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Consultant Vs. Consulting Business Owner: What’s the Difference?


Let’s talk about the difference between a consultant and a consulting business owner, because they’re very different, and a lot of people don’t understand the difference.

If you get your client from other agencies, if you work essentially for one main client — typically for a long stretch of time — you might be doing consulting work, but you’re not really what I would call a consultant. You’re a contractor.

If you’re getting your business from other companies that are typically taking a big margin from the work that you do, then you don’t have a business, because the moment that they stop sending you those opportunities, they don’t pass you through to new projects, is the moment that your “business” is gone.

If you really want to have a sustainable, viable, thriving, profitable consulting business, then you must move and shift your mindset from one of a contractor, independent consultant by themselves to one of a consulting business owner.

There’s no business left because there’s no clients, because you haven’t built up an asset. There’s nothing that really can help you in terms of momentum; you have to start from scratch. And that’s both if you work with some agencies that pass you that work or if you have one main client.

We have a lot of consultants at Consulting Success® who reach out to us who have been in a position where they’ve been working with one client for a while, it goes really well, they consider themselves a consultant, they think they have a business, then that project winds down — sometimes on schedule, sometimes before schedule — and then they have to scramble to find the next client, the next project. And they’re going from one to the next.

They’re essentially riding what we call a marekting rollercoaster. They have to start again. It’s up and down and up and down. There’s no consistency, no predictability, because there’s no business.

Now, there’s also consultants who are doing consulting work who work for larger consulting firms or even other mid-sized consulting firms. They, too, they may be consultants, but they’re not consulting business owners because they don’t have a business. They’re essentially like a contractor, but they’re doing consulting work. But they’re a consultant within an organization.

It’s very different from being a consultant and business owner at the same time, because if you’re running a business, you have to do certain things to actually have a viable business.

One of those things, which is typically an area of challenge for many, is marketing. You must master marketing and sales. It doesn’t mean you have to have a marketing or sales background. It doesn’t mean you need to be an extrovert. In fact, introverts often have an advantage over extroverts when it comes to sales, which we can talk about maybe in another video.

But it’s interesting because many consultants out there have this mindset that they can simply be good at the work. That they can just be good at providing value to their clients, and that will give them a business. But it won’t. You can go from referral to referral to referral and consider yourself a consulting business owner, and that can take you a certain way. We work with many clients who have done that, and they’ve actually created a fair level of success.

But what always happens … It can take sometimes years for it to happen, but what always happens at some point is, they wanna grow the next level. They want to be able to attract more clients. They want more predictability, they want more [inaudible 00:03:35].

They want to grow or they want more control, they want more predictability, more sustainability, and referrals don’t provide it because if your referrals dry up, if the people who you know stop sending you new people, if something happens to them, if they move positions or countries or whatever, you’re not in control. The only thing that you can control is yourself, and that means the only thing that is gonna control your marketing is what you put into your marketing. What you put into building your business.

So if you really want to have a sustainable, viable, thriving, profitable consulting business, then you must move and shift your mindset from one of a contractor, independent consultant by themselves to one of a consulting business owner. It does not mean that you have to have employees. You can still be an independent consultant, but recognize that you’re running a business, and that in order to have a business, you need to do certain things to grow that business like marketing, like sales, like actually promoting your own brand and communicating to the marketplace, building your authority.

There’s many others, but these are all things that will help you to have a viable business. So when you’re ready to make that shift … And maybe you don’t wanna make that shift. Quite frankly, you can be a contractor. You can just get opportunities from agencies or work within a consulting firm as a consultant. That’s totally fine; nothing wrong with that.

But I’m really speaking to the people who want to build available business, wanna have control of their unlimited income-earning potential. Freedom. The ability to pick and choose which clients you work with. Maximize your fees. That means that you’re going to be a consulting business owner, and so you wanna have the mindset for that as well.


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5 thoughts on “Consultant Vs. Consulting Business Owner: What’s the Difference?

  1. Your article struck a chord with me. I own a business and I’ve had that client where the project dried up and I have scrambled to find the next client. I do need to focus on the marketing and sales side of things more to push the business forward! Thank you for posting the information.

    • Ansar, thank you for your comment and I’m glad to hear that you’re going to push your business and marketing forward!

  2. Poetra says:

    Hi Michael, thank you for posting this subject. I couldn’t agree more about shifting the mindset. Your term “marketing engine” on the previous postings is always in my subconscious mind. I am an independent mining consultant with two clients. one as a result of referral and the other one is because of your “marketing engine” lesson. Thanks a lot.

    • Poetra – thank you and it’s my pleasure. Very happy to hear that you’ve put the ideas I share here into practice and are benefiting from them. Keep taking action!

  3. Scott says:

    Thank you for your notes
    I am currently thinking of changing career and going into Business Intelligence Consulting. I would like to use your help on how to build such consulting business
    Thank you

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