Professional Development

How to Get the Most Out of Your Consultants

By | Consulting Industry, Professional Development

What We’ll Cover In This Piece:

  • Why keeping a one-team mindset and encouraging collaboration between consultants and employees is beneficial
  • The importance of onboarding consultants quickly and efficiently
  • How consultants can help advise managers in a support system role

Estimated Time to Read:  8 minutes

Related Article: 3 Hiring Pain Points–And How BenchWatch Solves Them

As a manager, hiring consultants means you can do more for less. Consultants bring a high level of talent and experience at a lower cost than a full-time employee. From a financial perspective, hiring consultants is a no-brainer.

However, using a consultant workforce requires effective management.

Regardless of how talented your consultants are or how low they’ve set their bill rates, if you mismanage them you’ll be missing out on most of their potential value.

This article is going to prescribe three management practices that will allow you to get the most out of your contracted workforce, starting with:

1. Keep A One-Team Mindset

It can be tricky to integrate consultants seamlessly into your team. Your full-time employees and consultants have different contracts, trajectories, responsibilities, even different badge colors. However, they have to all come together as a cohesive team.

An inexperienced project manager will allow the consultants and the full-time employees to work isolated from one another.

Sometimes, this means the project manager will treat the consultants better than their full-time employees, delegating “less important” work to their full-time employees. This is a mistake–nobody should be given any preferential treatment. Each person is just as important to the team’s success as the other.

Other times, this means the project manager will isolate all of the consultants in one small shared office.

Separating the team into tribes like this stifles collaboration. The whole project slows as a result, which can get expensive when you’re paying your consultants by the hour.

If you want your team to come together successfully, you have to force them to share a space—both in terms of their physical workspace, and their responsibilities.

The best project managers will actually mix-up their teams intentionally so that consultants and full-time employees are forced to collaborate.

2. Onboard Consultants Quickly, But Efficiently

One of the challenges of working with consultants is getting them up to speed fast enough.

You need your consultants to be able to work with the same autonomy as full-time employees in order to get the most out of them, but full-time employees typically have been through training programs and have spent significant time in your organization already.

Consultants don’t have that. They need a specialized onboarding process.

The best companies prepare onboarding materials that educate consultants on the company, from its history to its structure, and the project they’re working on, both its scope and their role within it.

Consultants don’t need to be trained on new skills—you contracted them because they already have those. What they need is a thorough education about the project they’re coming onto.

Once that’s in place, it’s incredibly easy to get a large team of consultants up to speed and providing value quickly.

3. Be Transparent With Your Consultants

Consultants can be some of the best advisers you’ve ever had on a project–a sort of neutral, 3rd party support system.

A consultant has usually been on many similar projects at different companies, and can give you insights as to common obstacles and strategies for overcoming them.

Consultants are also the ideal mediators. When full-time employees are having real problems with management, consultants can bring the concerns to management in a way that doesn’t come across as insubordinate.

When management is having problems with a full-time employee, inversely, consultants can bring up their concerns with the employee as a co-worker, not as a boss.

The best managers will use consultants in this capacity—as mediators, advisors, sometimes even as therapists. Not using consultants in these ways limits the value you get out of your contracted workforce, and will hold your project back from progressing as smoothly as it should.

Consultants Are Only As Good As Their Manager

When you’re hiring full-time employees, you have to make a lot of difficult judgements:

  • Does this person have the potential to grow within our company?
  • Am I confident this person won’t washout in their first year?
  • Can this person learn the skills I need them to learn to succeed?

You don’t have to make any of those with consultants.

  • Consultants aren’t going to grow within your company.
  • If a consultant can’t deliver, you end the contract. No severance, no mess.
  • Consultants are hired because they already have the skills you need.

The only real question you have to answer when you bring on consultants is this:

Do you have the management skills to get the most out of them?

7 Skills That Are Always In Demand For Consultants

By | Consulting Industry, Marketing Yourself, Professional Development

What We’ll Cover In This Piece:

  • Why consultants need skills that are perennially valuable.
  • What skills will always be in demand among businesses.
  • Where you can learn each skill.

Estimated Time to Read: 5 minutes

Consultants looking to level up usually ask the same question:

What’s the one skill I could add to my repertoire to be more valuable right now?

They’re interested in the new hot technology, the new trend in business—anything companies will be hiring for over the next five years.

There are certainly a bunch of skills that you can develop to land more contracts in the next several years. Hot areas we currently see in the market include:, cyber security, cloud migrations, Office 365 implementations, marketing automation, and Workday implementations. Any of these will definitely make you an attractive candidate for the near future.

