Image courtesy of brainstuck.com
Consultants have a bad rep. They do, let’s be honest with each other here. So needless to say, when I first took the leap and actually quit my full time job to do this, people didn’t get it. I received comments and inquires like “so why are you consulting?” or “so what’s next?” or “you should ultimately go back to a full time role for more job security and advancement” and stuff like that. People didn’t get it.
Consulting is usually viewed as either done by money-hungry people who spit out the same advice to different companies and get away with it, or it’s what you do when you part ways with a company and simply need an interim solution (or can’t find anywhere else to go). When I myself worked internally at a company, I did not have the best experience with or view of outside consultants. I viewed them just as many others do, which is why I was (and continue to be) on a strong mission to redefine consulting. Do a quick Google Images search for “consulting”, for example, and you’ll see what I mean about consulting being wrongly defined and stifled.
I chose to do this and still could not be more excited about my move to go off on my own. The entrepreneurial drive I felt to take the risk and start my own thing is certainly thanks to many people I’ve worked with in the past (you know who you all are!). Through my journey so far, I’ve connected with many other incredible consultants who are doing awesome work in design, marketing, development, you name it.
Consultants have the unique advantage to view industry trends and “best practices” from a bird’s eye view. Through working with various clients, I see trends come and go, new marketing channels pop up that grow in popularity, and am even able to transfer knowledge from what I’m learning working with one client to another. By seeing what’s going on at a greater scale, I’m more easily able to tell clients early on about something new to do, or not do, and transfer valuable knowledge across projects when applicable.
This isn’t something an in-house marketer typically has the luxury of doing. They’re embedded in one industry for one product for an extended period of time, so naturally their scope and creativity can become narrowed and too defined. I, too, have felt this way while in-house before, and it wasn’t the best feeling.
The Startup Sea Change
Since I was focused on working with early stage startups, I saw a unique opportunity to get involved at a critical point through consulting. I love startups and I hope to never leave the startup world. I joined it when I moved to Boston over four years ago and although I’m out on my own, I plan to stay in the startup ecosystem for as long as I can foresee. Startups don’t necessarily need (nor can afford) high-level strategists that just come in, spit out the same lines they used on the past five clients, and send over a bill for $20,000. They need someone who can both think high level and then dig in and do the dirty work. They also need someone who can work closely with the team to draw out ideas and also be available at odd hours on occasion (you know, for those 11pm website launches and such). I find that diving in to actually execute on the strategies I put together helps me even better understand the audience and industry of each client so much better, allowing me to constantly provide recommendations for marketing projects across the board based on what I’m seeing and experiencing.
For example, I was recently managing a client’s social media accounts while also developing their blog content strategy. I quickly learned through observing and listening on social media that there were a few key topics their audience did (and did not) want to read about. I was able to translate that knowledge into the blog content plan, and when it came time to write those posts, I knew exactly how to position them and share them.
What does it all mean?
This might be me rambling, this might be something many others feel, but regardless, I felt very strongly that it needed to be said. This topic/issue has actually been on my mind for several months now, but I just now decided to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, if you will) on it as I wanted to fully understand my stance on it, the consulting + startup ecosystem, and gather more experience and lessons learned on my end.
I do hope the general opinion about consulting will change for the better, and I’m already pumped to see so many amazing people taking the leap themselves and going into consulting full force — a great friend of mine included. Independent consulting (or starting your own marketing consultancy yourself as I did with KDMedia) gives you both the autonomy to be your own boss AND to decide your career direction at any point in time. In turn, it allows you to become even more valuable across the board in an area you truly care about.
I’m always looking to talk to awesome consultants to find new ways to work together, so please reach out if you’d like to chat! Or if you’d like to discuss a marketing project you have up your sleeve, I’d love to hear more! Simply email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.