[I'm in the middle of final editing a new book about niche marketing. This is a very short section about consulting. I'll share excerpts from other chapters in the coming months at this blogsite and at my free newsletter.]
There are many forms of consulting, so we should perhaps discuss those first before we try to stuff the means into a niche-serving mold.
Consult means confer, advise, ask for assistance or direction, give counsel. Somebody pays you for your expertise, experience, knowledge, wisdom, thought—plus time and presence.
One way of defining consulting is by time. An emergency occurs; they call and need instant advice. Or a long-range plan is being formulated; they need outside help to design the project, oversee its implementation, test its effectiveness, and provide ongoing feedback during its first months or years.
Presence is another element. They want you “on call” for spot or instant digital or telephone help. Or they want a two-hour guidance session at their office or yours. They want you to live on-site for five days to review the operations. They want you to review the blueprint, sent to your office by Fedex, and to return any modifications by fax or as an attachment to an email.
You are normally paid by the hour or, having reached a previous understanding, by the project or by some longer time period, like a day, week, or month. The shorter the contract, the higher the per-hour rate. Confidentiality is generally understood as existing between you and the client—sometimes to the point of having to use proprietary material sight-only at their locale.
Paying related expenses generally follows the path used for speeches. If the costs are incidental or the commute is short, it is absorbed in the rate. But significant costs are added to the hourly or project rate, usually on a per-item basis, sometimes with a per diem included.
What is the best way to use consulting for niche marketing?
It happens the other way around. You are brought in for consultation because you are knowledgeable about the niche field. That is, it won’t do much good hanging up a shingle as a consultant in a particular field if you are brand new to it, unknown in the area, or have yet to display any signs of having some experience, wisdom, or knowledge to sell.
Usually the person requesting your services has somehow been drawn to you and has made a judgment about your expertise. They have read an article or book you wrote (or that praised you); they heard you give a talk, speech, or seminar, or they were directed to you by somebody else whom they respect that knows you or of you, usually by one of those ways.
But that’s not to say that, once you decide to consult in a field, you simply wait to be discovered. You do in fact hang up a subtle shingle, sometimes running ads in the appropriate journals, sending printed matter to those most likely to pay for your services, networking with those needing your help, letting fellow consultants know that you are available should they have an overage or need assistance, plus cranking out more articles, videos, reports, “white papers,” and other flags that you have information for let or sale. (Another thing that works surprisingly well for me is a quick mention in my email signature!)
How profitable is consulting?
That depends upon how much you charge and how often you consult.
Rates run from about $25 an hour to many hundreds. Let’s say you charge $100/hour. Then you’d probably charge about $750 a day (for eight hours), perhaps $3,000 a week (of five eight-hour days), and maybe $10,000 a month.
You might also have variable rates. I know of a book editor in the engineering field who charges $100/hour when discussing book production but will read, edit, and rewrite text if it’s computer-accessible for $60/hour—if it can be done in his” off” time, which means he wants an extra week to get it back to the client.
When you’re not busy or you are looking for a change of pace from writing and speaking, a few hours or days of consulting can be “found gold.” A surprise blessing: a call, a problem to solve, a check, and back to work. But when you are busy and a good client “just needs a couple of hours,” it can be a huge grind, in part because payment for those casual requests are usually paid just as casually.
How much does it cost to use consulting as a niche selling means?
Other than advertising, which you may never do beyond adding consulting to the list of your services, what costs would you have? You either have an office or you work out of your home, so you have a place to meet clients if they prefer to come to you. Or you go to them. (You can also meet in neutral territory: a restaurant, a conference room in the library, the hotel bar, the park.) You have a phone and a fax and email. You have a car to get around.
What you are selling is in your head, aided by a hearty handshake and a smile. Add in a lot of “niche field” reading to stay current. All free. Consulting is the art of cashing in on reading you want to do anyway, tinkering, fooling around, trying this and that; on learning the basics, then trying to fit them into new molds; on gathering every tidbit and key fact, old way and new process; on putting all you know and have done, read, seen, and heard into a particular situation or problem now. Most of that is flat-out fun. The pay is almost an embarrassment.
Is consulting a good “lead” means for niche marketing?
No. It comes from proving yourself by other means. There might be exceptions. If you just popped down from Venus and others want to know what Venusians would buy, drive, read, or wear, you have two choices: babble free or babble for bucks (consult). I suspect you will be very busy doing the latter. The rest of us will have trouble “leading” with consulting.
How is consulting best integrated with other means?
Usually it is your sharing by other means that brought you the consulting in the first place.
Any final thoughts about consulting as a niche marketing tool?
In the niche marketing field consulting is the reward for having positioned yourself right, convinced somebody that you know something worth paying to hear (or read), and made yourself available.
It’s logical that successful practitioners often retire, then make more money than they earned before by consulting about the very thing they did earlier! People will pay for knowledge. If you have some core element of knowledge to sell, they want to buy, and if they know how to find you, great! They usually know how to find you because you made it obvious that you were the person to hire by sharing parts of that information by other means.
It isn’t coincidental that I’m listing consulting, among the many niche marketing means, last. It really can be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.