How to Improve your Consulting Career

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I have written a series of recent blogs on how to build a consulting career.   I started out with How to Create Job by Creating  a Consulting Career followed by How to Build a Consulting Career and recently More on Building a Consulting Career.

Here are some tips on building a consultant career.

One of the challenges with consulting is that many people say the practice is not scalable for single individuals or a limitation on capacity and growth.  A consultant is always time challenged between chasing new projects which upon completion stop generally income and the perpetual chase for the Yankee dollar.

To augment my resources I have always used paid interns.  I have done it for years.  First it was my kids and then a variety of college students. There have been many graduates of Blank and Associates.  What works best for me is students who live in close proximity to me and students who are studying marketing, public relations or advertising because that is in business I am in.

It’s a win win situation.  Students who recently graduated from college face the chicken or egg shuffle of “you have no experience.”  Working for me provides them with relevant experience and after a time they move on and get hired which is great for everyone.  I can also help them get a job by providing a working reference.

I basically try to assign as many task projects to them to save me time.  For example I write all of my own content but my interns help me by posting my blog in the discussions section of the fifty Linkedin groups I belong to.  I would be less inclined to spend the time to do that.  The more I distribute my content the more feedback I receive.

Why do something yourself that you can have a student do for you at $12 an hour? I am trying to make much more than that.

I find that students are also very social media and technology savvy which helps a lot.  They have helped me in many ways.  Everything from syncing my phone and iPad to loading apps on my devices to educating me on new technology to PowerPoint presentations.

I love it when they come to me and ask, “Have you ever thought of doing it this way?”  I generally change the way I do things because they may have a better idea. The learning is both up and down.

The other way is that I increase my scalability is because of my network.  One of the benefits of networking is that it saves you time and makes you more productive.  People think that is counter intuitive.  It takes time to get there and back, listen to the speaker etc.  They think that time would be better spent doing other things.

My network is so broad that I rarely have to research something and when I do I go to Jane Bayer at Factfinders who can find anything.  I don’t go to Google, I go to people.  I know people who have told me who to use celebrity talent, social media experts in all areas of expertise, proof readers, printers galore, and trade show suppliers.  Whatever it takes I can generally find quickly and efficiently.  There is a big difference in consulting betwen telling your client you are working on something versus having the answer.  So how broad are your resources?

More to come.  Hey this has been a journey of learning lots of lessons.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hankblank

Watch his video on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/MrHankblank

More On How to Build a Consulting Career.

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In my last blog I wrote that one of the first things I learned in developing a consulting career was that it is not your knowledge that is key to success but how your market yourself and your knowledge.

On my journey somebody once told me that the speakers that make the most money aren’t the ones that are the best speakers but the ones that are the best marketers.

To market yourself effectively you need a plan. When I first started out I think that my business plan was mostly in my head. This was a little surprising because in my work career I was often responsible for developing written plans.

Over the course of my consulting career this evolved.  Today I definitely have a written plan but it is not what you would expect.  My plan is a visual map which is on the back of my office door and is about four feet long. It is a collage of presentation pad sheets.  It sits upon last year’s plan which is about two feet long.  It is basically a bunch of drawings, words and circles done in crayons and magic marker and not a list.

My great trainer and coach, Judith Westerfield, lead me to the understanding that as a creative person I would implement my plan better by having a visual expression of what I wanted to accomplish versus a list of tasks.  She was right. You have to visualize to realize. There are sections where I have total clarity. They are my foundation elements.  Then there are various other visual clusters that represent my objectives and the core attitude that I need to maintain to achieve my goals.

My plan keeps me on track.  One of my 2011 goals was to speak in Canada.  I recently spoke to the Petroleum Joint Venture Association in Calgary so I took a step in that direction.  Other things I have not accomplished yet but at least I have a loose structure of where I am going.

It is funny but I often show it to new interns that work for me and they totally get what I am trying to do almost immediately.  Maybe they have a youthful clarity.

The next step to developing a consulting practice is to get out of the house.  This is difficult for most people because computers can keep you trapped at home sending out e mails that delude you into thinking you are connecting with people.  People don’t remember e mails, they remember people.  Many people love to hide behind their computers but to succeed in consulting you need to get out there.  There was an old expression that sales people should have small desks so they don’t sit at them but are out and about.  Consultants should be outside people versus inside people.  They should be finders first versus grinders.  That will come later.

You will succeed or fail in your consulting career based on the power of your network.  I have written many articles on the power of networking.  My network has sustained me.  During the ten plus years of my consulting practice I have never had a call saying, “Hank I am a total stranger and I want to do business with you.”  I have had calls saying I got your name from Mary or Sally or Bill and those calls lead to new opportunities.

My advice is simple on the networking front.  Schedule five meetings a day when you start consulting.  Two will get cancelled and you will end up with three meeting a day.  Each of those people on average will give you two names which ends up being 6 names a day. If you follow that practice on a daily basis you will connect with 30 people in a week and 120 in a month.  If you networked with that purpose for a year you would be a very connected person.  Possible? Yes. Powerful?  Well let me ask you a simple question.  “How would your life change if you met one new person a day?’

More to come.  Hey this has been a journey of learning lots of lessons.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hankblank

Watch his video on YouTube  http://www.youtube.com/user/MrHankblank