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Consulting Secrets 3 – Landing Clients

Photo by Christian Sterk on Unsplash

There’s a new type of post buzzing around LinkedIn. I confess, I’ve even made a few. 

The post is something deeply personal. Maybe it’s a picture of you meditating, or your kids. 

Then there is some soulful reflection like, “work isn’t everything. This is why I do what I do.”

I ain’t judging. Just last week I shared a post like that about my daughter. 

Sometimes it feels like we are juicing the engagement when we do that. After all, isn’t authenticity the way to win social media? 

Way back in 2018, I had posts go viral when I talked about leaving academia. I had 20,000 visitors a Day to my website. 

It was cool.

Do you know how much money I mean off of that?

0. Nothing. Nada. 

I learned the hard way. Likes don’t pay the bills. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I told my story and it resonated with people. It was really validating. Maybe you’re on this email list today because I told that story. 

But the likes weren’t a business. 

In many ways, my 2018 self was following the advice of the influencers and gurus. 

“Just be yourself. Share your story, and you will reap the rewards of this online economy.“

I’m sorry to say it doesn’t work like that.

Last year I made the most money I ever made. My consulting business made about $260,000. 

And none of it came from baring my soul on social media.

It’s not about you…

In this passion-driven economy, there’s a lot of emphasis on you. Find your passions. Your story. 

You. You. You. 

The internet tries to sell you the god-damned participation medal like you’re special. 

You know what’s special? 

Be of service. Find someone to help. Make their life better. Do that, and you’re miles ahead of most people.

Find someone who will pay for that, and you’ve got a consulting business. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think our stories are powerful. Businesses built on stories can thrive. 

But it’s not enough by itself. 

A few years ago, I read the book Story Brand by Donald Miller. He talked about a mistake a lot of businesses make. We like to think we are Luke Skywalker, the main character in an epic saga. 

Really, you are Yoda. 

If you truly want your story to drive a thriving business, you can’t be the main character. 

The point is not about you being great. The point is to help someone else be great. 

In the last email, I talked about finding problems

I talked about getting a clear vision of the problems your clients have. 

If you understand the problem, you’re halfway to a consulting business. Frankly, very few people take the time to do that. 

But just because you’ve got a clear view of a potential client’s problem, it doesn’t mean they will trust you to fix it. 

Why the hell should they let you be their Yoda? There are hundreds of Internet influencers clamoring for the job. 

It’s simple really. 

  1. You need to know how to fix their problem (bonus points if you’ve solved it before).
  2. You need to prove you can fix their problems.
  1. Knowing how

When I work with clients for search engine marketing, they have a clear problem: People aren’t finding them using Google. 

I know how to fix that. 

My solution? Create great content that fits their brand and educates their potential customer, all in a structured way Google understands. 

That’s pretty much it. 

How did I learn how to do this? 

By accident, really. I was working on my own blog, trying to figure out how to get traffic. I started learning how to drive traffic. I took some courses. And I learned the skill I now get paid for. 

I learned by doing. 

For my first client, I showed them what I had done with my blog. At that point, I was getting about 50,000 people a month finding the blog from search engines.

For many companies, 50,000 readers a month would be a dream come true. 

And I did it for them. 

It’s the same thing I’ve done for several clients now. Not a ton, mind you. My preference is to have a handful of great, recurring clients. I’ll talk about that in another email. 

So how can you do this? 

How can you convince consulting clients to hire you?

  1. Mine your experience 

There are things you have done before that somebody is probably willing to pay for. 

When I launched my company, I had done things like grant writing, report writing, and research. It’s no surprise that my first consulting gigs were doing exactly those three things. 

But I hated doing those things. 

I loved writing posts and telling stories. 

So look at your experience. 

Make a list of the work you’ve done. Not just roles you’ve held. Pay attention to the skills you developed that people might be willing to pay for.

I think–in many cases–you can even pull skills and experiences from your unpaid work. 

For some consulting work, clients just want results. They don’t care about where you learned the skill. 

(Although for some, they’ll need credentials, proof, etc.)

In my world of marketing, a lot of marketing people who do social media, email, content, or other work for companies just started out by doing it for fun. And realized they were good at it. 

  1. Study

There’s a chance you may need new skills to solve your client’s problems. Ideally, these are skills you can pick up from either paid assignments, other jobs, or even online learning. 

If you need to upskill, do it. 

But don’t let it become an excuse for not pitching clients. 

  1. Create spec work 

Working on either your own projects or on fake projects you make up can give you something to show clients. 

We call this a spec work. 

It’s not as convincing as work you have done for other clients, but it can still help you land your first client. 

**If you really want a baller move–try creating spec work for the companies you want to work for. It can get their attention if done well!** 

Consulting is usually sold on what we call “deliverables,” a fancy word that just means “the shit you will do for us.”

Your deliverables might look like: 

  • Audit finances and prepare a report 
  • Create 10 LinkedIn posts a month for the CEO 
  • Run a program evaluation with the KPIs and a report 
  • Submit a grant application to X fund

Consulting deliverables are often project-based and specific. You can create projects to show clients. 

**Again though, don’t spend all your time on this. Creating fake projects can become a great excuse for not pitching real clients.**

  1. Build a portfolio

It can be a good idea to build a portfolio of some kind. 

This could include a combination of past work that you’ve done and spec work. 

Remember, if possible, to include results in a portfolio. My portfolio usually includes this nice image of one of my favorite client’s web traffic jumping through the roof. 

After all, clients aren’t just hiring you to do the work. In most cases, they are excited about a result. They are excited about solving the problem. 

  • More customers 
  • More social media engagement 
  • More people on their email list 
  • More money in their accounts 

If you can show that you have delivered these results in the past, it makes your consulting that much more powerful. 

And if not, make sure to keep records when you do get those results. 


I’ve thrown a lot at you in this email. 

But if you remember one thing, you can succeed. 

I hope you’ve watched Star Wars. Otherwise, this analogy won’t make sense…

There’s a scene where Luke Skywalker is on Yoda’s planet. He’s a cynical ass, who doesn’t believe it’s possible to do the things Yoda says. 

He’s trying to lift his star thing out of the lake, and Yoda does it.

So where does your story come in? Right here. Your story builds trust. It’s the thing that convinces clients to let you be their Yoda. To be the expert that will guide them through the problem they have. 

And by understanding the problem, studying it, learning to solve it, then PROVING you’ve solved it before… you’re completing your Yoda training. 

Do or do not. 

There is no try. 

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