The 7 Mindsets of Successful Consultants & How to Cultivate Them

Mar 15, 2024

Estimated time to read: 17 minutes


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Who is this guide for

When I started my consulting business twelve years ago, I had no idea how important mindset was. I thought working on my mindset meant I would light some candles and meditate. That image definitely wasn’t in line with what a successful business owner does.


I thought that hard work, business acumen, and perseverance would be the main ingredients required to be successful as an independent consulting business owner. 


I didn’t realize that shifting into a consulting business owner mindset would also be a key to my success, and that “working on my mindset” could be so practical.


Why was mindset so important to me as a business owner? And, how could that relate to you too?


When I resigned from my corporate position and lost my title, corporate name behind me, and corner office, my confidence took a nosedive. I no longer had all these external factors to lean on to bolster my confidence. I had to rebuild it from the ground up. In many ways, I felt like a freshman in college again. I didn’t have a track record, a title, a company brand, or a history of knowing what I was doing to back me up. I felt all alone and it felt like I was starting over. I didn’t know what I was doing when it came to business development. And, I questioned if I even knew what I was doing when it came to consulting.


My imposter syndrome was at an all-time high. And, the hardest part was that I needed to feel confident in order to sell my services. It felt like a catch-22 that I was in.


It was only after I stumbled across a podcast that focused on mindset as the foundation for success that I started to open my mind to the idea that mindset was important to me and my consulting business.


That’s why I want to share this with you in this article. Mindset, even if it seems fluffy and non-business-like, is foundational to your success as an independent consultant. By focusing on building up your mindset as a business owner, you can feel more confident and then win more high-quality, high-paying business instead of waiting to feel confident before you do.

What is a consulting mindset?

A consulting mindset is a framework of attitudes and behaviors that enable independent consultants to market, sell, and deliver high-value solutions to their clients effectively.


A consulting business owner mindset goes beyond the foundational consulting mindset to encompass broader business management and strategic thinking skills. This mindset is critical for independent consultants who wear all the hats in their business. 


Shifting to a business owner mindset enables independent consultants to take control, make strategic decisions, and drive their business growth. It shifts focus from task completion to the broader aspects of running a business, such as financial health, client acquisition, and strategic planning. This mindset is essential for autonomy, innovation, and realizing the potential for growth, making consultants proactive and responsible for their success.


Independent consultants can leverage a tool I call the “7 C’s” as the foundation of a practical, repeatable, new results-oriented mindset practice. The "7 Cs" are the core mindset traits that successful consultants exhibit.


What are the benefits?

The benefits of developing a strong, effective consulting mindset are numerous. Adopting a consulting business owner mindset is essential for navigating the complexities of running an independent consulting business, driving growth, and achieving long-term success.


Developing a consulting business owner mindset offers several benefits for an independent consultant. Specifically, a strong business owner mindset enables:


  1. Strategic Growth: Encourages a forward-looking approach to strategically plan for business expansion, diversify service offerings, and enter new markets.


  1. Enhanced Decision-Making: Fosters a deeper understanding of the business landscape, leading to more informed and strategic decisions that impact the bottom line positively.


  1. Increased Resilience: Builds the capacity to navigate challenges, adapt to changes in the market, and recover from setbacks, ensuring long-term sustainability.


  1. Financial Independence: Promotes a focus on financial management and profitability, leading to better control over income and overall financial health.


  1. Client Satisfaction and Retention: Drives the delivery of higher value to clients through a deep understanding of their needs, leading to stronger relationships and repeat business.


  1. Competitive Advantage: Encourages innovation and differentiation in service offerings, positioning the consultant ahead of competitors.


  1. Personal Fulfillment: Offers a sense of ownership and control over one's professional path, leading to feeling more valued and accomplished.


  1. Operational Efficiency: Leads to the implementation of processes and technologies that streamline operations, improve productivity, and enhance service delivery.


By adopting a business owner mindset, independent consultants can significantly improve their business performance, client relationships, and personal satisfaction, setting the stage for long-term success and growth.