But what skills are always in demand – no matter what technology or trend is hot?

While having skills that are marketable right now is certainly a positive, it is much better to have skills that are always in demand.

When you have a set of skills that companies are always hiring for, you don’t have to worry about “the next big thing.” You can add new skills if you think it makes sense, but you’ll never be in a position where you have to learn an entirely new skill to get work.

You will be secure.

With that in mind, we’ve broken down seven skills that companies are always hiring for. A consultant with any of these—and especially with more than one of these—will always be able to find work.

1. Communication and Marketing Skills

Communication and marketing is always going to be a part of business. Companies will always need someone to communicate their message to the customers, employees, and investors.

If you become an expert in communication, you will always be able to find contracts as a consultant.

If your degree isn’t in marketing or communication, that’s OK. This field isn’t impossible to break into.

There is also an incredible amount of free marketing courses offered by universities, like this introduction to marketing offered for free by the University of British Columbia. But gaining on the job experience is always best.

2. Project Management

Basically every project (or change) undertaken by a business needs someone who is an expert in project management. These people understand the science (and art) of navigating a change from start to successful finish — and ensuring the “value objectives” are actually achieved.

Having a business degree somewhat helps in developing your project management skills, but just being on projects and learning from their leaders is the only way to get really good.

3. Business Analytics

Being able to analyze all the complex, moving parts of a business, and provide accurate analysis of where the business is and where it is going, is a critically important part of any large business.

Before any major decision, all parties involved want to make sure they have an accurate understanding of what is going on in the business, and that’s where business analysts come in.

You will never struggle to find work as a business analyst, but it’s also a field where more formal training is necessary. A good start is this free course offered by Columbia University.

4. Excel/Powerpoint Skills

Before we get into this, let’s clear something up. Having a basic understanding of Excel and Powerpoint does not mean you have expert level skills.

Consultants and contractors live in Powerpoint and Excel. They are the two tools that seem to run every business (even if they don’t want to admit it).

If you are an expert at either of these pieces of software, there will be a role for you on any project.

Fortunately, there are a ton of courses available for both. Microsoft actually offers an Excel course specifically for business analytics for $49. You can find free courses all over the internet, or if you prefer to learn in person, any local university almost certainly offers training.

5. SAP Development

SAP SE is the biggest technology company most people have never heard of.

They are an exclusively enterprise software company that services large corporations and business entities. Since the 1970’s, they have been the gold standard in the field.

As a consultant, if you understand how to work in this tool, you are valuable to virtually any large business in the world. Fortunately, SAP offers their own learning platform full of courses for anyone interested in SAP development.

6. Process Engineering

Process engineering is the redesigning and optimizing of process and workflows in a business.

One of the more famous examples of process engineering happened with Hallmark Cards.

The card company had a production cycle that took three years for a card to go from an idea to a finished, delivered card. As time went on, executives at Hallmark realized that releasing cards in under a year would allow them to capitalize on niche markets and ultimately increase revenue—they just didn’t know how to do that.

Using process engineering, they deconstructed their production process. While they had assumed that the bulk of the production cycle happened in the printing and editing phase, what they found was that the idea stage was responsible for 2/3rds of the production cycle.

By tweaking the production process, they significantly shortened the idea phase, and brought the production cycle down to under a year.

That’s process engineering, and if you’re good at it, you’re worth a lot of money to any corporation. Any business program will offer courses on process engineering, or you can do an online course like this one offered by ALISON.

7. Java/C++/.NET Development

Java, .NET and C++ are three of the the most widely adopted programming languages in the corporate world.

Becoming an expert in any of these is a guaranteed way to consistently find work as a consultant among corporations, as there is always a need for new solutions to be developed.

There are a variety of free resources to learn online, including Microsoft’s .NET developer’s guide. There are also many development “bootcamps” you can attend to earn a certification in software development with these languages in a matter of months.

Always Ask, How Do I Remain Valuable?

As a consultant or contractor, there’s nothing worse than having a skillset that depreciates in value. As soon as the market decides that what you do isn’t valuable, all the security you thought you had is ripped out from under you.

These are skills that never stop being valuable. Businesses are built on top of them. The more of them you have under your belt, the more relaxed you can feel about your future.

You will always be needed.

LinkedIn vs. BenchWatch

By | Consulting Industry, Marketing Yourself, Professional Development

What We’ll Cover In This Piece

  • Why you need both LinkedIn and BenchWatch to land consulting projects.
  • Why LinkedIn is the best general networking tool available.
  • How BenchWatch is different and better than LinkedIn for consulting

Estimated Time to Read:  3-5 minutes

A common question we hear from consultants curious about BenchWatch is “Well, why should I use BenchWatch, can’t I just keep using LinkedIn?” Our response is always the same. We ask them “What’s the one thing you use LinkedIn for?”

