One of the biggest draws of independent work for many who leave the corporate world to become independent consultants is the ability to work for themselves. (See the Six Personality Traits of Successful Independent Consultants.) No longer do they have to answer to corporate management, or wait for permission or needed information to come from co-workers. However, there are definite perks to working alongside another: new perspectives, additional resources, added manpower, and more areas of knowledge, to name a few. Sometimes, it can feel like projects or situations could benefit if only there were two of you. While it may not be possible to duplicate yourself, the solution may lie in the next best thing: working with another independent consultant.
When to Use Other Consultants
Assisting on a Large Project
A large project may offer opportunities to gain invaluable experience, work with a prestigious client, and ensure a long-term assignment. However, taking on projects that are too large can detract focus needed for other client projects, or may simply monopolize your time entirely if handled alone. If the project is too good to turn down but you feel you can't handle it alone without threatening current client relationships or your own work/life balance - or if you simply feel that a project of this magnitude would be better managed with a second perspective and set of eyes - this may be an ideal opportunity to partner with another independent consultant.
Managing an Overwhelming Workload
As an independent consultant, your consultancy's success depends on your ability to maintain a steady workload. For those who have suffered through lean times in the past, it may be difficult to turn down any potential project that comes your way - even if your plate is already full. Unfortunately, sometimes this can result in the realization that you've bitten off more than you can chew, and simply don't have the time or resources to manage your workload. Instead of falling behind or making excuses to clients, outsourcing some of your workload by partnering with another independent consultant in your field can help alleviate some of the pressure and allow you to give each client the attention they deserve.
Filling in Gaps in Expertise
While independent consultants are fairly experienced and familiar with most aspects of their industry, they also tend to have areas of specialty and expertise. While the majority of a client's project may call for your specific specialty, it may also require expertise in a niche that is not your forte. In order to deliver a final product or project that fully meets - or exceeds - your client's expectations, using another independent consultant who specializes in that niche area can fill in the gaps in your expertise.
How to Find Other Independent Consultants
Groups and organizations explicitly for independent consultants can put you in touch with a network of consultants from a variety of fields and industries who are likely interested in connecting with other consultants. Here at MBO Partners we offer our members the MBO Access networking tool to connect with other independent consultants in our network.
Internet/Social Media Groups
The Internet is a powerful research tool, and even a simple Google search can be a good starting point for finding local independent consultants in your field. However, keep in mind that contacting a consultant with whom you have no prior relationship can feel like the equivalent of a cold-call from a telemarketer if not handled properly. Still, simply using your search to familiarize yourself with other consultants in your industry can be beneficial.
A better use of the Internet to find other independent consultants would likely be social media groups created specifically for consultants on sites like LinkedIn. For instance, LinkedIn Groups offers a variety of groups specifically for consultants and independent workers to connect, network, and collaborate.
Through Referrals and Colleagues
Though this method may be easier for an established consultant than a new independent consultant, using your network of business connections can be an excellent way to find other independent consultants. Try contacting vendors or subcontractors you've used, or even current and past clients. If they're contacts you've established a strong relationship with, you can likely trust their judgment when it comes to referrals of other independent consultants.
How to Work Deals with Other Consultants
Focus on Mutual Benefits
One of the main keys to successfully working deals with other consultants is to think of them somewhat as prospective clients. You would never approach a client proposal from the angle of how much you'd benefit from getting the job; you focus on what you can do to benefit them. When working a deal with another consultant, focus the conversation on how they would benefit from collaborating and working with you on this project.
Establish a Written Contract
Although you are both business professionals in the same field, don't make the mistake of assuming that professional respect and courtesy make a written contract unnecessary. On the contrary, it's essential to get any agreement established with another consultant clearly written out in a formal contract; this is not only for the benefit and protection of both consultants, but for the client as well.
Clearly Define Roles
When two people who are used to working independently are suddenly partnered on a project, there may be a bit of an adjustment period - or, worse yet, a power struggle. This is even more of a possibility if roles are not clearly defined. When collaborating with another independent consultant to work on a project, make defining roles and responsibilities a very early step in the process. Clearly spell out whether one client is managing the project or responsibilities are shared equally, who will be the point of contact with the client, who is responsible for what deliverables and components, etc. With clearly defined roles - and a strong, well-understood communication process - in place, the project is likely to go much smoother, and there is a better chance of forging a strong, lasting relationship with the other consultant.
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