How to Break into Independent Consulting Today: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Consulting in 2019

Consulting has been around for a long time. As long as there has been business, there have been people who specialise in telling others how to do their business better.

The truth is that consulting is a desperately needed industry, and never more so than now. The economy won’t stop changing and very few people know how to keep up. If you have ever thought about becoming an independent consultant, this is the year! The opportunities are everywhere, but only for those who understand what they need to do. This is your guide to the good, the bad and the ugly of consulting in 2019.

The Good of Independent Consulting in 2019: Opportunities are Everywhere

Consulting is currently going through something of a boom. As a sector, it has grown faster than the baseline economy for four years in a row. There are now more opportunities than ever before for people who understand what they’re doing, know how the economy is changing, and can help firms adapt to these new conditions. If there is a time to break into consulting, it is now.

With changes in the nature of the economy and the shift toward ever greater specialisation, niche firms and independent practices are the fastest growing segment of the consulting industry. The pay is good too. Although the average consultant working in a large consulting firm will only make around £50k per year, skilled independent consultants can expect to earn more than £300k.

By delivering tailored solutions and approaching businesses with specialist and wide skill set, independent consultants have an opportunity to offer better solutions while being able to operate alone, rather than as apart of an expensive team.

Firms want talented individuals who can help them navigate complex marketplaces and deliver results. For those who understand their industry inside and out, there has never been a better time to get started. If that is you, this is the year to start a consulting business.

The Bad of Independent Consulting in 2019: Opportunities are Everywhere!

You aren’t the only person to realise the opportunities in consulting. Nor are you the only person to see the career choice benefits of becoming a business owner, setting your own hours, being your own boss and determining your own work environment. Thanks to the lucrative pay packages and potential for high consultant salaries, many expert professionals are now looking at how they too can become an independent consultant — embracing self-employment and starting a consulting business. The more competition, the more difficult it becomes for independent consultants to differentiate themselves from the rest of the market — so what can be done?

The key to overcoming these obstacles and becoming a full-time consultant is building a personal brand and networking. By building personal relationships, you will leapfrog the competition. Then, by delivering results, you will draw clients back, time and time again. Happy clients will recommend your services, giving you that critical edge when meeting new people and getting new clients.

But, what does good networking look like before you get your first client? Simply pitching your skills and services to everyone in your network is probably a bad idea. The ‘cold sell’ is not how you win business. Instead, next time you meet someone, listen to their needs and think carefully about how you could assist them professionally. Networking in the right way means considering your own skills and then thinking dispassionately about whether they could be of genuine use to another firm. You need to use face-to-face meeting and social media, particularly LinkedIn.

As you speak to people, reveal your ability to consult. Show them in real time that you can address their concerns and relieve their “pain points” by giving them real advice that they can really use. Doing so proves that ‘consultant’ is more than a job title and that you have the necessary skills to help their business thrive, immediately gaining their trust.

Remember, although there is a drive towards greater specialisation in both industry and consulting, today’s firms need consultants who can take a broad approach. Think about the skills that might be needed in your target industry and then ask yourself what you are meaningfully able to deliver. A tech firm, for instance, might need a consultant who understands leadership in the context of a dynamic and unpredictable market. Having a wide skill base allows you to tap into the driving force behind the phenomenal growth in independent consulting.

The Ugly of Independent Consulting in 2019: OPPORTUNITIES ARE EVERYWHERE!

With so many new entrants into the independent consulting market, consultants have sought to differentiate themselves by offering niche services. But, this creates two problems for consultants: it can cause them to think they need to choose a specialisation immediately and it can lead to long-term projects.

Although choosing a specialism can be helpful, it ultimately limits the number of projects you can take on and should only be done with a very specific a valuable skill set. Equally, only having a handful of clients reduces the number of people who can “evangelise” your business. It can sometimes land you in a position where you are just an employee without a real contract. Neither of these are good outcomes.

A better approach is to cultivate a range of relationships with people across a large number of businesses. Drip feed them examples of your knowledge while, at the same time, holding back any advice that you could potentially get paid for. Look for contracts that have shorter time horizons (at least to begin with), helping to maximise your exposure over time and establish a reputation throughout the industry.

Partnerships Can Deliver What is Needed to Get the Best of Everything When Becoming an Independent Consultant

2019 is a great year to break into consulting. The industry is expanding, and, although there is competition, that is likely only to increase. The opportunities are there. You just need the mindset and skills to make it happen. Simply make sure that you don’t fall prey to any number of traps that could undermine your success.

Associate programs and partnerships can help a great deal in this regard. Not only do they make it easy to take advantage of these opportunities, but they can also help consultants achieve their true potential with the right training and networking advice. You can enhance your brand and grab some of the reputational stability that attracts clients to established consulting houses, while maintaining your personal brand that leaves you in control and your clients assured of your skills and your value.

But, new consultants need to be aware of the differences within this category of opportunities. Not everything that calls itself an associate programme or partnership is the same thing. If you want to maintain your independence and client relationships, make sure that the friends you make are as invested in that outcome as you are.

If you pick the right partners, you should be able to retain the benefits of working independently while at the same time getting access to the resources of a much larger consulting firm — including access to support staff and network support. With a little research, joining an associate programme might be the move that will help you stand out in the crowd. Get out there and get started today!




Positive Momentum Partners team provides structured support and training to former corporate executives, leaders and independent consultants who have the ambition to build their independent consultancy practice but don’t want to do it entirely on their own.

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