That’s a difficult question, because you don’t do just one thing on LinkedIn. You message your peers on LinkedIn, you keep tabs on their work life, you share articles, and your thoughts.

But even though you do 10 different things on LinkedIn, it’s all geared towards one very specific result:

LinkedIn is Facebook for business

LinkedIn is the modern day rolodex and initial resume.  It helps you track relationships — and that’s great. Keep using LinkedIn for that, it can do that well. You’ll always know where your contacts are working and you can keep track of their professional life.  

BenchWatch isn’t built to do what LinkedIn does—it has its own extremely specific goal:

BenchWatch gets consultants hired for jobs.

So the question “Should I use BenchWatch or LinkedIn?” is actually a false dichotomy. The truth is, as a modern professional, you need to be using both.

LinkedIn Is Ideal For Connecting—But Terrible For Finding Consulting Projects

If you wanted to grow your network and meet 20 professionals from your field living in your area, where would you go? LinkedIn is the obvious choice. You can search for people in your industry and in your city, and you can easily reach out to begin a relationship.

Even better, you can write articles in your field (and if you’re a consultant, you should be writing articles) and publish them to LinkedIn to build up your authority in the eyes of your network. If your writing is interesting enough, people will come to you to connect.

But imagine you ran a consulting firm, and a client wanted you to hire 5 consultants. If you post a job, you’ll get a ton of irrelevant resumes you must filter through (similar to  So you do the following:

  1. Search through all of your connections for anyone who has “consultant” in their job title.
  2. Manually search through all of those results to find consultants experienced in your field.
  3. Try to discern which of those consultants have the skills you need for this specific role.
  4. Figure out who you might know in common who could endorse each consultant.
  5. Reach out to each remaining prospect to figure out their availability and bill rate.

That’s a ridiculously manual and time consuming process. You don’t have access to clear information about each consultant’s actual skills, just a generalized resume. You don’t know if they’re available for work, if they can travel to you, or if their bill rate even fits your budget.

In general, it’s an old and inefficient way to hire. There has to be a better way, right?

That’s where BenchWatch comes in.

BenchWatch Makes Hiring Consultants and Contractors Easy

BenchWatch is built by consultants for consultants.  It focuses specifically on the data required to hire a consultant.  When a consultant or contractor creates their BenchWatch profile, they supply the following information:

  1. Availability.
  2. Key skills.
  3. Industry expertise.
  4. Previous clients and projects.
  5. Location.
  6. Bill rate (high and low range).
  7. Willingness to travel.
  8. Resume(s).

If a consulting firm is looking to hire 8 consultants for a project, they search for the specific skills, experience, price, and availability they need. They don’t post a job ad and get flooded with 1,000 applications from people who don’t qualify. They use BenchWatch, and they find the perfect candidates instantly.

Even better, BenchWatch uses patented trust technology to score how well a hirer can trust you depending on work you’ve done in the past, other consultants connected to you,and the clients you’ve done work for.

That means that work literally comes to you—and it will be the sort of work you’re best at.

That is how we designed BenchWatch: to make the the hiring process, from discovery to decision, fast and easy for both consultants and recruiters.

Why You Need BenchWatch and LinkedIn

BenchWatch and LinkedIn aren’t competitors. They’re both non-negotiable, essential tools for a modern consultant.  You must have both.

Managing your full set of business contacts will always be a critical part of business—and LinkedIn does this well. If you want to find a mentor, if you want to connect with your peers, or if you want to become an authority in your field, LinkedIn is without question the best tool to get the job done.

But if you want to find consulting work quickly and easily, BenchWatch is the only tool for the job.

Put together, LinkedIn and BenchWatch form the basis of your professional toolkit.

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    3 Major Trends In Consulting Today—And How They Benefit You

    By | Consulting Industry, Professional Development

    What We’ll Cover in This Piece:

    • The rapid growth of the consulting industry.
    • The three major trends in consulting correlated to this growth.
    • How these trends benefit you as a professional.

    Related article: Consulting’s $500 Billion Future—And How It Benefits You – An in-depth look at the global workforce changes causing consulting’s growth, and how you can take advantage.

    Estimated Time to Read: 4 minutes

    The consulting and staffing industry is one of the largest, fastest growing markets in the world. In the next 5 years, the industry is expected to grow to exceed $500 billion.

    If you’re a professional, this growth benefits you. Whatever your skills are, they translate to consulting, meaning there are high-paying opportunities opening up for you in the consulting sector every day.

