4 Pillars to Create A Consistent And Steady Income As An Independent Consultant

Feb 22, 2021

Transcript of the Video:

All right, today's topic for the tech leader power lunch is that are the four pillars to create a consistent and steady income as independent consultants.


  • Framework to leverage for reaching your goals as an IC or job-seeker
  • Example of a framework you can leverage to demonstrate your own thought leadership
  • The 4 pillars critical to the success of your IC business
  • Common mistakes to avoid as you build and scale your IC business

So today, I would love for you to leave with number one, a framework that you can leverage for reaching your goals. Whether you're an independent consultant, or quite frankly, a job seeker, there's so much overlap here. I will also give you this will serve as an example of a framework that you can leverage to demonstrate your own thought leadership as you're going through processes to sell your consulting or to sell yourself into a full-time role. And then also, you'll be able to understand those four pillars of successful and independent consulting business. And then finally, I'm going to walk you through the common mistakes that I noticed people are making as they're building and scaling their independent consulting business. So that is our goal for today. 

If we haven't met yet, I am Melisa Liberman. I am a career coach and I am an expert in helping tech leaders achieved their big goals, whether it be as an independent consultant, as a tech leader looking for a full time role. If you're looking to improve your leadership skills, I work with a lot of people who have roles right now. We're just really wanting to get promoted or navigate through those corporate politics. So that is what I do in my day to day and I also created this lunch so that I could share best practices with a larger audience beyond just the people that I get the honor of working with one on one. So for some of you, you're my clients, and I love to see you here every week. And for those of you who send me emails, I love hearing from you and messages on LinkedIn, I'm really glad that this has been a valuable tool. So if we haven't met yet, hopefully, you'll get some value out of today. So with that, let's dive in to today's topic. Now, this is gonna be a little bit meta today.

3 Ways to Apply Today’s Topic

And so I wanted to give you a frame of reference here as we go through today's topic, because there's really three ways that you can apply this topic for some of you, it might apply for everything. And for others of you have one of these might be the best way to think about this content as I walk through it.

  1. So some of you are independent consultants who want to scale the business that you created, or that you may have accidentally fallen into, and want to be able to create a consistent revenue repeatable revenue stream. So think about it, the content out in that way as I walk through it.
  2. Others of you are job seekers who are either looking for some of you might be looking for either consulting work or full time work, others of you are looking for full time work only. Whatever that is, as you go through this, as I walk you through this process, think about the framework that I'm going to share with you these pillars from the context of searching for your job, because this, this framework applies to that scenario, as well.
  3. And then thirdly, the other way to use this tool and the content that I'm going to give you today is a way to mess it up watch how I methodology-izing.

So think about the way that I've structured my pillars, and set up this framework for you. And think about what in your career what think about what in your professional life. Think about what in your approach that you take on a day to day basis is a repeatable methodology or framework that you could organize around pillars as well, in a way to better or more clearly articulate what it is that you're able to deliver in your organization or for your role as a way to lead people as a way to influence people and as a way to uplevel the value that people perceive that you're providing, just by putting framework work around something that you do that comes naturally to you a lot of times, that then can seem as though you're productizing them the knowledge and the experience that you have, that can also be used in an in an interview or even a sales scenario with one and two. So that's why I say it's a little bit meta, because we're thinking about this, not only as the content I've given you, but also how, how can you use the content in this process I'm walking you through for yourself. So hopefully, that's not too much of a mind trick. And let's dive in then.

The Common Path to Consulting 

So from a consulting perspective, what I find people doing is falling into consulting in one of two ways,

  1. either a stop gap between jobs, or like, in my case,
  2. it became an opportunistic situation, when I resigned from the company I helped create and then they immediately said, Well, can you can you come on as a consultant for a period of time.

