14 Essential Tools Every Independent Consultant Should Use

blog article Jul 11, 2023

 Estimated time to read: 25 minutes

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What you will learn in this article 

It’s common for an Independent consultant to waste a lot of time implementing systems for their business that aren’t necessary for their specific business stage.  It’s a type of “productive procrastination” where you’re seemingly productive but in actuality, you’re doing the tasks that are comfortable.

On the flip side, it’s common for independent consultants to overlook or avoid implementing systems as they grow because they’re footing the bill and not their corporate employer. They don’t calculate the opportunity cost and factor that into their decisions about what types of tools to buy as they scale their consulting businesses.

In this article, I want to help you avoid these two common mistakes so you set yourself and your consulting practice up to grow and scale more effortlessly by choosing the best tools that are fit for purpose and relevant to the stage of your independent consulting business.

**It’s important to note that this article does NOT contain any affiliate links. I’m not writing this article with the intention of convincing you to use any one tool. The article is intended to provide you with the landscape of consulting tools and online software to consider as you’re building and strengthening your consulting business foundation.


How choosing the right consulting tools can make a difference in your independent consulting business

It’s a balance to choose the relevant consulting tools for your independent consulting business based on your stage of growth.

When you implement tools too early, it’s likely you’ll be throwing your work away and starting over. Or that you’ll overcomplicate the process. Or that you’ll waste time “getting ready” when you could be spending time doing income-producing activities

Implementing tools too early typically happens when you’re avoiding uncomfortable tasks such as business development.

When you implement tools too late, it’s likely you’ll be wasting time and burning yourself out with tasks that are lower value, and can be automated, delegated, or even eliminated. 

Implementing tools later than ideal typically happens when you’re trying to avoid incurring costs (it’s that lingering employee mentality that we should only buy things that can be expensed to the company) or when you’re overthinking the decision and stuck in analysis paralysis.


What are the best tools for independent consultants?

As an independent consultant, using the right tools together with the right business framework and processes can greatly enhance your productivity, efficiency, and overall success of your consulting business. 

Although the best tools for your business will vary depending on your particular needs, here are some of the most popular tools for independent consultants, for you to consider as you design your own consulting tech stack.

Tools to manage your consulting business

Here’s a list of the types of online tools to evaluate for managing your consulting business:


Tools to manage your consulting clients

Here’s a list of the types of online tools to evaluate for managing your consulting clients:

  • Tools to build deliverables such as Flevy, Canva, Etsy (yes, that’s right, Etsy. It’s not just for crafts. They do have business/corporate templates), Thinkcell, Slidehub, Mekko Graphics
  • Resources to build deliverable templates such as Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer
  • Business Process Mapping Software: Lucidchart, Microsoft Visio, Bizagi
  • Customer Journey Mapping Tools: Smaply, UXPressia, Microsoft Visio, Lucidchart
  • Tools to share deliverables such as Loom which you can use to create screen-sharing and voice-over-screen type explainer videos
  • Note-taking and editing tools such as Otter.ai and Grammarly
  • Assessment tools relevant to your specific service offerings (e.g. Capability Maturity Models, Organizational Maturity Models, Agile assessment tools, etc.)
  • Survey and benchmarking tools such as SurveyMonkey, Google FormsIBISWorld, Statista, and industry-specific databases or reports


Essential tools for running your independent consulting business

Next, let’s dive into more specifics around the consulting tools and online software you’ll want to implement to run your consulting business. 

You can implement and optimize your tech stack over time. There’s no need to implement everything at the beginning of your business. There’s no need to take a pause in your business development activities while you’re implementing tools to make running your consulting business more efficient.

Let’s break down the types of consulting tools and online software to consider, and the recommendations around choosing these consulting tools, online software products, and your overall consulting tech stack.

Marketing software for market awareness, lead generation, and brand validation

Align online software tools to your current and future marketing strategy, so you set yourself up for both short-term and long-term success.

There are basics required to launch your consulting business, and you can add more tools and complexity over time.

In this section of the article, I help you discern which types of tools to select based on the phase of your consulting business.

Recommendation 1: Essential marketing tools needed for any independent consultant

LinkedIn profiles

When you’re starting your business, there are several essentials to put in place. You’ll want to optimize your LinkedIn profile and create and link it to a LinkedIn business profile with your logo.

