Let me start by saying that I am not out to offend contractors or freelancers, because there has to be a place in the market for all of us. Some clients will only engage contractors to fulfil quite specific work and arguably work that’s not particularly consultative.
And for some clients the word "consultant" conjures up a less than warm feeling. When did you last hear a good consultant story? Very unlikely, and a topic that I will address in a later article.
Returning to contractors and freelancers, let me contrast them with consultants.
I define a consultant as someone who has set up a business. Someone who markets, sells and delivers whilst building a business and kicking in on to even greater heights. Someone who really invests in their business.
I define a contractor/freelancer as someone who is less likely to do that. Someone who largely trades off a resume rather than a website.
I have already acknowledged that there are two markets, but unfortunately over in ‘client land’ these markets are not as clear cut as I have defined.
They are ‘muddied’ by how the selling process is conducted - the consultant will enter into a consultative discussion resulting in a proposal, whereas the contractor vends a commoditised offer with a quotation. And the point of difference in ‘client land’ is largely down to price.
All of this is not helped by a general lack of rigour in choosing consultants which is the basis for one of my tips.
So what do you, the consultant, need to do to fend-off the contractor/freelancer? Here are my eight tips that will help to expand the points of difference.
#1 - Demonstrate that you are also a business.
That you are on the same page as the client when it comes to being in business, regardless of the difference in size. So the discussion is between two equals, two business people equals. Your all-round business skills of marketing, selling and doing must be clearly displayed.
#2 - Conduct a professional consultative dialogue.
By deploying all of your consultative skill-set –diagnosis, decision-making, interactivity, persuasion, and communications.
#3 - Emphasise experience.
By showing that you have served your time in your subject area, and you have got the runs on the board... so you really have established your credentials to operate as a consultant.
#4 - Arm yourself with more than a business card.
Make sure that the client knows about your website, and has a copy of a brochure and/or flyers about your services. You must have quality marketing collateral.
#5 - Have your ‘points of view’ ready.
Your intellectual property is a precious resource. Leverage it well and develop points of view on matters of strategic, tactical or operational concern. Debate these with your client.
#6 - Mention your insurances.
All consultants carry professional indemnity insurance, contractors/freelancers are less likely to do so.
#7 - Have a code of conduct.
Have a code of conduct - a set of professional principles. Most consultants belong to professional associations, which have codes of conduct that you should visibly display.
#8 - Educate the client buyer.
Have the client produce a brief. Ask them to consider the role of the consultant. Get them to picture the consultant, in terms of; values, skills, knowledge, experience, personal perspectives. Make sure that you really understand their problem / opportunity.
Each one of these tips extends the points of difference between you, the consultant, and the contractor/freelancer. You should get the price of your lunch back!
How do you set yourself apart from industry competitors? Come and join the conversation!