It’s a bit ironic that if a consultant does her job well, eventually, the client won’t need her services any longer. Certainly there are consulting situations where your expertise may be required on an ongoing basis, such as helping with branding efforts, or managing new-hire training. But generally, once an assignment is completed, you need to find another client with a new problem to solve. This requires constant networking. Maintaining a large and diverse client base and adding fresh prospects to the mix can take a significant amount of time and focus. Without that effort, you risk stretches of down time, which means the meter is not running and you’re not getting paid.
- If project scopes allow it, consider working with multiple clients simultaneously. Usually, projects will be in different stages of completion, allowing you to juggle time requirements. This gives you a buffer if one project gets cancelled or postponed. By “laddering” several projects in this manner, as one gets completed, others are still continuing and you now have the time to replace the completed job with something new.
- Laddering projects is easier if you vary the scopes of assignments you take on. One long-term project can be balanced with several shorter-term, smaller engagements. This also helps ensure that projects will rollover, or be completed, in a staggered manner. Also, vary the type of service you provide. Some assignments may be high level, conceptual planning stretched out over time, while others might be more of an immediate problem diagnosis and solution, and still others could be ongoing support or maintenance requirements that are less deadline oriented.
- Branch out to offer complementary services within your area, such as technical training and auditing, mentoring, and writing. This expands the field of available work to pursue.
- Hone your business networking chops. Use online resources to build your reputation as a thought leader in your area of expertise. Publish blogs, leverage networking tools on LinkedIn, participate in online discussion groups, and post comments on blogs and posts by others. Make time for good old offline networking too, including touching base with prospects through phone calls, developing personal relationships over lunch and by attending conferences and industry networking events.