You don’t need a website when you start. You can leverage your LinkedIn profiles as your business website until you have more clarity about your consulting niche, offerings, and messaging.

I notice so many consultants prematurely wasting time and money building out their websites when the resources can be better spent networking to build a pipeline.

Domain and Company email address

It’s simple to buy a company domain name and set up a company email address for yourself. You will look so much more professional than using a Gmail account.

I’ve seen consultants with hotmail.com, yahoo.com, and even aol.com email addresses. Using one of these emails results in an immediate hit to your credibility.

I didn’t even realize that aol.com was/is still a thing!

Please don’t do it, even if you’re tempted to save money or aren’t sure what to name your consulting company.

None of these decisions are permanent.

You can always change your domain later (e.g. if you decide to rename your company.)

Recommendation 2: Website

In recommendation #1 (above), I told you that you don’t need a website when you’re first starting your independent consulting business. 

That’s true.

I find time and time again that consultants prematurely create websites or pay someone for one.  And then they need to either revise or completely re-do it after they have a few clients under their belt.

I made this mistake multiple times.

I created my own website to start. It was an ugly disaster. I lost all my work when I messed up a WordPress upgrade and the backup I thought I had in place was 2 months old… lesson learned.

Then I invested in a website developer who built and maintained my website. It looked great but there were no visitors, despite my weekly blogging.

And then I took that website down when I changed my consulting niche and offerings.

My current website has been live for 4 or 5 years now. The reason I haven’t needed to redo it again? I’m clear about what I offer, my positioning, and who my audience is. (That’s you if you’re reading this).

I share these personal experiences to warn you about prematurely creating a website before you’re clear on the focus of your consulting firm.

How do you know if you’re ready to build a website?

There’s no perfect time but I’d recommend having 2 or 3 clients under your belt before you invest time and money in a website.

If you know who your audience is, you know what your service offerings are, you plan to publish content, and you want a space (beyond LinkedIn) for consulting buyers to validate you and your company.

What’s the purpose of this website?

When I first started independent consulting, I thought a website would bring me leads.

It didn’t.

It’s rare for a consulting website to bring in leads unless you have a very specific specialty that consulting buyers are searching for and you’ve captured all of the search terms in an SEO-friendly way.

So, what is the purpose of a website for an independent consultant then?

The website typically serves 3 purposes:

  1. Your website is a “validation tool” for potential clients to dig into your background, thought leadership, experience, and expertise. Most of the time, I find that consulting buyers rarely visit a website for this purpose. They typically look you up on LinkedIn but it’s good to have a website to further legitimize your consulting business. Caveat: see the section above regarding when to create a website in your consulting business 
  2. Your website is a mechanism to capture leads. In this context, a lead is a person who has expressed interest in what you do and has opted-in to receive further communication from you, such as a white paper, case study, checklist, or blog article. Caveat: if you’re not ready for a full website, you can create a simple landing page using a tool like ConvertKit without needing a full website.
  3. Your website is a space to publish and consolidate your thought leadership, such as blog articles, videos, or other content.

Recommendation 3: Email list-building tools

You’ll want a mechanism to capture the email addresses of the people who are interested in learning from you, hearing your unique perspectives, knowing about any events you’re hosting or where you’re speaking, receiving your thought leadership, etc.

You may not be ready to regularly publish articles, newsletters, or emails.

Even so, it’s important to begin building your email list as an asset for your business so you set yourself up for future options.

Why not just use LinkedIn for this?

You don’t own your LinkedIn or any social media connections. You also don’t control when your connections see your posts.

It’s critical for you to own access to your audience.

The tools that support this are an email service provider that has functionality such as subscribing to your email list, unsubscribing handling, sending broadcast emails, sending scheduled emails, sending email sequences, auto-response emails when a user subscribes, landing pages to capture email addresses, and tagging to create segments in your list.

Examples of these tools are ConvertKit and MailerLite. These are point solutions.

You can also leverage an integrated solution that has other features such as Hubspot (also has a CRM and website building functionality) or Kajabi (also has a website builder, blog, landing pages, and online course functionality).

