Glenn S. wrote in to ask about a concept that Nick and I reference frequently on our podcast Make Money Online: Levels of Consulting!
Nick and I often refer to something as being a ‘200 Level’ or ‘400 Level’ consulting strategy and, well, what exactly do we mean when we say that?
Let me say that this is very much an idea I am developing in an ongoing fashion.
I think the concept is sound and true. As you get more advanced at the business of consulting, the arena that you operate in expands and you start exploring new and different concepts:
- Defined client intake processes
- Marketing automation
- Outreach Marketing (either promotional or sales)
- Marketing gravity
- Products and courses
- Multiple income streams of differing degrees of leverage (i.e., running a 10-person 1-hour training at $200/person giving you an effective hourly rate of $2,000/hour)
As you become a more advanced consultant, you start using more advanced ideas and concepts in your business.
But what are these levels? How do you know what level you’re at? How do you know how to get to the next level?
Let me share my most current working definition of these levels. I’m intentionally mimicking college or university levels with these concepts.
100 Level: Freelancer
You are an independent business owner! You are doing a thing and getting paid money for it.
First off, congratulations! You have made the jump to being a freelancer (full-time or part-time), and that is awesome.
You are primarily acquiring clients through word of mouth.
You have not thought about positioning or niching.
You are primarily selling a service or skillset rather than solutions or strategy
You (most likely) are charging hourly for your services.
In terms of revenue, let’s say you’re earning under $40,000 each year.
200 Level: Consultant
You have started to ask — and answer — The Positioning Question for your business. You are niching down from being a generalist to a specialist in your target market.
You have a defined list of services. There are things that you do (and do well) and things that you do not do (that you turn down).
Perhaps you have added ‘roadmapping’ or a paid ‘Initial Service Offering’ to your services.
You are starting to use tools like Basecamp or Trello to manage your projects.
You are acquiring clients through word of mouth, referrals, and inbound leads.
Perhaps you are starting to use some marketing automation tools — Drip, Calendly, Wufoo, etc. — to have a formal, systematic process to accept and screen new leads, prospects, and clients and save yourself time.
You are moving away from charging hourly to either charging daily/weekly/monthly or flat-rate, fixed-scope for your services.
You are starting to think about email lists and how they might be a force multiplier for your business.
In terms of revenue, let’s say you’re earning between $40,000 and $70,000+ each year.
300 Level: Advanced Consultant
You have specific, defined positioning for your business. You are starting to define yourself as the ‘go to’ person in your industry to solve a specific expensive problem.
You are starting to use sales tools — Pipedrive, Yesware, etc. — to manage your sales process and follow up with leads, lost leads, prospects, clients, and past clients for referrals.
You no longer offer your time hourly. You only offer your time daily/weekly/monthly or through flat-rate, fixed-scope service offerings.
You are acquiring leads, prospects, and clients through outbound marketing (outreach to appear on podcasts / write guest articles / appear on webinars), inbound marketing (hosting your own podcast, creating content on your site, etc.), referrals, and potentially paid advertising.
You are focusing on growing an email list for your business. You have ‘content upgrades’ in place on your most popular articles. When someone joins your list, you have a defined campaign that they receive that educates and nurtures them about working with you.
You say ‘no’ to more leads, prospects, clients, and projects than you say ‘yes’ to.
You are starting to think about products, courses, and training and how these offerings might fit into your comprehensive offerings. Your offerings may be inclusive of:
- Educational Products (hands-off training you offer on how a customer can do a thing, like get on podcasts as a guest)
- Implementation (you do a thing for a client)
- Consulting (you advise a client on how to do a thing, and then you do a thing for that client)
- Strategic Consulting (you advise a client on how to do a thing)
- Mentoring (people come to you to ask questions about how to do a thing)
- Coaching (people come to you, and you give them specific direction on how to do a thing)
- Training (groups of people come to you, and you give them specific direction on how to do a thing)
In terms of revenue, let’s say you’re earning, say, between $50,000 and $200,000+ each year.
400 Level: Independent Business Owner
You have transitioned to primarily strategic work, with a little implementation work.
You may have mentoring, coaching, or training offerings.
You have one or more educational products that establish your authority in the market and serve as additional income streams for you and your business.
You acquire clients through inbound, outbound, paid, and referral, channels.
You are actively focusing on growing your email list.
You host events — online or offline — like webinars, seminars, or workshops that are either paid (to generate income) or free (to generate leads).
In terms of revenue, let’s say you’re earning, say, between $75,000 and $350,000+ each year.
Post Graduate Work
You’re working on establishing multiple lines of business in one or many industries or target markets.
These are rough definitions of the different levels of consulting.
I do not think these are 100% correct. Heck, I know I’m flat out wrong in some places.
So email me and let me know what you think the different levels of consulting are.
What is a ‘400 level’ consultant? What is a ‘100 level’ consultant? What’s in between? What’s beyond ‘400 level’?