    In this article, we’re going to explore three key trends that are influencing this growth surge in the consulting industry, so that you can better understand your opportunities.

    1. The “Freelancer Economy” Has Become The Consultant Economy

    In 2016, 35% of the US workforce worked as freelancers, creating a freelance market worth $1 trillion.

    This growth in freelance work is part of a trend that has been ongoing for years, particularly among creatives and skilled workers. However, for the first time, we’re seeing even high-level business jobs transition from full-time positions to contract work.

    In the same way that many skilled workers and creatives found they were able to make more money as freelancers than as W-2 employees, a large number of business professionals are seizing the opportunity to grow their career and income as contracted consultants instead of full-time employees.

    This growth in the number of independent consultants has created a giant talent pool of business professionals that companies can now access on an as-needed basis.

    2. Companies Are Transitioning To Flexible Workforce Solutions

    At least 48% of companies use flexible workforce solutions. The incentives for transitioning from large teams of full-time employees to flexible workforce solutions are simple:

    • Fewer full-time employees means lower overhead in terms of salaries, benefits, and liability.
    • Full-time employees are difficult to let go of—severance and due process are expensive—making workforces difficult to scale and adapt on demand.
    • All of these costs make hiring a full-time employee a much riskier proposition, disincentivizing businesses to grow and scale aggressively.

    Companies want to grow and adapt quickly while mitigating risk. The best way for any company to do this is to embrace flexible workforce solutions, where they can hire the talent they need when they need it, and easily scale teams down when necessary.

    This benefits you, because companies are able to launch new projects faster, meaning they need to hire more consultants for high-paying roles.

    3. Staffing Firms Are Under Pressure To Increase Efficiency

    The freelancer economy or the “gig economy” has historically been serviced by online marketplaces. If you’re looking for a virtual assistant or someone to deliver your groceries, using a freelance site like UpWork makes complete sense.

    Businesses are understandably reticent, however, to hire $150 an hour consultants off of Fiverr.

    Instead, large companies interested in employing flexible workforce solutions use staffing firms like Vaco—who have relationships with all of the top consultants in their industry—to build their consultant teams.

    The spike in companies who want to use flexible workforce solutions has increased the pressure on staffing firms to hire top consultants and connect them with companies more efficiently. Software like BenchWatch was developed precisely for this reason.

    As an experienced consultant, or someone just starting out, this is great for you.

    The more efficiently staffing firms can execute, the easier it is for you to land work. You can be confident in the fact that from the moment you are contracted by a major staffing firm, you are going to be connected with only the projects that fit you perfectly.

    The Consulting Market Is Only Going To Grow

    All of these trends point to one fact: The consulting market is nowhere near done growing.

    As the majority of the world’s businesses transition to flexible workforce solutions, nearly every professional looking to improve their career—both in terms of experience and income—is going  to do so by becoming an independent consultant.

    The earlier you start consulting, the better positioned you’ll be for the coming opportunities.

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      “Job Security” Is Dead—And That’s A Good Thing

      By | Consulting Industry, Professional Development

      What We’ll Cover in This Piece:

      • The disappearance of “job security” in the modern professional landscape.
      • The economic factors driving job security away.
      • How all of these forces benefit you.

      Related article: Consulting’s $500 Billion Future – And How it Benefits You – Consulting is one the largest industries in the world, and it is growing at one of the fastest rates. There is no better opportunity for professionals like you, you just have to know how to take advantage.

      Estimated Time to Read: 5 minutes

      Many professionals experience a particular kind of anxiety—a kind of nagging suspicion that their job just isn’t a career in the same way their parents’ were.

      They’re right.

      A modern professional has almost nothing in common with a professional from fifty years ago.

      In previous generations, professionals joined a company in their twenties, and worked there till they retired, taking promotions and raises at regular intervals.

      Now, the median 34-year old professional has spent just over three years in their current job.

      Our concept of job security is a relic from an age of business that no longer exists. In order to succeed in the current professional landscape, you have to understand why job security is a myth, and how our new economic reality benefits you.

      Why “Job Security” As We Knew It Is Over

      Job security, as a concept, relies on one fundamental assumption: If a company has room for you now, they will have room for you in the future.

      For decades, that was the case. For the modern professional, however, it is completely untrue.

      We’ve talked about this before, but companies are shrinking the number of full-time employees on their payroll by using flexible workforce solutions (FWS). Jobs that used to be done by a full-time employee are now done by consultants, whose contracts end as soon as the project is over.

