Getting started as an independent consultant can be difficult.
Then we have to build and maintain our businesses, which can be a struggle.
Whew! It is a lot of effort to keep ourselves in business.
Why do we take it all on?
No matter whom I talk to in our type of business and career, especially women, we all mostly say the same thing. We do it because we want to control:
- whom we work with
- the time we commit to our clients
- the structure of our day
- how we increase our income
- how we take advantage of the tax benefits we can
- the type of work we do—we often care about doing meaningful work
- how we make a difference in the world
We all want to architect our lives to meet our purpose—our way.
And to do that, we need to do the work to stay in business. This is the foundational work—the essential seeds we need to sow to reap the benefits mentioned above:
- building our personal brand
- marketing and lead generating
The trait I want to talk about today affects every aspect of our independent consulting business. It’s the one thing that all this foundational work has in common.
It is the water for the seeds we have planted.
And without it, our businesses will eventually wilt and fade away.
This trait helped me go from failing to honour roll to graduating with a university degree
For the first decade of my career, I muscled through a lot of the effort required to achieve my goals. Though many of my goals scared the shit out of me, I preserved, took courage, and ploughed forward. This approach is also what worked great at the beginning of my career, helping me advance and continually move forward.
I have often attributed my results to being willing to do the hard work and being tenacious enough to go after what I wanted. However, as time has passed, I realised that my focused, brute force wasn’t the only factor—something else was ultimately feeding my growing success.
What was really happening?
It took me a while to identify it. But through meditation, journaling, help from trusted advisors and self-reflection, it became clear.
All my results and successes, especially those related to my business as an independent consultant came from one thing.
My whole life has been about building confidence!
I hadn’t been set up with a healthy foundation of confidence. In fact, upon reflection, I was in a very deficient state—the odds were already stacked against me. But over time, with diligence and attention, I have built up my confidence.
– Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
When I look back, I can directly correlate all my failures, successes, and the current results in my life (both personally and professionally) to the level of my confidence.
How Confidence Affects Every Aspect of Your Independence Consulting Business
When we have confidence we have:
- full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing
- belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance
- certitude; assurance.
Ah….that reads yummy! But many of us have a hard time with this.
Do you struggle with perfectionism or imposter syndrome?
A lack of confidence seriously hampers our actions to move forward through careers, businesses, and life in general. It is very common, and yet it isn’t healthy or constructive to starting, building, or maintaining our businesses.
Building and having confidence is far more effective! You’ll start to realise that not only are you not an imposter; you can stand tall in yourself and your abilities.
So, let’s look at how confidence waters the seeds of some of our most important work in the business of being consultants.
Establishing a clear personal brand
You cannot fake authenticity….And personal branding hinges entirely on authenticity.
It’s like the chicken and the egg—which comes first?
“Self-confidence, while hard to build, is a key component to any personal branding. In nearly any type of business, successful job search or fulfilling career, when we are confident in our personal brand through a strong sense of self-worth, our capabilities are as limitless as our imagination.”
– Ken Sundheim
First, you have to have confidence that personal branding is an absolute required investment for your business. The beautiful thing is that the journey to establish your own brand will automatically begin to leverage the confidence you have AND help you build more of it.
“You were born to be real, not to be perfect.”
This results in you being more comfortable in your own skin. You will be more capable of harnessing your gifts, wisdom, and passion for helping others. With that, your reputation will also grow and proceed you in the market before you even show up.
We have all heard the mantra: network, network, network. It seems to be pushed to the front of the line as the ‘magic bullet’ to build both your career and your business.
Thankfully, when you express an authentic personal brand and can be more yourself, you’re better able to promote yourself at networking events too.
“When you have confidence, you can have fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.”
– Joe Namath
Like personal branding, networking requires authenticity. When you can stand tall and be yourself, people respond to you differently. So when you network with confidence, you:
- strengthen your personal brand
- increase the number of people you connect with
- meet potential future colleagues, friends, and clients
But what if you’re not having a great day or generally have low confidence?
You can turn the situation around and approach others with the goal of asking questions and finding out how you could help them. We can all help each other in one way or another, even if it’s as simple as introducing two people who can help one another.
– Anne-Maria Yritys
Marketing and lead generating
So, what about marketing and lead generation?
These aspects of your independent consulting business also depend on confidence.
The critical thing to keep in mind here is that when you are establishing your personal brand and networking, you are already marketing and lead generating. And when you’re confident in how you can help others and in what makes you stand out, your lead generating efforts will be more targeted and precise. Also, when others experience your brand of exceptional service, they will be willing to advocate on your behalf.
What are the results?
You won’t just have more opportunities in your funnel and more choices, but you’ll also have more of the work you want to do. You’ll be in a place where the swings in income from feast to famine are radically reduced—which also adds to your…you guessed it, self-confidence.
As independent consultants, we are always negotiating.
We either negotiate with the client directly or through a vendor. We negotiate not only price, but many other vital parts of the contract.
We negotiate after we win the engagement too. We arrive and continue to find ourselves regularly negotiating. We have to accommodate both the client’s and our own expectations, approaches to how we deliver our services, and the desired outcomes.
There are so many times where we negotiate, we often don’t even know we’re doing it.
It’s when we negotiate our contracts that we seem to lack the most confidence
“If you lack confidence, the chances are that you’ll make a pretty ineffective negotiator…In fact according to new research, under-confident negotiators achieve a successful outcome in just one in five…negotiations…those who feel ’neutral’ achieve an even lower rate of success…only 16 percent…succeeding”
– Dr Mahboob Khan, author of Confidence. The Key to Successful Negotiations
With confidence, you have a much better chance for a win-win experience.
The trick to having confidence while you negotiate is to:
- have a clear understanding of what you bring to the opportunity
- know how your services are valued in your market
- remember how you differentiate from your peers
- humbly reveal what you don’t bring and, if you think it is necessary, how you or your client can mitigate the gap
- know what are your “most important things” versus your “nice to haves”
If you put some effort in to prepare in advance, you can infuse even more confidence into yourself and position yourself better to get what you want. With more successes than failures, your confidence will bloom even more.
“Confidence isn’t optimism or pessimism, and it’s not a character attribute. It’s the expectation of a positive outcome.”
– Rosabeth Moss Kanter
We need to sow (and water!) many seeds for our independent consulting business
We need to build our personal brand, network, and market our services with an eye to generating leads for opportunities to negotiate the contracts we want.
But before we start doing all that, we must tap into our confidence: to trust and believe in ourselves. We must believe we are capable of providing the services our clients need to solve their business problems.
Confidence has always been there making a difference in our lives—whether it’s just a little, too much, or just the right amount. Look at your garden of successes and failures, and you’ll see the results.
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Thank you for reading.
Founder and President
Stand & Deliver Inc.