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Consulting Certifications Don’t Matter?

By Michael Zipursky

I received an email from a consultant the other day asking me what type of certification they should get to help them become a more successful consultant.

I replied, “you don’t need any certification to be successful in this business.”

Then just yesterday I spoke with another consultant in Australia that told me he was part of two different consulting associations. His business is struggling.

Let me first explain the value of a certification:

  • Learn systems and processes to work with clients
  • Speak with other consultants
  • Gain confidence in doing consulting work if you weren’t confident already.

Here’s the problem with most certifications, they don’t help you GROW your business.

I’ve said before, as consultants, we’re not in the consulting business. We’re in the marketing business.

It doesn’t matter how many certifications or letters you have after your name. If you don’t have enough clients, you don’t have a business.

The consultant that emailed me and the other one from Australia both had spent great deal of time and money getting certifications. They believed that would allow them to be successful.

In both cases it didn’t.

Getting a certification isn’t hard.

Anyone can do it. And just like having a degree from a college or university, it’s not the paper or letters that you receive upon graduation that is valuable. It’s the routines, principles, thought process and relationships that you develop that matter.

If you want to run your own business, including a consulting business, avoid getting a certification simply for the certification.

If having that ‘piece of paper’ gives you more confidence great.

If it connects you with others and that leads to meaningful and valuable relationships – fantastic.

If you want to land more clients, increase your income and grow a sustainable consulting business, most certifications won’t help.

You need to learn the process and system to consistently attract clients and how to effectively sell consulting services (even if you don’t like the idea of selling).

For some that can sound uncomfortable and hard. But it doesn’t have to be.

It is however essential to your long-term success as a consultant.

That’s what we teach in our Clarity Coaching Program.

Again, let me be clear… any program with or without a certification CAN be valuable.

What’s important is that you get clear on the real outcome you want from it.

And I’ve personally seen MANY consultants who have certifications, yet their business is struggling.

But they don’t have to. You don’t have to. Learn a proven process grow your consulting business. If you’re a new consultant go here.

If you’re looking for customized coaching go here.

17 thoughts on “Consulting Certifications Don’t Matter?

  1. George Opiyo says:

    Michael, you have this unique talent of shaking every deeply ingrained mindsets and beliefs and make them so ridiculous until ,most of the times l find myself just laughing at my own deeply-held foolish beliefs! This certification thing was a heated subject in one of our local professional body gathering.Those with “Certified Consultant” titled bragged here and there. The irony is,and which you just brought to the fore, they are struggling to get clients while colleagues without the “certification” are doing real big-time business and charging intimidating fees and getting paid. Did l tell you how reading your articles made me change my title on the business card from “CEO” to “Strategy Partner” and has won more clients than ever before?

    Stay blessed Mike

  2. Sandra Ganis says:

    I was going to take a certification class just in case if I was missing something. Glad I didn’t. Thank you. Im just waiting for the consultant success system to go on sale again.

      • Sandra Ganis says:

        Thanks. Thought it was $100 discount. I must have read something else.

        • Sandra Ganis says:

          Just ordered the consulting success kit. Im excited.

          • Sandra Ganis says:

            I just opened up the email. I did not know it was a download kit. I only have an Ipad and not enough space. This wont work for me. How do i get a refund?

  3. anthonyctaylor says:

    I think consulting certifications have their merit for several reasons.
    It distinguishes from consultants that don’t have the certification.
    and some companies require the certification (so do certain government contracts)

    A certification wont make you a good consultant and in large part wont make people find you, but if you’re competing with other consultants, then It’s a nice extra to have.

    • Anthony – good comment and thoughts. As I wrote to Sandra above, it all depends what you want the certification for. If you’re in an industry that requires them, it makes sense. If you want to gain more knowledge and confidence, it can ‘sometimes’ make sense. If however, and many consultants make this mistake, you believe that having a certification will land you more clients or grow your revenues – that rarely happens. Most clients don’t care about certifications, they care about value and results.

      • anthonyctaylor says:


        Gotta know what you’re doing and deliver what your clients need.

  4. John says:

    Hi Michael, I couldn’t agree more. I have a Ph.D. in applied economics and a CPA certification and I provide financial modeling, risk management and valuation consulting services (and I have about 20 years of total professional experience). I can (sadly) say that the Ph.D. and CPA haven’t helped me at all in getting clients, other than meeting some basic criterion that a potential client has. But I have lost a lot of opportunities to people without the credentials and experience, mainly because of marketing and selling skills and, to a lesser extent, my propensity to sell clients what I think they need rather than what they want. Thanks, as always, for the insights! Cheers, JMc

  5. Michael, this is one of the rare occasions I disagree with your advice. I don’t think it has to be an either-or situation. What you teach consultants to get more business is definitely important because most consultants are unable to market and sell, whether they are certified or not. True professionals get credentialed – there’s a difference between an accountant and a CPA – and there’s a difference between a consultant and a CMC. You set yourself apart from the consultant masses hanging a shingle between jobs. Like John, my CMC hasn’t gotten me new clients, but has provided many referrals from peers, opens me up to government work (who are now writing this into more proposals) and given me a confidence that I stand out among the 99% who don’t have a CMC. It was an arduous process and I’m proud I set the goal and achieved it.

    • Jennifer – Great addition to the discussion. The message I’ve chosen to share here isn’t that certifications don’t provide value. They certainly do, most often when it comes to skill building, learning how to WORK as a consultant, and building self-confidence. Those are all valuable. The challenge many consultants find, and I see as as I speak with 40-60 consultants each month, is that even those with certifications find themselves struggling to generate more business and attract more clients. They may be good or even great at what they do, but if they don’t have enough clients they can’t do the work they are so well prepared to do.

      • Totally agree with you … they are terrible at telling prospects what they do for them or the problem they solve, and hate the concept of selling. So is it any surprise they have no clients?

  6. Trécera Lee Williams says:

    I saw a link to this article on Twitter. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Great post!

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