How to Build a Consulting Career.


It doesn’t appear that the hiring market isn’t going to catch fire any time soon. I hope history will prove me wrong. I see many people desperate for work spending hours on low probability job pursuits, just to stay busy. People cold call me saying they are looking for work when I am not even a recruiter. Many people spend their time chasing vapor. Perhaps that time could be better suited building a consulting practice with a greater rate of return.

Consulting is not for all. Somebody once told me that a consultant is somebody who likes to have their feet firmly planted in mid air. It is like jumping off a cliff every month hoping you encounter somebody on the way down with an extra parachute.

So how do you build a consulting career? Well one of the most painful things that I had to learn in making the switch from the work world to the consulting world is that it is not your knowledge but your product that counts. “Hey I have a great resume and great experience. I’m smart. People will seek me out. I was stupid.” You can’t send people your resume when you are pitching a consulting gig because you need substance because those prospects expect you to produce substance for them.

You need to productize your knowledge. Ten years ago you needed collateral and a brochure. I think that is less important these days. My capabilities presentation is a Keynote presentation on my iPad. It is simple, affordable (except for the iPad), portable and makes an impression. My friend Ivan Torres created it for me.

Then you needed a site. My friend Dante Fiorini created the current Hank Blank site. Matt Desio the original one. I have had a personal site for about ten years now and people visit it according to Google Analytics but I can get more people reading a blog posting in one day than visit my site in one month. On a good month I get ten times more visitors to my blog than my site and people say they like my site.

Today many people may not need a website at all. You may be able to get away with a rock and roll Facebook page if you are in social media or have some types of practices.

Today I find that my LinkedIn profile is the core of my personal product and branding.  Often more people check me out on LinkedIn in one day than visit my site on any given day. I used to have a recommendations file when people asked for references. Now I just cut and paste the pertinent recommendations from my LinkedIn profile and email it to them.

Another piece of advice I can give is never to do anything yourself. Sounds like a nice life eh? Well if you consult I can guarantee you that you will work more than you have ever worked in your life but it will be a different kind of time.

What I mean is use other people’s expertise. I have shared what Dante and Ivan have done for me and they are just the start of my journey. Many people said to me many times you use a template and build your own site in four hours. Why would I want to do that? Don’t fall into that trap. I have scissors at home but I don’t cut my own hair. Use the best resources to produce the best product at the price you can afford. I have also always traded my expertise for their expertise when possible. Yes barter. People will do things for you if you try to make money for them.

An iron rule. You can never compromise your personal branding. If your card doesn’t make people smile it is not working. You need to be memorable and your card is what people take away. You don’t need to overthink it. The Hank Blank card with Blank on the back was created by my friend Ken Church and printed in four days.

It makes people smile or laugh all the time and smiles or laughs start relationships. All your materials need to impress people. Never cut corners with your personal brand. If you are using a free card from the internet you simply aren’t committed to yourself. Those types of cards will never make people smile or laugh. Just forget you. You can never compromise your personal brand. That is all you have when you start. Just you and your brand and some hope.

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6 thoughts on “How to Build a Consulting Career.

  1. I think this is your best post yet. I tweeted some of the best lines: I have scissors at home but don’t cut my own hair; and consulting…is like jumping off a cliff and hoping to find someone with an extra parachute on the way down. You’re on a roll.

    Of course confidence comes into play … you can roll with the highs and lows because you know that at some point your loyal customers will return and the ones you’ve recently impressed will hire you. It’s all good…when it’s not bad.

  2. Hank – a delight as always. Had breakfast today with a client whose feedback was that one “wrong” assignment can do more to harm your personal brand than five good ones. You must remain uber-protective of your personal brand as a consultant if you aim to succeed.

    I’ve gone so far as to put my “Brand Manifesto” or ethos on my site as a yardstick for clients and prospects.

    If I’m off-brand they’ve every right to use this document to call me on it.

    Keep up the great posts.

  3. Evolution: 10 years ago it was imperative to have your own website; now I read more of HBlank on blogs that are duplicated but welcome. Don’t believe I ever went to your website. (from a Hank Blank fan)

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