How to Get Consulting Clients With This Weekly Routine

blog article Feb 15, 2023

Estimated time to read: 10 minutes

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One of the biggest challenges for independent consultants is consistently landing new consulting clients.

Oftentimes, independent consultants avoid business development either because they’re too busy knee-deep with client delivery or because it feels hard and stressful to sell themselves. Often it’s both.

For many consultants, we get trapped doing contractor, staff augmentation type work because it’s the type of work that is easiest to find and land. Often, this type of staff augmentation work comes from our past colleagues and past clients.

But, this type of work that lands in our lap as independent consultants is usually not the type of consulting work that is most fulfilling or the most highly-paid.

As a result, it’s common for independent consultants to feel frustrated and that they don’t have control over their own businesses.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the simple, powerful, and proven steps to build a winning routine for getting clients as an independent consultant.


Understanding who is your ideal consulting client

An important pre-requisite to landing consulting clients is to be clear on who your ideal consulting client is. When you have a specific, ideal consulting client type that you’re focused on, you’re able to:

  • Help people clearly understand what you do and what types of clients you work with when you’re networking.
  • Clearly address your ideal clients’ pain points and solutions when you’re speaking (e.g. at events, at roundtables, on podcasts) so they are able to see you understand them and are someone who will be able to help them solve their challenges and accomplish their goals.
  • Write compelling articles that resonate with your ideal client.
  • Develop clear, compelling solutions and service offerings that your ideal clients seek you out to deliver.

Here are the 6 steps to get clear on your ideal consulting client:

  1. Brainstorm a list of all the possible consulting client types you can help. Label each as Ideal Client Type #1, #2, etc.
  2. For each consulting client type, answer the following questions:
    • What problems do you help Ideal Client Type solve?
    • Why does Ideal Client Type care about those problems, what's the ROI/benefit to them?
  3. Interview ideal clients to validate your assumptions about their pain points, what they value, and why they would want to work with a consultant. An added benefit is that these types of interviews often turn into potential consulting opportunities. So, you get the benefits of clarity about your ideal consulting client AND a bigger pipeline.
  4. Brainstorm why you would choose to focus on each Ideal Client Type. Separate the shoulds, coulds, and wants to decide on your targeted ideal client for reasons you like, and to build a lasting business.
  5. Decide which ideal consulting client type you will focus on for your consulting practice and commit to it.
  6. Continuously refine and adjust as you meet and work with your ideal consulting clients.

Click here to download a workbook on How to Nail Down Your Ideal Client - Get Clear To Attract Clients You Want to Work With, Doing the Type of Work You Love.

Listen to Episode 009 of the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast - Nailing Down Your Ideal Client.

There are 3 common challenges you’ll want to be aware of and overcome when you’re honing in on your ideal consulting client type. If you feel resistant to narrowing down to an ideal consulting client type, you’ll want to look into and address these:

  1. Thinking that narrowing down to a specific client type, or niche, will leave money on the table. It’s common for independent consultants to resist “niching down” to their ideal client type because they feel like it will turn away potential clients, and money. The opposite is true. When you go all in on a specific client type, or niche, for your consulting business you build a reputation, case studies, meaningful stories, and the specific language that helps your potential clients recognize that you’re an expert in your niche, and pay you accordingly.
  2. Thinking that narrowing down to a specific client type, or niche, will limit your ability to take on a variety of consulting work. When you choose a specific consulting client type to focus on in your marketing, branding and positioning, you become known for and eventually sought after as an expert in this area. At the same time, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be approached to do other types of work. You can have a “secret menu” of consulting services that you agree to provide to clients when it’s opportunistic. In other words, you can have a specific type of consulting client you focus on messaging for, and then also choose to take on a variety of work that consulting clients want done without it needing to dilute your messaging.
  3. Thinking you’re more of a generalist and that you don’t qualify as an expert in a specific area. It’s common for independent consultants to doubt themselves. It’s common for independent consultants to avoid giving themselves credit for what they do know and the depth of experience they do have. Ask yourself - how might this be true for me? Where am I not giving myself enough credit for what I know and what problems I’m capable of solving? Continue to build up your “evidence list” and thinking of yourself as someone who is an expert in solving the problems of your ideal consulting client type.


The 5 prerequisites for getting consulting clients

There are 5 prerequisites for getting consulting clients.


1. Know who your ideal consulting clients are

First, you want to get clear on the ideal consulting client that you want to work with, what problems you solve for them, why they care about solving those problems, what you help them achieve, and why they care about achieving what you help them achieve. This is called your “consulting niche.”


2. Cultivate a network and audience of your ideal clients

Next, you want to cultivate an audience and network of your ideal clients. You can create a network of your ideal consulting clients through activities such as networking, attending events, participating in forums, hosting events such as executive roundtables, speaking at events, or guesting on podcasts. You’ll want to capture them in tools such as your LinkedIn network and in your email marketing system.


3. Meet and develop relationships with people and companies who work with your ideal consulting clients

At the same time, you’ll want to meet and develop relationships with other people and companies who work with your ideal consulting clients. These are potential collaborators who have already cultivated groups, communities, and lists of your target audience. This is a benefit because you can support each other, to provide valuable content to their audience as a value to both them and to the ideal clients. Examples of these collaborators are software vendors, other suppliers to your ideal client, consultants who provide complimentary services to yours, recruiting agencies, and facilitators of forums.


4. Consistently add value to your audience and network

Then, you’ll want to find ways to consistently nurture the audience you’ve created, including your direct audience and the audience you meet through the collaborators. This will establish you as an expert at solving the specific problem and achieving the specific goals that resonate with your ideal clients. You’ll build your reputation as the go-to person for those ideal clients. Examples of nurturing your consulting audience include sharing relevant articles over email, providing recommendations through video, publishing podcast episodes, inviting them to forums, or inviting them to events where you’re speaking.