Another way that happens frequently is that some former colleague that you might have is, approaches you and says, Can you come help with a certain problem? So you kind of oftentimes I find that people are not purposefully going into consulting, that it's more of an accidental situation. But then, once you get a taste of it, I know for me, once I got a taste of it, I wanted to stay, I didn't want to have to go back into corporate, I wanted that variety. I wanted that exposure to a variety of different types of projects and problems and clients and quite frankly, to pick and choose the people that I was working with.

Why it’s Hard to Get Past the 1st Client/Project

So if that's you also, the let's think about this from this business that you've now got on your hands, maybe accidentally, like it did for me or other people, let's think about how then can you start creating this into a steady flow of projects, so that you're able to build this into a sustainable business, which is the topic for this week, right, a consistent and sustainable business for yourself, so that you don't have to be pushed back into corporate unless you want to go.

The Root Cause? 

And so most people think that the reason why they don't have that steady flow of projects, is because

  • they don't have time, like they can't juggle both sales and marketing, and delivery. So they kind of have the starts and stops where they get a project land or project, they work really hard on it, I'm doing their best and then and then that project comes to an abrupt end or a planned and, and then they switch back into some kind of mode of how to sell and market and sell and find the next gig. And then it becomes this kind of business of starts and stops. And that's not a steady, predictable flow of revenue. And that leads to a lot of stress and unpredictability. And a lot of times, that's what I see people pushing people back into corporate because just for that simple fact of they want a steady revenue stream, which you can have from a consulting perspective as well. And that's what we're going to walk through today.
  • Another root cause of why I see that people aren't having that steady flow of projects is simply because they think I'm not good at sales,
  • or I'm not a marketer. I thought that for a long time, I think I've shared with you in the past, like I was, at one point even called the sales repellent by my CEO, it was probably true at the time. I'm kind of that's another story for another day, right? But thinking you're not good at sales and marketing. Could be true right now, that could be true. It's just that you haven't built up that skill. And it's not I'm going to, I'm going to talk with you in a minute about why it's not as far away as you might think it is because of the tight knit nature and type of work that you already do.

The Real Root Cause?

I've already alluded to this, but the real root cause of why you right now, don't have a steady predictable revenue stream, or one that's at the level that you want it to be at if you're an independent consultant is because you haven't spent the time or deliberate brainpower thinking of yourself as a CEO. You're thinking of yourself as an employee, or at least this is what I find with most people in this situation. And as a result, you're not putting the systems in place to create that sustainable business. And I think I have this on another side. But another way to say this is you're focused on working in your business, which is where most of us love, right? We love working in our business, otherwise, we wouldn't have be consulting on the types of projects that we are consulting on, or the types of roles that we're working in. And the other stuff because it doesn't come naturally, we neglect it or avoid it. And that's why you don't have a sustainable business, if you're on this call for that reason.

As a Result

So, as a result, what I find happening then is once that project, that accidental project comes to an end, then you end up giving up, and going back to corporate. And I don't want this to happen to you, too, unless you truly want to go back to corporate. If you want to go back to corporate, then that's a whole nother topic, right? Some of these pillars I'm going to share with you all of the pillars I'm going to share with you apply to you wanting to go back to corporate, so stay tuned for those. But don't go back just because you feel like it's your only option. And that's what I see so many people doing, because they've missed out on some of these pillars. All right. So again, if you're not in consulting, stay with me, this is such a good example of how to organize your methodology and really how to look at your job search, if you're even if you're looking for full time, roles. Okay, so with that, let's dive in.

The 4 Pillars 

So the four pillars, and I've organized this into something I call the AC DC framework, it brought me back to junior high, like the day the theme of the first dance I ever went to the back of black. That's kind of aging me. But you might be able to relate to that. So just for fun, the AC DC framework, and the AC DC framework essentially is four key areas. Number one, these are pillars, right? Four Pillars, that you can use to scale and create a sustainable independent consulting business.

