I'm a consultant and don't know how to keep up the self-marketing. Sometimes my business is doing okay, sometimes, things are very slow. I have a lot of difficulty being proactive and have pretty much relied on luck, and the kindness of strangers, so to speak. Over time, won’t that be enough?
I'll take any opportunity to tell a consultant about the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 rule. I think most consultants instinctively know it, but have a rough time following it. The rule is as follows: A consultant should spend 1/3 of the time in delivering services; 1/3 in administration (billing, IT, proposals, etc.); and, this is the tough part for many, 1/3 in marketing. I'm not saying that's a strict allocation of time, when a consultant gets well established, the administration becomes less onerous and the delivery time - the billable part - should grow. But that marketing part should always be there, and requires a great deal of discipline.
Here's why -- an illustration of how things go wrong with even the most successful consultants:
Several years ago, I had the good fortune of working with a small consulting firm as an independent subcontractor. The two women who ran the firm were highly successful in their field and had cornered a huge piece of business at a very well-reputed, highly prestigious corporation. They practically lived there. At the peak of their business with this one company, they had 35 subcontractors on billing. To put it bluntly, they were making a great deal of money.
Their product was excellent, the relationship with the company lasted for several years (not typical for most consultants), and they made a terrible strategic error -- they stopped marketing elsewhere.
They did a few projects here and there, and constantly acknowledged that they were getting too complacent/comfortable with, and focused on, the one client.
One day, because of a strong negative market fluctuation, the company terminated all consulting contracts. The 35 consultants dwindled down to a few, and eventually, the consulting firm dissolved. Both partners eventually recovered, on their own, but they each had a long period of trying to create new business from scratch.
They violated the rule.
To answer your question more fully, though, involves another issue. Many consultants do not realize that a successful business includes the need for consistent marketing. If you're not comfortable with that, then perhaps you need a partner - and can create a kind of Ms. Inside/Mr. Outside sort of business relationship. But don't let that marketing piece go. The story I just related is all too common.
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