5. Consistently make offers

Consistently make offers to your growing audience of consulting clients and collaborators, to invite them to conversations. Depending on the scenario, these conversations can take the form of an initial get-to-know-each-other, a discovery call, an initial strategy conversation, a review of your services, a discussion about speaking engagements or other events, brainstorming on collaboration opportunities, etc.


How to get consulting clients for your business with this weekly routine:

Create a simple, easy-to-execute routine for yourself so you’re consistent with your consulting business development work, and so you ultimately create a steady stream of consulting leads and revenue.

Step 1: Talk to people

The first step to get consulting clients is for your ideal clients and/or people who would refer or connect you to your ideal clients to become aware of you and what you do as a consultant. You can accomplish this in multiple ways including networking with your existing network to reconnect and maintain the relationships, meeting new people who are connected to your ideal client type and/or who could be your ideal consulting client, or speaking to audiences in person or remotely.


Step 2: Add value

Next, add value to the audience and network you’ve built. Provide your network of ideal clients, potential referrers, and collaborators with strategies, recommendations, tips, and insights into the types of problems they face and how they can overcome those challenges. You want to become known for being the person who fully understands and can help your ideal clients solve their problems (even those they don’t realize they have) and achieve their goals. Examples of adding value to your audience include speaking, hosting roundtables, facilitating in-person or online communities, hosting events, providing articles or videos, speaking on podcasts, etc.


Step 3: Make offers to help

And, as you’re adding value to your audience, you’ll want to make offers to help them. It can be a “mini” offer such as having a 20-minute strategy call to discuss a specific problem and lay out a plan or a more substantial offer such as a discovery call, to fully assess their situation and needs.

For more on how to establish these mini-consulting offers:

  • Listen to episode 97 of the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast - The Most Neglected Consulting Offers.
  • Then, click here to take the Compelling Consulting Offers Assessment.

By consistently implementing these three steps on a weekly basis, you’ll fill your consulting pipeline with opportunities.


Additional resources for the routine to get consulting clients

  • Click here to download the Routine Builder for the Successful Independent Consultant.
  • Click here to request the Checklist to Fill Your Consulting Pipeline in 26 Minutes a Day.


The 5 Steps to facilitating an effective sales process for closing ideal consulting clients

There are 5 steps to facilitate an effective sales process for closing ideal consulting clients.


Step 1: Identify a Potential Opportunity

The first step in an effective consulting sales process is to identify a potential opportunity to work with a client to solve a problem and/or achieve a specific goal. The result of this step is to qualify a potential opportunity to move forward, or to rule out an opportunity at the time.


Step 2: Conduct Discovery and Needs Analysis

Next, after you identify a potential consulting opportunity, you’ll conduct a discovery and needs assessment process. This may be one meeting or multiple meetings. During this discovery and needs analysis phase, you’ll want to accomplish four main objectives: (1) collect information related to the client’s current state, their desired state, and what is preventing them from accomplishing their goals. (2) You’ll also want to understand the client’s decision-making process, including stakeholders, contract signers, and any detractors. (3) You’ll want to understand the impact the potential client foresees the engagement will have, both qualitatively and quantitatively. (4) You’ll want to understand the client’s budgetary and financial considerations.


Step 3: Co-Develop the Solution

Next, you’ll work with the potential client and any relevant stakeholders to co-develop potential solutions that will address the findings you uncovered in the discovery and needs assessment phase.
The result of this step is to hone in on 1-3 options that the potential client agrees will accomplish their objectives, including the pricing for each of the 3 options.
It’s important to leverage this step to (1) create solutions that will address the client’s needs and (2) also use this process to develop a relationship and buy-in for the options and approach with the potential client.


Step 4: Finalize and Gain Buy-In for the Selected Approach

Next, after you have developed the solution and 1-3 options, you’ll want to work with the client to navigate its decision-making process and finalize an agreement to proceed with one of the options for your consulting work.


Step 5: Execute Contract

Finally, you’ll want to execute a contract with the client for the selected option. For the simple option, you can turn your proposal into a simple contract, including any terms and conditions you require to protect your business and have the potential client execute that proposal in the form of a contract. If the client requires a more robust master service contract and/or statement of work, you may consider agreeing to use the client’s templates so that it cuts down on the back-and-forth and typically lengthy legal reviews.

Now that you have an executed contract, you’re ready to officially launch your engagement.


Additional resources

Here’s a list of resources to help you build a winning routine to get independent consulting clients:

  • Click here to download the Routine Builder for the Successful Independent Consultant
  • Click here to download the Checklist to Fill Your Consulting Pipeline in 26 Minutes a Day
  • Click here to take the Compelling Consulting Offers Assessment
  • Click here for Consulting Sales: Tips & Tools To Help You Get More Clients
  • Click here to take the Independent Consultant’s Pricing Assessment


You started implementing the winning routine for getting consulting clients, now what?

So now that you have the framework for a winning routine to get consulting clients, you may realize that (1) it’s challenging to figure out how to handle the various scenarios that occur within each of the steps you’re executing. You know there’s value in having an expert sounding board to become more effective at selling consulting services and (2) you’re getting in your own way through overwhelm and self-doubt.

You’re not alone.

Even the most skilled and experienced consultants feel this way, whether they’ve been in business for one year or 20 years. It’s common to feel anxious and incapable when it comes to business development.

If you’d like more support to grow your independent consulting business so that you make more money, have more impact, and enjoy more autonomy without the constant self-doubt and overwhelm, there’s a solution for you.

Click here to learn more about private coaching for independent consultants.

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