I am entering my sixth year of consulting. When I started, I just figured I would “do a few projects” while I was looking for full-time work. But one gig lead to another. Then as I was talking to people, new contacts would develop. So, each meeting would generally spur on a few others.
I have meet hundreds of new people during the past six years. Some I have ended up doing projects, others long-term gigs, some continue to discuss possibilities and others are just people to know.
What I do know is timing is of the essence. A project can not be forced. It needs to be done when the client is ready to focus on it.
But one of the key pieces of success as a consultant is to “keep the pipeline full.”
Every potential project has it’s own timeline:
Phases of consulting:
1) Discovery – Who is out there? What are they doing that is interesting?
2) Meet and Network – Get out and talk to people. Understand what they do. No project in mind, but just learning about the industry.
3) Fill the Need – If there is a way to add-value, great. Work to figure out a mutually beneficial deal. If not, wait until the right time (if ever).
4) Stay in Touch – Don’t harass, but keep thinking about their business. Watch the industry, as opportunities arise, remind them.
5) Always Finish – Many clients have come back to me and done multiple gigs. Some it is a one-time project. But always go for closure.
Some of the gigs go from “discovery” to project in a few weeks after the initial meeting, others may take two years or more. So, it is a constant flow of meetings and follow-up. All having different degrees of time.
I try to have at least 50 different possibilities at any single time, although I can only do 4-5 projects at a time. Many of these possibilities may never materialize as a gig. But that’s ok. I enjoy the meeting of new people and the expansion of understanding.