Stages of an independent consulting mindset


There are several stages of a consulting business, including shifting from an employee mindset to a business owner mindset and then shifting from a new independent consultant to a seasoned, successful consulting business owner.

Shifting from employee mindset to business owner mindset

Shifting to a business owner mindset is one of the key transitions an independent consultant needs to make. As an independent consultant, you’re now responsible for all aspects of your business ranging from client delivery to marketing to selling your own services, whereas as an employee you likely had other people in your company who handled most of these functions. 


Becoming good at wearing all the hats in your business requires thinking about yourself as someone who’s capable and competent at these responsibilities and to get over the hang-ups associated with “promoting and selling yourself.”


Examples of an employee to a business owner mindset shifts to make include:

  • Seeing yourself as a confident CEO as opposed to whatever your corporate title was
  • Thinking of yourself as someone who’s adept at marketing and selling
  • Shifting into a sales mindset instead of thinking you’re interviewing for your engagements
  • Not thinking you need to wait for a certain amount of time before you’re qualified to raise your prices or to offer more strategic services; avoiding the employee-based thought process where you would typically need to be in a role for a certain amount of time before eligible for a promotion 
  • Thinking your pricing should be calculated based on what you were making (or would be making) had you stayed in corporate
  • Seeing yourself as a subordinate to your consulting buyer as if you were still in the corporate hierarchy


Shifting from new consultant to seasoned, successful business owner

Starting a consulting business often relies on the basics and the mindset required to figure out how to execute your business functions for the first time. Oftentimes, consultants think these initial successes, such as landing the first client, are beginner’s luck or a fluke. 


And, they may be beginner’s luck in some ways. You might have landed your first client or first several clients from your immediate network (e.g. former employers or former corporate clients). You may have agreed to do whatever work they wanted you to do, and to agree to whatever rate they offered or negotiated with you. 


There’s nothing wrong with taking what you can get when you’re first starting out.


This is not a reliable, long-lasting strategy or mindset though.


The mindset required for consulting business growth and sustainability involves shifting your mindset from “I’m new” or “I’m still figuring this out” or “I’m just an independent consultant” to a new consulting business owner self-identity. 


Consultants must shift from just getting the business off the ground to thinking of themselves as a successful business owner who optimizes delivery, who is adept at marketing and branding, and who is solid at selling services. 


This growth mindset emphasizes resilience, innovation, and the pursuit of opportunities for expansion, requiring a broader vision and a commitment to ongoing development and improvement.

The 7 mindsets of a successful independent consultant


There are seven mindsets that a successful independent consultant embodies in order to grow a sustainable, fulfilling consulting business.

1. Confidence

The first mindset to cultivate as an independent consultant is confidence. 


Definition of confidence

Confidence is the firm belief in your abilities, the value, and the quality of your work. It encompasses trusting your expertise, making decisions with conviction, and effectively communicating with clients and potential clients. This confidence enables you to navigate challenges, pitch your services convincingly, and build strong, trusting relationships with clients and potential clients.


Impact of confidence

It’s common to assume that confidence comes from achieving results. For example, you might assume that you’ll be more confident as soon as you land a client or you’ll feel confident when you’re able to land a client outside of your network.


It’s important to have confidence ahead of time in order to create the results you want in your business. By cultivating a confident mindset and self-identity, you’ll equip yourself to land more business, to land ideal clients, to land more fulfilling type of work, and to charge the pricing you want to charge.


Strategies to build confidence

To build confidence ahead of time, it’s important to purposefully cultivate the identity of a successful consulting business owner so you see yourself as a confident, powerful CEO who’s in control of driving the results you want to achieve.

2. Certainty

The next mindset to cultivate as an independent consultant is certainty. 


Definition of certainty

Certainty in the context of an independent consultant's mindset refers to the level of assurance and conviction you have about your knowledge, skills, and the outcomes of your business owner-related actions. It involves having a clear, unwavering understanding of your area of expertise, the value you provide to clients, and the direction in which you are steering your business. 