  1. So number one attract,
  2. Number two, convert,
  3. number three, deliver.
  4. And number four be the CEO.

Now, this isn't rocket science, this isn't some amazing new idea. These are the very common steps of what you're doing to what people are doing to run businesses. However, once we start getting into the details, I think you'll see some uniqueness that you might not have thought about before or for a long time, that are really important to be thinking about. And not, this is not a start and stop, I'm going to do this and then this and then this and start over again, this is a framework that you need to include elements of every day. Every day, even if you have a project right now, even if that project is is seemingly long term, it could be terminated at any moment, just like your full time job could be terminated at any moment. So really looking at all four of these and incorporating them into your daily routine and weekly routines is really, really important to create that sustainable business. So with that, let's dive into the first one attract.

Pillar One: Attract

So the goal of pillar one attracting is simply to maintain a pipeline of opportunities that will lead to a steady income stream. So it may look like subsequent work, right? Like you're on a project right now. And you want to have follow on work we either with that client or you've got a, you know, a follow on project with a different client to always keep your income coming in. It could be filler work, like if you lost a project, what can you do to quickly fill in that gap in revenue. So having that in your opportunity pipeline, or it could be concurrent work? A lot of us think in very literal terms. And so it could be that you're managing multiple projects at one time, even though that seems like a lot to juggle. Having that perspective in mind, like if you were doing fractional work can be really valuable as well. So having a variety of a pipeline is the goal right now to attract opportunities to build that pipeline of opportunities. So what that looks like his again, this isn't rocket science. You all know what marketing is right? I just put a tract on it. And so marketing is marketing.

What does the system look like?:

  • It's having trouble. repeatable, predictable actions that create those leads for you.
  • And getting yourself to the place in your business where you have a formula, you know that you can take x number of actions or x type of actions, to get y number of leads. It's not a mystery to you every time you need to fill in work, you know what that formula is for you, your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, and the type and nature of clients that you work with and projects that you deliver. You know what that formula is, that takes some trial and error. And quite frankly, from personal experience and working with clients on this, once you figure out this formula, a lot of times things change, and you have to start all over again. So having that formula at all times is really important to creating a sustainable business.
  • And then having a good mix of outbound work, outbound marketing, like networking. With inbound work, how do you attract people to you through things like thought leadership, speaking, posting on LinkedIn, writing articles, doing webinars like that kind of thing.
  • A system that helps you to stay top of mind.
  • And a system that helps you stand out as a thought leader and an expert. So that's what the attract pillar looks like.

For a lot of us, because it doesn't come so naturally in it, especially in the beginning of being an independent consultant. This feels really hard and really mysterious. And then we neglect it. So that leads me to the common mistakes to avoid. There are more than eight, but these are the top ones.

