Expand your Horizon - 5 Tools Every Independent Management Consultant Should Know
As a freelance management consultant, you’re not only responsible for client projects, you’re also responsible for your own “business side” of things – including networking to find clients, keeping track of all the proposals you have outstanding, and managing your time spent on current active projects.
Top independent management consultants have learned how to use a variety of tools to help them juggle project work – in addition to doing the networking and marketing they need to do to make sure they’ve got projects in their pipelines. Have you ever met a freelance consultant who likes large gaps of downtime?
When you are looking for consulting tools that will help you stay on top of all the things you need to do, you don’t necessarily have to use the biggest and best ones that come with all the bells and whistles. Look for software, products, and tools that are designed with small teams or individuals in mind.
The following are five highly useful tools you should familiarize yourself with if you want to become a top freelance management consultant.
Customer Relationship Management Systems
No one uses rolodexes anymore, and they haven’t for decades. But what do you do with all those business cards you acquire from networking events? There are apps out there that will scan business cards and add them into a spreadsheet or database for you, and the best card scanners can even integrate with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
Independent consultants often work on projects through online consulting platforms, and they also make use of their networks for finding new clients. However, it usually takes more than one email or phone call to turn a new contact into a client. You need a way of tracking your communication history with the people in your network. This is where the CRM system comes in handy.
CRM systems are highly useful for consultants who want to be able to easily search their contacts by a variety of options – such as name, company, or position. Many systems will also allow you to track your communication history with an individual, so you can see the last time you spoke to the person, what was discussed, and any past work that you’ve done for them. Some systems will also let you mark the “lifecycle stage” of a contact, so you can easily filter contacts by whether they are leads, customers, or if they serve as an evangelist for you.
Examples of CRM systems include Salesforce Sales Cloud, Hubspot CRM, Bitrix24, and Apptivo.
Proposal Management Software
To keep a steady stream of project work, the top freelance management consultants always make sure they have proposals out for new work. If you are not using an online consulting platform to find clients, you will want to look into proposal management software to help you keep track of when and where you’ve sent proposals to prospects.
Proposal management software is also valuable for reducing the amount of effort it takes for you to respond to requests for proposals. Reusable and customizable proposal templates will help you spend more time doing billable work on projects and less time working unbillable hours on proposals. Some software providers also allow you to track when proposals are opened, and to receive reminders about unopened ones.
Examples of proposal management software providers include Nusii, Proposify, Quilr, and ClientPoint.
Digital Asset Management Platforms
When you are working on management projects, there will be lots of data to share, along with files, images, charts, and spreadsheets. To make sure you and your teammates or clients have ready access to all of the assets needed, you should get comfortable with cloud-based platforms that allow you to share information.
Digital Asset Management (DAM) platforms are useful for cataloging and organizing things like photos, graphics, and videos, especially if you are working as part of a team on a larger project. A company’s graphic designer will not want to have five different people requesting the same image from him or her over the course of a week. A well-organized DAM system reduces the amount of time spent looking for an image for a report, a presentation, a social media post, or a pitch deck. These systems will also let you decide who gets access to which items.
For simple file sharing – such as with documents and spreadsheets – top independent management consultants typically have experience using a variety of cloud-based services. These kinds of services help you and your project collaborators avoid wasting time searching emails, Slack, WhatsApp, and other channels for important file attachments.
Examples of DAM solution providers are Canto, Filecamp, Brandmaster, and TACTIC.
Examples of cloud-based file-sharing tools are Dropbox, GoogleDrive, Microsoft OneDrive, and IDrive.
Project Management Tracking Tools
There are loads of project management tracking tools on the market, and many companies will experiment with several of them before settling on one that offers the features they need or want. Some consultants are completely devoted to a particular tool, while others will jump from one to the other, depending on which client they are working with at any given moment.
Project management tools are great for teams to keep track of all the tasks necessary for a given project, who is assigned to that task, when it’s due, and the task’s status. Some tools offer a timeline view, so that you can see “at a glance” who is working on which task during a particular week, or which tasks might have an approaching deadline. These tools also make it easy to transfer tasks among project team members.
If you want to find work as a top freelance management consultant, you need to make sure you’re familiar with some of the most common project management tracking tools, such as Asana, Trello, Todoist, and Jira.
Fill Your Toolbox
There’s a saying, “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.” Unfortunately, as an independent management consultant, you need to have more than one tool in your toolbox when it comes to tackling projects for clients. The types of consulting tools listed above will help you thrive.