Impact of certainty

This sense of certainty helps you make decisions confidently, set expectations realistically, and convey trustworthiness to clients.


On the flip side, when you’re uncertain, you’ll slow down, stall, and even prevent growth in your business due to hesitation and inability to take decisive action.


Strategies to build certainty

One tool to build certainty is by leveraging a 3-question process I give to the independent consulting clients I coach. The three questions are:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how certain are you that you’ll__________ (fill in the blank with something you’re working to achieve such as close a new consulting client this month or add three leads to your pipeline this week)
  • Why is it that #?
  • What would make it a 10?


These 3 questions help you become more aware of your default mindset as it relates to the certainty of hitting the goals you’ve set in your business and to uncover strategies and thought processes that will help you build more certainty. With repetition, you can build a mindset where you’re certain beyond the shadow of a doubt that achieving your goals is inevitable.

3. Capacity to have

The third consulting business owner mindset centers around the capacity to have. 


Definition of capacity to have


The "capacity to have" is your readiness for success and growth. It involves allowing oneself to achieve and maintain goals without self-imposed limitations.


In contrast, "self-sabotage and self-limitation" refer to behaviors and mindsets that hinder personal and professional potential. These include procrastination, fear of success, and self-doubt, which will prevent you from reaching your full capabilities.


Impact of expanding your capacity to have

Without intentionally cultivating your capacity to have, it’s likely you’ll self-sabotage and plateau without reaching your full potential as a business owner. Lacking the capacity to have is a common root cause of a consultant recreating roughly what they’d been making in corporate. 


Strategies to build capacity to have

To increase your capacity to have, start by building awareness of your current capacity level and blockers. The following questions will get you started:

  1. What achievements or successes do you find difficult to accept or feel uncomfortable with, and why?
  2. In what areas do you frequently procrastinate or avoid taking action, even when you know the steps you need to take?
  3. Have you set any boundaries or limitations for yourself based on past experiences or failures? What are they?
  4. How do you react to opportunities that push you outside your comfort zone? Do you embrace them or find reasons to avoid them?
  5. What negative beliefs do you hold about your ability to achieve and sustain success, and how do these beliefs affect your actions?
  6. When faced with setbacks or challenges, what is your usual response? Do you see them as opportunities to learn and grow, or do you let them reinforce your self-doubts and fears?


4. Connection to money

The fourth consulting business owner mindset centers around building a high-quality connection to money.


Definition of connection to money

A high-quality money mindset includes recognizing the value of your expertise, being confident in setting and negotiating rates and understanding the importance of financial health for business sustainability.


Impact of having a high-quality connection to money

Having a positive connection to money is crucial for you as it directly influences your pricing strategies, negotiation skills, and ultimately your financial success. It helps in overcoming undervaluing your services and encourages a proactive approach to financial planning, ensuring long-term growth and stability.


Strategies for developing a high-quality connection to money

Improving your money mindset as an independent consultant involves both reflective practices and actionable strategies:


  1. Assess Your Current Mindset: Start by reflecting on your current beliefs about money. Identify any negative or limiting beliefs that might be hindering your financial success.


  1. Set Financial Goals: Define clear, achievable financial goals. Whether it's a revenue target, a reserve savings goal, or desired pricing for your services, having specific objectives can guide your actions.


  1. Practice Pricing Confidence: Role-play negotiation scenarios or discuss pricing with a coach to build confidence. Believe in the value you bring to your clients and be prepared to articulate it.


  1. Shift Your Perspective: Consultants can feel awkward about money and pricing because they think they’re selling themselves and it feels like a personal transaction. One effective way to reframe this and to feel more confident is to recognize you’re not selling yourself. Instead, you’re selling the expertise and ability to help your clients achieve their desired outcomes.


  1. Talk About Money. Talking about money can be considered taboo. But you’re a business owner. Businesses require money. It’s important to normalize talking about money, setting money goals, and managing the money in your business.


  1. Iterate: Keep track of your financial progress. Review your pricing and financial goals regularly and adjust as necessary based on your learnings.