Recommendation 4: Tools for creating and publishing thought leadership

When you’re ready to publish thought leadership such as blog articles and/or videos, you’ll want tools to make that more efficient and impactful. Tools to consider include:

  • Canva - you can use Canva to create graphics, images, and blog headers so your articles and videos look more professional
  • ChatGPT - you can use ChatGPT to generate ideas, outlines, and drafts. I highly recommend heavily editing any content you create through ChatGPT to make it more specific, unique, and to be in your voice
  • Descript - you can use Descript to edit videos and podcasts, including removing filler words and adjusting mistakes 
  • Video editing software - if you choose video as your medium for sharing your thought leadership as a consultant, you’ll want to edit the videos to make them compelling. For example, you’ll add titles, subtitles, and a call to action at the end. Examples of video editing software for consultants are iMovie, Adobe Premier Pro, Vimeo, or Filmora.  You can also find video editors to do this for you on Fiverr or Upwork.
  • YouTube channel - if you choose video as your medium for sharing your thought leadership as a consultant, you’ll want to consider publishing your videos to a YouTube channel and optimizing the titles and descriptions for the search terms your ideal clients are looking for

Consulting CRMs (customer relationship management software)

In the past, I typically recommended that independent consultants use a simple Excel spreadsheet to get started with tracking, organizing, and sequencing their consulting pipeline.

I’ve changed my mind.

I recommend you set up a simple CRM from the beginning of your business so you can automate the reach-out, follow-up, and nurturing activities.  You’ll make it easier to overcome your resistance and procrastination when you make these actions a no-brainer by having a recurring task list and eliminating in-the-moment decisions about what you need to do.

Set up your consulting business CRM now if you haven’t done so already.

There are so many easy-to-implement CRM systems to track your pipeline and make it easier to prioritize, follow up, and be consistent with relationship building.

And, it’s easy to migrate to a different platform if your needs change in the future, so deciding on your CRM platform isn’t high-stakes.

Click here for recommendations on The Best CRMs for Consultants.

Recommendation 1: Pipeline-Only CRM

For a simple way to get started using a CRM for your consulting business, choose a point solution such as Pipedrive. Or, you can choose a more comprehensive solution such as monday.com or Hubspot, and start with the CRM-only. Don’t get caught up in setting up all the features.

When I first started focusing on lead generation for my consulting business, I chose to implement Pipedrive. It was very easy to configure and it was also easy to maintain all the data because there’s both an app and a web interface. I appreciated the auto-generated tasks and reminders it created based on the workflow and rules I configured.

Recommendation 2: Comprehensive Consulting Practice Management System

Another option, especially if your consulting business is more mature (meaning you’ve had several clients under your belt), is to implement a more comprehensive system for managing your consulting practice. These systems include features such as email marketing, consulting pipeline management, project management, forecasting, and invoicing.

Recommendation 3: Don’t use a task management tool like Asana for your pipeline

Independent consultants frequently ask me if they can use the task management tool they already have in place, such as Asana, Trello, or ClickUp, for their CRM. 

I recommend against this because those tools don’t have as much functionality built-in to enable your lead generation workflow. For example, the tasks management tools typically don’t allow you to define rules about # of days to follow up after your last conversation, rules for autogenerating tasks based on your business development processes, or to capture metadata that would enable you to send targeted follow-up/nurturing emails (e.g. an email to anyone interested in a specific topic so you can forward a blog post to them with a personalized note).

For more on choosing a CRM for your independent consulting business, click here to read The Best CRMs for Consultants.

Project management

Project management systems aren’t just for use with your consulting clients. They’re also important tools to use for your internal company projects. 

Examples of project management tools for your consulting business: Monday.com, ClickUp, Notion, Zoho, Basecamp, or Wrike

Recommendation 1: Stand-alone project and task management

Depending on your business requirements, you may want to choose a stand-alone project and task management online system that you can integrate with your other systems (e.g. time tracking, invoicing, etc.) via integrations that are part of the tool or via Zapier.

Recommendation 2: Choose a project and task management tool you’ll use

Consider choosing a project management tool that has both a web user interface and an app, to make it easy to update on the go.

If you have a team of employees and/or contractors, ensure they’re using the tool consistently too. As with your time, have them put in actual, even if you’re billing them out in a different increment (e.g. daily rate or fixed fee) so you have the details for future pricing and decision-making.