The common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Number one, not thinking of yourself as a marketer, I used to make fun of marketing. In it when I was in corporate, they seem like fluff they seem to like and I've told this to the people who were in marketing, so it wasn't a wasn't a secret. But I always thought like this is such, there's nothing tangible here. Like they should be producing things. I never thought of myself as a marketer until the last, you know, several years running my own business, and needing to attract opportunities to myself. And then I realized how much fun marketing can be when you put your own spin on it and do the things that you feel are in alignment with you and your personality and your skill set. And you're not having to follow some formula that that does feel awkward or weird. So finding that good balance.
  2. Another common mistake that I make, that I see people making, especially from an outbound marketing perspective, is avoiding the most influential people in their network. This happens almost all the time, I say to people wait, who are the top 20 Top 30 people in your network that you think could influence you be influential to help you land a job or to help you land a project? And they tell me Oh, I know who those people are? Have you called them or talk to them? No, No, I haven't. Because I'm not ready yet. Or I don't know what to say, or I'm embarrassed that whatever reason, right? And so avoiding those people feeling like there's some perfect time in the future that you should, like cash in that chip is is not the way that you want to be running this pillar. The fastest way to results are is getting on the phone with those people and talking with them, not asking them for anything in particular, you might have a call to action at the end. But it's much more about getting in front of them, letting them know what you're doing. You know what, what kinds of things that you're focused in on asking how you can help them and being a connector.
  3. Another thing that I noticed people doing is thinking things are out of their control. And this kind of leads to number seven as well. But if you think you can just go do one marketing activity, and you're going to get immediate results are a direct result. Like if I do this, then this. That's not how marketing works. This is about a broader message that that attracts opportunities to you. That might be you know, sometimes it does happen on a one to one or you take an action and you get a result. That's great. That's but I would look at that more as gravy than as a normal situation. You might go out there and start marketing in one way. And then the leads come in completely in a different fashion. It's like putting we've talked about this if you've been on these lunches before putting value into the overall bank, and then deposit and then some, some withdrawal might happen somewhere completely different. unexpected.
  4. I think I've mentioned this a minute ago, but not trying and testing like thinking, thinking like, oh, if this has to work this one way, or this is how someone told me to do it, or this was working, so it should work forever, and not realizing that marketing is constantly test.
  5. Marketing is constantly an experiment. And so to take that pressure off from that perspective, putting all your eggs in one basket, so thinking like this client of mine is, is I'm fine, I'm secure for the next year, whatever.
  6. And then realizing something happens and you have no pipeline, you've attracted no one because you've put all your eggs in one basket, which is partially related to lacking of consistency, not always D prioritizing these marketing efforts.
  7. And therefore, again, not having a pipeline as a result of that, thinking, I'll do that next week or next month, or whatever, and not putting in a really doable, repeatable routine that you can follow, that maybe takes you 20 minutes a day, but you know that you're always going to do it to build out that pipeline.
  8. And then the last thing that I see with this is people discounting their expertise, thinking they don't have something unique to say, or they don't aren't really an expert, and then are not even doing anything to attract roles to them, or, or projects to themselves. So that's something to really look at, if you're thinking that because I find that to be very common. And it just shuts you down from then figuring out where you could be unique, or trying and testing and then using that through trial and error. Okay, I'm super passionate about this topic. I've got to go faster, though, because so we're almost at the end of time. And I want to make sure we have time for questions. So if you have questions, and you're live here, you can put those in the chat or if you have questions and you're watching the replay, you can put those in the comment field and I'll come back and take a look.

Pillar Two: Convert

Okay, so pillar number two converting, this is sales, develop a repeatable methodology that helps you to convert opportunities to revenue.

Here's the deal. Most of us think we're not salespeople, I told you before I was even to the point of being sales called sales repellent. So thinking about this, most of us then want to avoid selling, and we kind of have to do it because we're pushed into a corner. But if you can actually look at the fact really, if we look at this and take a step back selling is being a consultant. All it is understanding where they are there as is where they want to be there to be, and what's the path to get there. You do that every day in your in your, in your real life, right. And then get it getting to the point where you can influence and gain buy in for your plan the path. Again, this is what you do as a consultant. So taking away this word that seems to shut us a lot of us down sales.

And just looking at this as I am being a consultant. And this is a way this having a step by step process to walk them through. Once you've got that opportunity to walk them through and be the leader that you are and show them exactly understand gather their requirements, understand where they want to be, figure out a way to articulate that path. And to get the buy in have the influencers and stakeholders that's literally all that sales or conversions are. And thinking about it that way and creating a repeatable system for yourself. So that you are able to leverage past experiences as stories in the sales process, and to know how to move them from opportunity into a buyer into a new client.

The common mistakes to avoid:

Some of the common mistakes that I noticed in this area are just

  1. having that poor quality thinking about sales, it's hard, I'm not good at it, who I am, like those kinds of thoughts on the second and
  2. that leads into number two, which is just truly not even thinking of yourself as a salesperson. You if you want this to be a business for yourself a sustainable business, then you have to see yourself wearing all of these hats, including marketing and sales and delivery. And ultimately we'll talk about being the CEO.
  3. And not listening is a huge one thinking you have to be there telling them everything, all your knowledge, and you don't listen.
  4. And no one wants to hire a consultant who's not going to listen to them. not asking for the order. I love one of my friends who's in sales. He's always says this like just ask for the order. You can say no be okay with that.

