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The Essential Skills that Every Freelance Consultant Should Develop

Published:
August 5, 2020
Reading Time:
10 minutes
Oli Sharman
London-based Copywriter who drinks too much tea. Formerly of The Economist and Bloomberg.

How much time do you spend developing your consulting skills?

As a freelance management consultant, it can be tempting to focus your attention on building the specific expertise that clients hire you for.

Instead of focusing only on your speciality, there are a number of more general skills that are just as important for all freelance management consultants to build.

The way you say it

When deciding on which skills to develop for your freelance management consulting career, communication skills should sit right at the top of the list.

From presentations to leadership skills, spending some time developing your communication skills will pay dividends as your career progresses.

As a freelance management consultant, you will often be hired to help lead teams and manage business change. Leadership skills can help you out here. As you gain experience as a freelancer and start working at a more senior level, your ability to lead teams will become more and more important. Learning to be a good leader will enable you to get the best of the people around you. 

Many people learn leadership skills ‘on the job’ by making mistakes and gaining years of experience. If you need to fast-track your developments as a leader, taking the time to read books and management literature to study the craft will set you sailing in the right direction. If you have any connections who have experience in leadership, tapping into their advice by using them as a mentor can be a great move to make, especially if you’re new to leadership.

Presentation skills can have a huge impact on your success as a freelance management consultant. The ideal solution presented badly can end up being ignored, and a good solution can easily become an amazing one if it’s presented in a good way. 

Spending some time to brush up on your design skills can make a huge difference in your ability to influence your clients. You don’t need to retrain as a graphic designer, but taking the time to learn how to nicely design and structure your documents and presentations can give a huge boost to how effective they are. Being direct and concise in what you say is an absolute must when presenting to executives short on time. 

It’s also worth paying attention to how you speak. Learn to be direct, concise, and clear. Work to drop any niggling ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’ that may have sneakily wormed their way into your vocabulary. 

It can be tricky to pick up on and fix your patterns of speech. You may find it useful to record yourself speaking about a random topic for two minutes and then listen back to spot any patterns of speech that you would rather get rid of. For me, I found I was guilty of frequent ‘umms’ even when I knew what I was about. It took some practice but being aware of this has cut back on how much I do it. That is until you ask me a question I can’t answer, then they have the nasty habit of reappearing.

Influencing stakeholders is a key part of a freelance management consultant’s role. Your clients are paying for you to share your expertise. Being confident, clear, and direct in the way you communicate will help your clients trust what you have to say. Effective communication will make a huge difference in how closely people listen to and act on what you have to say.

As well as weighing up how much clients are willing to pay, ensure you also consider the learning opportunities available by taking projects on.

Sell Yourself

Nobody will hire you if they don’t know who you are, what you do, and that you’re available for work.

Developing the skills to market yourself effectively is a great way to get yourself in front of your ideal clients. And once you're there and in a dialogue, developing good negotiation and sales skills will help make sure that you close the best deal.

As a freelance management consultant, you can use social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to build relationships with your peers and prospective customers. Through sharing your knowledge and helping people as they need it, you will be able to build your authority and grow the number of people in your network.

Consulting platforms like Consultport are also a great way to connect with clients. Working on projects that you find on Consultport will help you to develop the skills and confidence you need to grow your freelance consulting business. Signing up and being active on a consulting platform will help you connect with the right clients at the right time.

It pays to take some time to create a strategy on how you want to stay in touch with your past customers and prospects. If you have a blog, consider sending out a monthly newsletter to keep them in the loop. Alternatively, checking in with personal emails or calls can be a good way to maintain relationships. Building your reputation and getting referrals is a brilliant way to get new leads and build your freelance consulting business.

As a freelancer, you are running your own business with yourself as the product. Although it may feel weird at first, learning to market and sell yourself is one of the most important skills to learn.

Think Strategically

Although you may have been hired to focus on a specific aspect of a business, informing yourself about the bigger picture will help to make sure that your work fits with the broader direction that the business is heading in.

freelance management consultants, The Essential Skills that Every Freelance Consultant Should Develop

Strategic thinking isn't only for C-suite executives. People at all levels of an organization can add value by approaching their work with an eye on strategy, and it's vital as a freelance management consultant.

Bringing a strategic contribution to your projects will add value to what you do and leave a positive impression on your clients. As a freelancer, you are exposed to external trends outside of the closed garden that some clients operate in. Your external insight and expertise will help to influence strategy.

Instead of viewing projects as a simple exchange of time for money, the most successful freelance management consultants take the time to learn and help shape client strategy. As well as weighing up how much clients are willing to pay, ensure you also consider the learning opportunities available by taking projects on.

Get Digital

Digital skills are only going to grow in importance.

New ways of working are emerging all of the time. Sometimes taking a few months off can result in you going back to work unaware of how to use the new bit of tech that has suddenly emerged. Until the coronavirus, many people were blissfully unaware of how to get the most out of video conference calls. Now we're all experts.

The coronavirus pandemic will continue to create huge shifts in the way that people work and digital innovation will pick up pace as new patterns emerge. The ability to quickly get up to speed with the digital tools that your clients use is crucial in making sure that everything runs smoothly.

There are lots of great resources for learning how to make the most of digital tools. From amateur videos through to focused online courses taught by experts, the internet is home to a wealth of material for sharpening your skills. Depending on what you want to learn, you may also find that the software providers themselves have built their own training material that you can use for free.

Different teams use different tools. The quicker you can slot in to use them, the easier and faster you’ll integrate with clients. Gaining a broad familiarity of the main digital tools that businesses use will pay off as you switch between different systems.

Learning digital tools in-depth will open up opportunities. When you move beyond the superficial basics of a piece of software, it's incredible how much time you can save by using the tools to their full potential. From automation to reminders, learning how to get the most from your systems can boost your productivity and make your life much easier. It really does pay to invest some of your time in going beyond the basics of your main digital tools.

Maintaining a positive and curious attitude to new tech will keep you sharp and help your projects run smoother. The more tech skills you build, the easier it will be for you to pick up new digital tools and platforms as they emerge.