Recommendation 3: Templatize everything you can

As you define repeatable systems in your consulting business, you can use your project management system to capture and templatize them. Choose a project management system that has the ability to capture templates, recurring tasks, and dependencies so you can easily repeat your internal processes.

For example, I have set up recurring tasks for my daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual routines.

I set up a repeatable podcast process that I copy each week. I share these tasks with my podcast producer so we’re on the same page and communicate clearly during the hand-offs back and forth to get each podcast episode live.

I also set up client birthdays in my system as annual recurring events so I’m sure to send out cards as part of my client recognition system.

I also capture monthly and quarterly projects that are specific to my goals, so I can schedule all the tasks in my calendar.

Appointment scheduling tools

At one point, I resisted using calendaring systems because they felt impersonal. I coordinated with potential clients, clients, and others manually going back and forth to schedule. Then, one day, I realized I was overcomplicating something that should be simple and easy.

I set up my calendaring system and it’s made it so much easier for everyone, especially inbound consulting leads.

Example tools: Acuity and Calendly

Recommendation 1: Make it easy to meet with you

To make it easy for your leads to schedule time with you, include the link to your calendar in your email signature, on your LinkedIn profile, on any social media profiles you have for your business, and on your website.

Recommendation 2: Set boundaries with calendar rules

Your calendaring system should have the ability to set your availability, synch with your calendar(s), and establish rules by calendar type. This functionally enables you to define and establish your time blocks and boundaries. I recommend revisiting these rules as part of your quarterly review process.

Recommendation 3: Ask relevant questions on the scheduling page, to set yourself up for a successful call

Most online calendaring tools include the ability to ask questions on the intake form. Consider setting up questions that are appropriate for the calendar type. 

For example, you might ask simple, open-ended questions for networking, or get-to-know-you type calls:

  • Why do you want to meet?
  • What do you want to accomplish on our call?
  • How did you find me?
  • What’s your LinkedIn profile?

You might ask more detailed questions for inbound leads when you’re at the phase of needing to protect your calendar more:

  • What are your top 3 objectives for the project you’re reaching out to discuss?
  • Why is this project important?
  • What obstacles could prevent the project from being successful?

Calendar management tools

Your calendar might feel like a puzzle that’s challenging to fit together and seemingly has many extra pieces that don’t fit. There are solutions you can use to prioritize and manage everything you need to juggle.

Example: motion.ai

Recommendation 1: Utilize time blocks

Set time blocks for all your work, so you can effectively balance working on your business with client delivery. For example, you could block off Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays for client meetings and deliverable creation. You could block Mondays for lead generation and sales calls on Mondays and Fridays.

Think about how you work best, and then schedule your week, month, and quarter around it.

Recommendation 2: Use AI tools to automatically assign your tasks to spots on the calendar 

Leverage a tool such as Motion to automatically assign tasks to your calendar based on priority and estimated time to complete.

Time Tracking

Your time is one of your business assets. It’s important to know how you’re spending your time, even if you don’t charge by the hour, so you can make decisions about how you want to allocate this valuable asset in your consulting business.

Examples of tools to consider: Harvest, Toggl, BigTime, Monday.com, Zoho, or Wrike

Recommendation 1: Track all billable and non-billable hours, including time worked on your business (even if you’re not billing by the hour)

Many independent consultants make the mistake of foregoing time tracking, especially when they’re not billing by the hour. 

This is a missed opportunity.

I was working with consulting business owners recently, and we were evaluating their pricing and profitability.  

They had been tracking their subcontractor’s time but not their own time as the business owners. 

Without this data, we weren’t able to assess the profitability of their offerings. And, we were missing important inputs for their pricing decisions.

They regretted not capturing this information all along as part of their standard operating procedures. 

We implemented time tracking across the board, for all types of projects and for all resources

They’re already gaining valuable insights into their consulting business, and identifying opportunities to shift their pricing, reallocate staffing, and shift roles and responsibilities.

For you, even if you’re an independent consultant who doesn’t leverage team members or contractors, tracking your time will provide objective inputs to support your consulting business decisions.

I know it can be a hassle.

But it’s one of those non-negotiables as a business owner.

Recommendation 2: Schedule regular data reviews and use the data for decision-making

It’s easy to get into the mode of capturing the data and then not analyzing it. Avoid that trap in your consulting business.

