clients, reach the wrong rewards and end up in a business quite far from their original plans.

They may even fail.

All because you thought you were a consultant.

Sorry, you’re not. You’re just someone with a buy-now button.

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.