Pillar Three: Delivery

Okay, pillar number three delivery. This is you, obviously, this is your delivery. But you want to do that for them their benefit, as well as for your own reference ability. And there's a couple of areas that I really want to focus on here that you might not be thinking of as you're going through your day to day delivery, that can really help you to, again, transform this from a project into a business. And that is thinking about the work you're doing to find in parallel, finding those common themes and patterns that then you can productize not treating each project as a one off. But really looking at it as how do I benefit my client, but also how do I fold back into my own framework, my own methodology, my own system, so that I'm developing my intellectual property in the meantime, in in parallel. And by the way, all of those types of things, those examples, those frameworks, those systems can feed back into your sales and marketing. So it hits two birds with one stone in that way.

So from what I see from a common mistake, perspective, from delivery is just focusing on delivery, and neglecting these other pillars. That's the biggest one. We all as consultants can, it's very common to identify where the person we love to deliver, we love to actually do the work, we don't like to we tell ourselves, we don't like to market or sell the work. And so we focus or gravitate toward what we're most comfortable. And we're not spending that time or mental energy on these other three buckets. The other thing is just simply not looking at this, in that in that parallel mode, I just gave you to say you know what i can deliver but at the same time, I can use whatever I'm doing to benefit my overall business and my overall asset that I'm creating in that business.

Pillar Four: You as the CEO

And then finally, pillar number four, working on this is you being the CEO, this is the biggest mistake that I see you working on your business, not just in your business, so you actually have a business. It means having things like business plans, what is my goal this year? What's my revenue goal? How am I going to get there, checking in against that every month, every quarter, having a meeting with yourself, we're independent, right? You got to take the time to step back and say you know what, I'm going to go have a meeting with myself about I'm going to be the CEO meeting with the CEO, with his his or her advisors, which happened to be yourself in this case, having those plans having those goals. Really looking at your financials, I just hired a bookkeeper in the last six months, it's, it's having a meeting for me, I have a meeting with her every week, every month, sorry to talk about my revenue expectations and my expenses and my Oh, that's tracking against my goals, you can do that if you don't have a bookkeeper, you can do that with yourself again in this type of CEO mentality that you need to put in place.

The other thing is making those purposeful investments in your business for the short and long term, whether that be a coach, whether that be a bookkeeper, whether that be a virtual assistant to help you with some of the offloading administratively, whether it be investing in a course or book or whatever it is, a lot of times we have on an employee mentality, that that someone should reimburse us for investing. That's not being a CEO, that's being an employee. You're now the CEO, if this is what you want to do with your career, and thinking about yourself in that way. And treating your business in that way is where you will then get the return of a sustainable business, predictable business.

And so finally, the mistake I see here with this pillar is most people just completely missed this pillar. Like, I'm going to do a great job servicing my clients. And therefore, I will just attract references, I won't have to sell anything, and the money will come in and they don't think about being the CEO and where they want the business to go, and how they're going to get it there. And thinking as the CEO, not just as the consultant, wearing all of these hats.

The second one that I really want to point out to you is unwitting. I see this so often I did it to unwittingly create recreating that corporate structure. You're used to Which means finding someone to be your new boss, whether it's the client, or whether it's some advisor that you have whatever it is, you are in charge you owning that. And recognizing that is the fastest way to scale your business, versus trying to recreate the someone to lean on that then replaces the boss that you didn't even want in the first place.

And then finally, not purposefully shifting your self identity, most of us when we are in corporate, and when we leave corporate, our self identity is attached to the organization that we're in, or the job title that we have, or the team that we're leading. And we don't really purposefully notice that and recognize the work that it's going to take to shift that self identity from an employee into a CEO. And that work is almost as important as any of these other three pillars. It's a different type of work, but it's very, very important.

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