Instead, look at the data to evaluate how you’re spending your time so you can determine if it’s the most effective use of your time, that your lead generation activities are consistent, the opportunity costs of the work you’re doing and not doing, and to identify opportunities to maximize your results.

Recommendation 3: Integrate your time-tracking data into your other tools, such as Project Management, billing, or Professional Services Automation (PSA)

Another way to ensure you’re maximizing the time-tracking data you capture is to integrate it into other tools you’re using such as a project management system, billing tool, and your financials systems.

Or, you can use a more comprehensive tool such as monday.com or Zoho that includes time-tracking and project management all in one.

Forecasting, utilization, and capacity tracking tools

Implement consulting tools that will enable you to track the resourcing side of your business, including forecasting, capacity, and utilization actuals.

Examples: Microsoft Excel, Kantata, Wrike, BigTime, Zoho, or Monday.com

Recommendation 1: Create a simple tool for tracking using Excel

If you’re an independent consultant with a simple business model (e.g. 1-2 concurrent projects), you can start by simply tracking those key consulting metrics:

    1. Your forecasted capacity: Your forecasted capacity is the time when you plan to work in the client-facing side of your business and how much. For example, you might plan to work on client delivery four days a week for 45 weeks of the year. You can track this forecasted capacity as your “consulting inventory”.
    2. Your forecasted utilization %: Your forecasted utilization % is the assumption of what % of your consulting inventory (from the step above) you expect to sell in a way that meets your overall revenue and income goals. For example, if you plan to work on client delivery four days a week for 45 weeks of the year, you could assume an 80% utilization rate during that time and give yourself some cushion in that you’re not assuming you’ll never have a gap in clients to meet your financial goals.
    3. Your actual client time worked: Your actual time worked is the time you work on client delivery so you can compare it to your planned, or forecasted capacity. You can pull this from your time-tracking system.
    4. Your actual utilization %: Your actual utilization % is the actual time you worked on client delivery. To calculate this, you will compare your forecasted capacity to your actual client time worked to get the percentage. Then you can compare that percentage to your forecasted utilization %.
    5. Your planned business owner time: Your planned business owner time is the amount of time (per day, per week, per month, per quarter, per year) that you plan to work on your consulting business.
    6. Your actual business owner time: Your actual business owner time is the amount of time (per day, per week, per month, per quarter, per year) that you worked on your consulting business. You can pull this from your time-tracking system.

Recommendation 2: Implement an integrated solution for forecasting, capacity management, and utilization

As your consulting business grows and you want to prepare to scale (e.g. into a micro consultancy, a boutique consultancy, or a mid-sized consultancy), you’ll want to consider automating more of your backend forecasting and planned-to-actual type reporting. 

Consider tools such as Kantata, Wrike, BigTime, Zoho, or Monday.com.  Or, you can integrate your point solutions together using Zapier.

Accounting, invoicing, payroll, and payment tools

When you select systems to drive your invoicing, accounting, accounts receivable, and accounts payable, one of the primary drivers is to select tools that align with your business model and can be seamlessly shared with your bookkeeper and CPA.

Accounting software examples: Quickbooks, Wave

Payment processor example: Stripe (if you choose to accept P-card and credit card payments)

Payroll processor example: Gusto

Recommendation 1: Quickbooks is the de facto. Confirm it’s the right choice for you

Many independent consultants use QuickBooks for their bookkeeping. I started off my consulting business using Quickbooks too. It’s a great tool, especially if it’s compatible with your bookkeeper and CPA’s systems.

You may also want to consider other tools that include the functionality you need such as Wave or a combination of tools such as Quickbooks and Stripe (if you accept a lot of procurement card transactions and need a payment processor).

Recommendation 2: Keep separate books and bank accounts from the beginning

It’s common for consultants to start without separate business bank accounts, separate business credit cards, and separate books. As a result, their business and personal are intermingled creating unneeded complexity for their taxes and potential liability issues.

You’re a business owner. A business owner has separate bank accounts, credit cards, and accounting systems.  Plain and simple.

Recommendation 3: Automate and/or delegate

It’s easy to get behind on bookkeeping and invoicing. Few of us enjoy these tasks.

