In the late 1900s, consulting wasn’t nearly as common as it is today. But with businesses realizing the cost to value ratio made possible through consultants, more companies are turning to the independent workforce to help transition teams to new processes or train internal staff on a new software application.
Now the perception has shifted from the idea that anyone can call themselves a consultant to disbelief that these talented professionals are pulling in six figures or more – per contract, not annually. It seems as though today’s consultants must have vast amounts of education and decades spent in the C-suite at prestigious firms. While that’s true in some cases, others command that level of pay by leveraging their expertise.
Consultants Step Out Of The Time-For-Money Tradeoff
For most employees, their work is valued by the hour. Non-salaried positions are paid precisely based on the number of hours they were clocked in on the job in a given pay period. Salaried employees are valued on an annual basis, provided with an overall annual salary along with a benefits package including some combination of health, life, dental and vision insurance, a number of paid sick days, vacation days, personal days and other company-specific benefits. Some companies offer perks such as gym memberships, a trend that’s growing in the increasingly wellness-centered workplace.
Adding all these employer-paid costs and other potential benefits like bonuses, the bottom line is that any employee falling into one of these scenarios is essentially trading his time for dollars. With a limited number of hours in each day, there’s an impenetrable limit to the income an employee can generate in a given year – with a few out of the ordinary exceptions, like sales professionals with non-capped bonuses.
Consultants have the ability to present their services differently. Instead of agreeing to sell services to the business at a fixed hourly rate, consultants are pitching highly specialized expertise that continues to deliver value after the contract ends. This is done by providing clients’ internal teams with the tools and knowledge they need to continue implementing processes and following through after the contractual agreement is completed. Instead of trading their time for dollars, consultants trade their expertise and the transfer of knowledge to client teams for dollars.
For companies, the agreement makes financial sense, too. While the initial upfront investment can be significant, it’s hard to place a value on a more-educated and more-capable workforce. And the company isn’t obligated to pay its own workers more per hour. In fact, the company has provided its staff with another benefit that employees can leverage in future positions. No one loses under this arrangement.
One-To-Many Approach Creates More Revenue
Some consultants take the concept of leveraging their expertise to a new level by sharing their knowledge with other professionals in a setting outside the company walls. A consultant may set up a training event for professionals in a niche industry who could benefit from in-depth training on a niche topic.
Instead of a single client paying a fee, the consultant now collects a fee multiplied by the number of attendees. This effectively multiplies a consultant’s income potential significantly. The rates for this type of service are usually much smaller, as attendees are paying out-of-pocket in many cases. But a large volume of attendees can easily lead to one- or two-day revenues in the seven-figure range.
Maximizing Online Media To Establish Credibility
Consultants are getting a revenue boost from external factors, as well. More retired executives with decades of specialized experience under their belts are re-entering the workforce on a part-time basis, offering their expertise to businesses as consultants. This trend boosts the overall median and average values of consultants across the board, increasing the perception that consultants offer niche expertise that’s not readily available in the general workforce.
There are also more opportunities for consultants to establish authority in a vertical and network with potential clients online than ever before. Consultants don’t have to rely on word-of-mouth referrals and local networking events to secure business. Instead, they participate in networking forums, creating professional portfolios and profiles through a variety of online resources, such as:
- LinkedIn – Social networking for professionals, with thousands of niche groups to connect with potential clients.
- Zintro – A platform connecting businesses with consultants with highly specialized expertise. Consultants create profiles illustrating areas of expertise, experience and other details. Businesses can search for consultants based on areas of specialization or post open inquiries. Consultants engage potential clients in conversation by responding to relevant project requests.
- Quora– A question-and-answer site with a business edge, providing a platform for consultants to deliver value to businesses and establish authority in areas of expertise.
- Niche Associations – There are a variety of professional associations targeted to bringing consultants together in a specific niche, such as the Association of Executive Search Consultants and the Association of Professional Energy Consultants.
- SlideShare– An increasingly useful platform for lead generation, consultants can utilize SlideShare to publish presentation slide decks and other materials that demonstrate their expertise.
- Medium – A growing publishing platform initially established on an invitation-only basis that draws attention from the corporate crowd. Consultants can generate exposure by publishing informative content.
- Sulia – A hybrid between a publishing platform and social network, Sulia is built around topics and experts. Users can post articles and engage other users in discussion to earn expert status in specific topic areas.
These resources are useful for connecting with potential clients, but there’s more value than meets the eye. Consultants who take the time to build a robust online presence using these and other available tools set themselves apart by establishing value and creating a perception of high demand. Those that successfully establish thought leadership can easily command six-figure fees, provided he has the chops to deliver on the value perception.
Consultants have a unique opportunity to place a dollar value on specialized knowledge. The more distinct the area of specialization, the easier it is to command top-dollar fees. But with the right set of strategies, any consultant can stand out from the crowd and leverage their expertise for limitless returns.