  1. Celebrate Successes: Recognize and celebrate your financial achievements, no matter how small. This reinforces a positive association with money and success.


5. Clarity

The fifth consulting business owner mindset relies on being clear about your business model and the value you deliver.


Definition of clarity

Clarity in the context of a successful independent consulting mindset refers to having a clear understanding of your goals, values, services, and target market. It involves being precise about what you offer, who you serve, and the unique value you bring to your clients. 


Impact of clarity

Clarity enables you to focus your efforts, communicate effectively with potential clients, and make strategic decisions that align with your business objectives. It helps in setting realistic expectations, both for yourself and your clients, and is essential for marketing your services effectively, negotiating contracts, and managing projects. 


Strategies to increase clarity

Achieving clarity requires regular reflection and feedback collection to ensure your consulting practice remains aligned with your goals and the needs of your ideal client.


One simple exercise you can leverage to measure how clear you are, to identify gaps, and to increase your clarity, is the 3-part consulting mindset question tool. Ask and answer:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how clear are you about the value of what you offer?
  • Why is it that #?
  • What would make it a 10?


6. Consulting business owner self-identity

The sixth consulting business owner mindset relies on seeing yourself as a business owner. It’s your business owner self-identity.


Definition of consulting business owner self-identity

Your self-identity as an independent consultant refers to your perception of yourself in the context of your professional role. It encompasses your understanding of your unique skills, values, and the distinct value you bring to your clients. 


The shift in self-identity from employee to business owner involves transitioning from seeing oneself as part of a larger organization with defined roles and responsibilities to viewing oneself as the primary driver of one's business, responsible for setting direction, making decisions, and bearing the outcomes. This shift encompasses embracing a higher level of autonomy, accountability, and flexibility, as well as a change in mindset from executing predetermined strategies to creating and seizing opportunities. It requires adopting an entrepreneurial spirit, where risk-taking, innovation, and resilience become central to one's identity.


Impact of a strong consultant self-identity

Your self-identity shapes your approach to consulting, including how you tackle problems, interact with clients, and position yourself in the market. It's about seeing yourself as a skilled professional, a trusted advisor, and a business owner, all rolled into one. This self-perception influences your business decisions, your resilience in facing challenges, and your ability to innovate and adapt. 


A strong, positive self-identity as an independent consultant is key to navigating the competitive landscape, building strong client relationships, and achieving long-term success.


On the contrary, not shifting your self-identity from employee to business owner as an independent consultant can significantly impact your success and satisfaction in several ways:


  1. Limited Growth: Without the mindset of a business owner, you might not fully embrace the opportunities for growth and expansion, potentially stunting your consulting practice's development.


  1. Decision-Making Challenges: Business owners make decisions from a strategic perspective, considering long-term impacts. Staying in an employee mindset may lead to short-term thinking and hesitancy in making bold decisions that could propel your business forward.


  1. Less Fulfilling Work: Independent consultants who continue to operate from an employee mindset run the risk of landing staff augmentation-type roles that aren’t as fulfilling or high-paying.


  1. Less Autonomy: As a consultant who continues to think of yourself from an employee lens, you’ll be less likely to define, set, and enforce boundaries with your clients and yourself. You’ll run the risk of working at the client’s whims instead of setting your own working schedule and policies.


  1. Lower-Paying Engagements: When you price your services from an employee mindset, it’s likely you’ll cap yourself at the equivalent of what you were or would be making in corporate as opposed to realizing you have a much higher potential to generate revenue based on value instead of time.


Overall, not making the identity shift can hinder your ability to fully step into the role of an independent consultant, affecting your business’s growth, adaptability, and long-term viability.


Strategies for Building Your Consulting Business Owner Mentality

Here’s an exercise to strengthen your business owner self-identity. 