And, sometimes we can hesitate to send client invoices when we’re worried about it being a bad time (e.g. the engagement you’re working on has a red status).

To combat this common challenge for consultants, consider hiring a bookkeeper who can handle your invoicing and payment collections.

Other tools

And, here are a couple more tools to consider to automate your end-to-end process of selling and onboarding new clients, including contract signature and Zapier to connect all your systems together:

  • Signature capture for contracts, to use when the client doesn’t have a contract tool, such as DocuSign 
  • Efficiency tools such as Zapier to connect all of your systems

Essential Tools for Managing Your Consulting Client Engagements

Client Deliverable Tools

I remember a time when I first started consulting and I needed to create a process flow. I didn’t have Visio on my computer. I asked my client (who luckily was a former colleague) if there was a way for him to get me a license. He looked me straight in the eye and said “Melisa, you’re a consultant, and buying Software licenses is a cost of doing business. It looks amateur to ask your client to buy a license to a foundational tool for you. Start thinking like a business owner.”

This still stings but he was right.

And, I’m grateful I made this blunder with a client with whom I had (and still have) a trusting relationship and that he was willing to say this to me so directly.

For you, I’ll share similar advice. You own a consulting business. That means you’re responsible for creating high-quality, impactful deliverables and artifacts for your clients. There are so many tools that can help you with this. And, it’s your responsibility to buy licenses to the tools you need to perform your role. You’re not an employee anymore.

For example, here are several online software tools you can leverage to create your client deliverables:

Recommendation 1: Invest in branded slide templates to make your decks look professional and easy-to-create

For your deliverables, I recommend investing in professional-looking pre-made slide templates you can tailor to the content and that match your company branding. 

For example, I periodically purchase templates on Etsy (by searching business PowerPoint templates) and then use Canva to edit them.

Alternatively, you can hire marketing consultants or graphic designers on Flevy, Upwork, or Fiverr

Recommendation 2: Online tools to daily build your deliverables

Buy licenses to the tools you’ll need to efficiently create high-quality client deliverables, such as Visio or Lucidchart, Canva, and Miro (for mind mapping). 

Ask yourself - what tools did you use when you were in corporate to create your deliverables? What tools did other teams use, including Marketing and Product Management? Purchase licenses for these tools, or if they’re expensive for one user, then research to find alternatives.

Recommendation 3: Online tools to share your deliverables

I use Loom for screen sharing, to do a voiceover on my deliverables, and to walk clients through the deliverables. Loom is a great tool to create these types of explainer videos. Additionally, it keeps track of views so you know if and when the client watched the video.

Note-taking, transcription, and editing tools 

As a consultant, you take a lot of notes and write a lot of documents and deliverables. You can be more efficient if you use tools that do the heavy lifting when it comes to documentation.

Recommendation 1: Choose a tool that makes taking notes more efficient

Otter.ai is a transcription tool that creates transcriptions of meetings, videos, and any other audio you upload to it.

Recommendation 2: Install a tool that edits all your writing

Grammarly provides real-time recommendations on spelling and grammar to help you avoid mistakes in your deliverables and in your writing. After you install it, it automatically pops up to provide you with recommendations as you’re writing emails, documents, and other text. 

Tip for using Grammarly: I’ve found that it can lag with some types of software applications. So, be sure to “run” the Grammarly check as opposed to expecting the tool to provide you with real-time warnings and recommendations.

Survey tools

Leverage survey tools to collect inputs for your deliverables. Examples of survey tools are: SurveyMonkey and Google Forms

Survey tools can serve double duty, to provide both lead generation and also to capture data for your client deliverables.

Recommendation 1: Leverage surveys, assessments, and quizzes as an effective lead-generation tool

I use an assessment tool called ScoreApp for my lead generation. I create assessments that are specific to my target audience and also that complement my speaking topics and articles. They’re a great way to add value to your audience, and in return, you’re able to collect the potential client’s email address for further communications.

Here are several examples of my ScoreApp assessments:

  1. Independent Consultant's Pricing Assessment
  2. The Consulting Offer Assessment
  3. Independent Consultant’s Scalability Scorecard
  4. Consultant’s Retainer Readiness Assessment

Recommendation 2: Utilize surveys to set baselines and to capture client feedback

You can utilize surveys to set baselines when you initiate a new client engagement, so you set a baseline on the KPIs and other success metrics you’re tracking. 

