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Finding consulting work

Amanda’s biggest challenge is finding consulting work. Here’s a conversation we had after she bought my book series recently.

You’re a pro! Finding consulting work should be easy

Amanda is a pro. She consults to the public sector. I won’t give you all of the details of her business, but she has an impressive background doing important work in the health system requiring strategic planning, project management, and policy development and translation skills or advice. Here’s what she said

My biggest challenge is the patience needed with lead time to finding consulting work and getting projects.

Mind you, I’ve only been in business 3 weeks! I’ve contacted my network with an email and capability statement, set up one-one meetings with key people, using LinkedIn to best effect. I guess the projects I’m interested in are not as common as other things that consultants to the health system commonly do. Patience and persistence are necessary on my part. So, I need to be flexible and go where the money is. But I don’t have runs on the board yet in any way as a consultant, let alone outside my sphere of content expertise.

The other thing is government, as you’d know, has procurement processes that are more stringent than in other sectors. Direct negotiation is possible for projects that fall under a certain amount of money, or where you have specialist skills/knowledge. However, I think coming from ‘inside the tent’, as it were, potential clients are concerned to keep things transparent and not be seen to be giving advantage to known ex-staff like myself. All fair enough – in fact, an obligation for public servants but it slightly complicates marketing of my service, if you see what I mean.

She’s a pro, but finding consulting work isn’t that easy, as Amanda points out.

finding consulting work
You’re in the business of getting business: finding consulting work

Amanda has lots of contacts, and great experience. The business of getting work is now her business. This can be a little confronting at the beginning!

Here’s some of what I suggested to her.

Finding consulting work through pre-approval procurement lists

Look at getting onto the pre-approval list if you can. NSW Procurement has a list for the public sector. It has never brought me work I didn’t go find, but it means that the $30k (incl GST) ceiling before going to tender on a project isn’t an issue.

I find though that clients prefer to set the ceiling at $30k anyway, strangely enough. And then they commission a second (3rd, 4th, etc) phase, each under $30k. It can be frustrating for cash flow, but work is work!

You’ll need at least 3 referees in the public sector to get onto the list, and the paperwork can seem endless. It took my company nearly 9 months to get it all done and submitted, but I’ve stayed on the list for a number of years now.

Finding consulting work through contacts

For marketing I’ve found that lunching and coffees are the best thing to keep in touch without seeming pushy – you’ve got Market your consultancy without cold calling, so I won’t rabbit on about that. Also try the marketing audit checklist in the Consultants’ Companion.

finding consulting work
Finding consulting work through agencies

Also, have you tried agencies?

Some of my best clients public sector clients were originally through an agency.

I’ve been in my own business now for 25 years, but several of my current clients were people I know from a contract more than 20 years ago. I kept in touch, and while they didn’t use me for 8 years after the initial job, they found me again when they needed my expertise. And now use me more frequently. And they furnished some of my original referrals for the Procurement list.

Try Drake, Manpower and you may even find a sub-contract through a KPMG or similar. That will give you a client base you can later draw on*.

You can find more information on finding consulting work in the books pictured on this page (just click on the picture to go there).

finding consulting work

*only for references: don’t steal their clients, it’s just not worth it, and it’s unethical. Respect any restraint of trade contracts you sign, please!

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