Consulting, as a profession, is in my humble opinion an extremely honorable pursuit that can bring tremendous value to the purchasers of consulting services. But that’s only when applying a very narrow definition of the “consulting.”
What is that definition?
A true consultant is an independent professional that through the application of their unique knowledge, experience and (occasionally) intellectual property, transforms the outcome of their client’s situation. (Kudos to Alan Weiss for that insight…)
But unfortunately, the majority of “consultants” out there are simply supplying outsourced labor.
And perhaps that’s why Lucas Miller’s post at TNW bothers me a little. The title of his post kind of says it all: Why you’re more qualified to be a consultant than you think.
From the intro:
This post isn’t just to boost your mood, although that would be a good side effect. The real purpose here is to show that you can utilize your talents in such a way that they pay the bills. The name of the game here is “consulting.”
I think words like “freelancing” or “subcontracting” are much more accurate than “consulting” when it comes to describing the work that most self-professed consultants perform.
To be fair, Miller does make mention of a consultant he knows that is producing measurable ROI for their clients, despite being only 18 — a real outlier. Unfortunately, it gives the impression that anybody can leverage skills picked up in between homework assignments and school dances.
Nervous about launching your career as consultant?
Don’t be — all you need is some successful experience, some productive failures, a lot of sweat equity, and the willingness to scrap a plan on a minute’s notice. If this sounds like you, congrats — you’re already qualified to be a consultant.
What’s missing? If you want to be a true consultant, make sure that the efforts of your client work produce measurable results, and ideally, implement value-based fees as opposed to billing based on increments of time.
But ultimately, perhaps the real test for who is and who is not a consultant comes down to their relationship with their client. A real consultant is a peer of their client, engaged in a collaborative process.