Every job has its own set of challenges, and consulting is no different. As a new consultant, it can be difficult to know where to start and how to manage the expectations of clients. It’s inevitable that you will make mistakes in your early days as a consultant, but there are some common ones to look out for. Here are five of the most common mistakes that new consultants make.
1. Underestimating the scope of the project
When you take on a new project, it can be easy to underestimate the amount of time, energy, and resources it will require. Consultants who are new to the game are at the highest risk of this; in the excitement of trying to land a new client, it’s easy to overpromise, just to seal the deal.
This will bite you later; either by leaving your client unhappy or by you having to work much longer on the project than you anticipated, thereby reducing your profits.
So, you need to be realistic with your clients, clearly agree (and document!) what services you will deliver, and not saying ‘yes’ to everything just to get them onboard.
2. Not having a clear strategy
As a consultant, you need to have a detailed plan in order to tackle each project and make sure your clients know what they’re getting. A great pitch may win you a client, (see our free client proposal template) but without the strategy to implement, you won't be able to execute on your promised work. It’s important to have a framework that guides each project and provides actionable steps. Without a clear approach, it can be hard to remain productive and you’ll struggle to make progress.
3. Not setting boundaries
New consultants often struggle to manage client expectations and can end up working late nights and weekends just to meet a deadline. It’s important to set boundaries early on so that you can remain productive and not overwork yourself. This is strongly related to point 1; do not underestimate what you are promising your client at the start.
4. Not having a plan for how to handle mistakes
Mistakes happen, but how you handle them can make or break a project. It’s essential to have a plan for how you will address mistakes so that clients know that you take responsibility for your work. What happens when there’s a missed deadline? What happens when the client is expecting one thing, and you deliver another? Communication is key here, and if you anticipate a problem, it’s better to speak with your client and be upfront, rather than go silent and hope they won’t notice.
5. Not managing expectations
As a consultant, you need to make sure that your clients understand your approach and what they can expect from you. This means communicating your plans and managing their expectations throughout the project. In addition to regular meetings, an effective way to keep your client informed and even excited about your project is to set them up with a client dashboard. You can use our free client dashboard template which you can share via a link and then keep updated with all the latest reports, meeting notes, and other important information about your project.
These are five of the most common mistakes that new consultants make. While mistakes can be inevitable, a clear and organized approach can help you avoid the most common pitfalls. With enough planning and organization, you can make sure that you provide the best services to your clients.