Surveys are also a great way to collect client feedback, including written testimonials, to write case studies, and details that will help you improve your future engagements.

Benchmarking industry tools

Leverage benchmarking tools to gather data for client reports, including executive summaries, research reports, and other deliverables that include industry-wide metrics and trends.

Benchmarking examples: IBISWorld, Statista, and industry-specific databases or reports

Client communication tools

Typically clients will expect you to use their email and internal communication tools. This can get tricky to manage, especially if you have multiple concurrent clients.

Think about what you want to use for your delivery and what’s best for your clients. 

Recommendation 1: Don’t assume you’ll use the client’s communication tools by default

When you’re a contractor, or staff augmentation-type resource, it’s common for your consulting client to create a company email for you, and expect you to closely monitor that email, calendar, and their internal messaging system (e.g. Slack or Microsoft Teams).

As an independent consultant (and not a contractor or staff aug resource), you have more autonomy to set the rules of engagement with your clients, including but not limited to your communication channels.

Recommendation 2: Set expectations with the client 

By default, it’s common for clients to expect you to communicate in the same way they do as employees. This means they expect you to constantly monitor your email, your calendar, and any messages they send.

This may not match your business operating policies.

You’ll want to include these rules of engagement in your contract. And, don’t assume anyone has read the contract.

It’s important to clearly define your communication expectations with the client and the teams you’ll be working with so they understand how to best work with you.

Recommendation 3: Connect all your calendars, email accounts, and messaging if possible

If you do agree to use some or all of your client’s communication channels, use tools to connect your calendars, email accounts, and/or messaging to your systems so you don’t have to monitor multiple systems.

This may be restricted by the company’s security policies but it’s worth investigating.

Meeting facilitation tools

Select a meeting facilitation tool such as Zoom so you have it available when the client doesn’t want to use their tool, or when it’s easier for them to use your tool.

Recommendation 1: Use your client’s tools for the path of least resistance

Leverage your client's existing communication channels for meeting facilitation, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

Recommendation 2: Explore meeting facilitation tools to make it easier to collaborate, especially when you’re working remotely

Online meeting facilitation tools such as Zoom include advanced features and add-on apps, such as whiteboarding, polling, and break-out rooms. Test out these features so you can engage you4 clients most effectively.

And, don’t avoid paying for a license. This is a business expense. It. Most of the time, the license is the cost of doing business. Sometimes, you can charge it back to your client. Either way, don’t skimp when it comes to providing a high-value experience for your client.


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Implement Your End-To-End Consulting Tech Stack

Consulting tools can help you grow your independent consulting business efficiently and effectively. The tools can help make your job of running your own business easier. The consulting tools can also help you provide high-quality, impactful deliverables to your clients.

To put this article into action, choose the tools that best fit your consulting business model and the type of client deliverables you produce.

Implement the consulting tools.
And then, figure out how to integrate the tools into an end-to-end tech stack for your consulting business.

If you don’t have the time or aptitude to implement and integrate all of these tools, consider hiring freelancers who are experienced in the tools to do the work for you. Be sure you’re clear on your requirements first before hiring someone.

How this fits into the overall picture for your independent consulting business

Choosing and implementing the right software tools and technologies is a small piece of the overall puzzle for independent consultants. 

To thrive as an independent consultant, you’ll want to have four key components in place in your consulting business, so it can grow in a predictable and repeatable way. These four key components are

  1. A clear, compelling consulting service portfolio you offer to ideal corporate clients. 
  2. The ability to generate demand for your consulting services at price points that reflect the value you deliver, where you’re sought after for your expertise.
  3. Well-defined and effective sales processes that set you up to charge based on the value of the results and outcomes and not on the time you’re spending.
  4. The strategies and tactics to run your business and make decisions from the perspective of a business owner, versus from the vantage point of an employee or do-er.

Work with an expert in growing consulting businesses

If you’re like most independent consultants, you’re not an expert in running a consulting business.

If running a consulting business isn’t (yet) your expertise, consider hiring a coach who is an expert in building and growing consulting businesses.

Your clients hire you to be the expert in what you do. It makes sense you would need to hire an expert to help you too.

Click here for more details on my Coaching For Consultants program.

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