    • Recognize.  First, get clear about your current gaps and lingering, legacy mindset that could be holding you back. To do this, you can do a download of all your thoughts and beliefs about you as a business owner.
    • Reframe. Then, identify the top 2-3 thought patterns, belief systems, and ways of thinking from this list that are keeping you stuck in your former self-identity (e.g. employee mindset) and that you want to replace. Write down the new way you want to think of yourself, as a reflection of you as a business owner who is successful and in control of your results.


  • Reinforce. Build a daily routine around intentionally thinking of yourself and your business from this new frame of mind.



7. Committed

The seventh mindset to cultivate as a successful independent consultant is commitment.


Definition of a Committed Mindset

A committed mindset for an independent consultant specifically involves unwavering dedication to their business success and to their client's success. It means maintaining focus on goals objectives despite short-term challenges.


Impact of a Committed Mindset

When you’re committed to achieving your goals and to the success of your business, you’ll’ be much more willing to experiment, iterate, and adjust until you figure out what works best to achieve your business goals.


On the flip side, without a committed mindset, you’ll waste time and emotional capacity by second-guessing and thinking the grass could be greener somewhere else (e.g. back in corporate). You’ll waste valuable time and opportunity.


Strategies to Build a Committed Mindset

One simple exercise you can leverage to measure how committed you are, to identify gaps, and to repeatedly reinforce your commitment mindset, is the 3-part consulting mindset question tool. Ask and answer:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how committed are you to achieving X goal by Y date?
  • Why is it that #?
  • What would make it a 10?


How to cultivate a consulting mindset: Practical steps and strategies for getting started


Knowing mindset is important is one thing. Knowing how to shift your mindset is another thing. 


Let’s make it practical for you to build a consulting business owner mindset. I shared strategies within each of the 7 C’s above for you to put into action.


Now let’s talk about practical steps you can take to strengthen your consulting mindset.


There are three steps you can take to uncover areas of opportunity for your consulting mindset, and to build and strengthen your 7 C’s mindset.


Step 1: Recognize Your Current Thinking

First, get clear about your current thought processes, patterns, and belief systems that could be holding you back. 


To uncover these thoughts and beliefs, you can do a download of all your thoughts and beliefs. 

  1. List out each of the 7 C’s at the top of your paper. 
  2. Set a timer for 15 minutes. 
  3. Then write out every thought that comes to mind about your business, your offers, your ideal client, your goals, and you as a business owner. Look at each of these aspects from the perspective of the 7 Cs. For example, what are your thoughts about how committed you are as a business owner? What are your thoughts about how much you charge for your services (your connection to money)?


Step 2: Reframe To A Business Owner Mindset

Next, identify the top 2-3 thought patterns, belief systems, and ways of thinking from this list that are keeping you stuck in your former self-identity (e.g. employee mindset) and that you want to replace. Write down the alternative, new way you want to think of yourself, as a reflection of you as a business owner who is successful and in control of your results.


Reinforce Your Business Owner Mindset

Finally, develop a daily routine around intentionally thinking of yourself and your business from this new frame of mind. 


For example, you might

  • Name your new identity, such as “500kme” if your goal is to become a $500k business owner
  • Spend 10 minutes each morning getting into your new, reframed business owner mindset
  • Take a walk and purposefully think of yourself as “500kme”. Think about how you’re carrying yourself more confidently. Think about how committed you are to your results.
  • Add a sticky note on your computer monitor to remind you of the 7 Cs.


Additional resources

Here are several additional resources to augment the strategies I shared in this article:


Get the help you need to improve your consulting mindset and grow your business the right way 

For independent consultants, shifting from an employee to a business owner mindset is crucial for growth and confidence. A coach can help you change your approach, focusing on strategic growth rather than just day-to-day tasks. 

As a coach who specializes in working with independent consultants, I provide experience and strategies to encourage operationalizing your business to make it more predictable and repeatable.

You don’t have to the challenges of entrepreneurship alone. Coaching can support you in planning, accountability, and overcoming hurdles, essential for building the resilience, confidence, and skills necessary to succeed as a business owner.


Click here to learn more about coaching for consultants and to listen to the experience that other independent consultants had working with Melisa.

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