      There are many benefits to this model for employers, including:

      • Hiring and onboarding costs are lowered drastically, as staffing firms handle sourcing and contracting consultants for employers.
      • Contracting consultants on an as-needed basis allows companies to be flexible, and aggressive, in their spending and growth.
      • The infrastructure overhead necessary for managing a massive workforce is no longer needed.

      No severance packages, no paying salaries for under-utilized employees, and no hiring costs. With all of these incentives, employers have no choice but to use flexible workforce solutions.

      This means that virtually all full-time positions are at risk of being replaced. The notion of “job security” no longer exists.

      That should make you happy.

      Why This Change Should Make You Happy

      Professionals who fear the lack of job security in today’s market are looking at their careers wrong.

      When you are a full-time employee, you are not secure—you are completely dependent. All of your work comes from one employer, and if that employer ever decides to take away your job, you have to reinvent yourself with a new company.

      As an independent consultant, you can receive work from any employer in the world. If one employer doesn’t have work for you at a given moment, another will. As an independent consultant, your only limiting factors are your skills and your time—things you are in complete control of.

      You can take as much or as little work as you want, knowing that there are always more projects that need consultants, and because you’re being paid a higher hourly bill rate, you’ll end up making more money.

      Less reliance on a single employer, more income overall, and complete control over your career.

      That sounds better than “job security.”

      You’re A Qualified Consultant Whether You Know It Or Not

      As workforces shrink, there are simply fewer and fewer full-time positions left. Everyone is aware of this change, but many professionals are still afraid to make the jump into consulting.

      They mistakenly believe that being a consultant means developing an entirely new set of business skills, learning how to advise CEOs of Fortune 100 companies.

      The reality is that if you’re a professional, you have skills that translate directly to consulting. There are administrative assistants billing at $75 an hour as consultants—roughly $150,000 a year—because they know their niche and articulate it well.

      If you’re a professional, you qualify to be a consultant, you just need to translate your skills into a consulting-friendly resume.

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        If You’re A Consultant, You’re A Business

        By | Marketing Yourself, Professional Development

        What We’ll Cover In This Piece:

        • Why the business world is moving away from full-time employees.
        • Why being an independent business is better for you and consulting firms.
        • How to get your independent business set up and running in an afternoon.

        Estimated Time to Read: 8 minutes

        One of the major economic trends of the 21st century will be the shift to what many are calling the “Individual economy,” in which work that is currently done by full-time employees will be done by contract workers.

        You’ve probably seen this dissected in business articles with titles like “The Death of The Full-Time Employee,” but for all the drama and speculation, no one’s answered the most important question:

        What does the “individual economy” mean for you as a consultant or contractor?

        The short answer is this: If you’re a consultant or contractor, you’re a business now.

        Let me unpack this. In the past, you’ve almost certainly been part of an employee-employer relationship. You’ve worked full-time for one company, trading your time for a salary.

        In the individual economy, however, the standard employer-employee relationship is gone. In its place is the client-contractor relationship, in which professionals like you operate as independent businesses, servicing as many companies (clients) as they like.

        This shift should seem familiar to you. If you’ve ever called an Uber or hired a TaskRabbit, you’ve been on the client side of the contractor relationship (though most people would call this the “gig economy” the basic idea is the same).

        Services like Uber and TaskRabbit are just the beginning. The change is only going to get bigger, and it’s going to expand to other parts of the economy, like professionals. In fact, as the individual economy grows, most professionals—lawyers, accountants, consultants, etc.—are going to be independent businesses.

        A lot of consultants are afraid of this change. We disagree with them. We think consultants should be excited. If you are a consultant, we think this is the best thing to ever happen to you professionally.

        Why You Should Be Happy You’re A Business

        I understand why so many consultants are nervous about becoming independent businesses. We traditionally associate the phrase “full-time” with stability. As a full-time employee you typically have benefits, a predictable salary, a 401k, severance pay if you’re fired—it’s a lot to give up.

        Fortunately, you don’t have to. By being an independent business, you can have the same stability, make more money, keep more money from the government, and be happier in your work than were you were as a employee.

        How You Make More Money As A Consultant/Contractor

        If you are an employee taking a regular salary, you’re leaving money on the table. Your salary doesn’t change regardless of how many hours work.

        However, if you are an independent consultant or contractor, you set your own bill rate and hours worked. The firm that connects you to your client will take some percentage, but your billed hours still translate directly to your income.

        You work more, you make more. It’s that simple.

        The other financial benefit to being an independent business is the money you save on taxes.

        The entire U.S. tax code is built to incentivize business ownership. There is no better way to lower the amount you pay in taxes, and keep more money, than to start your own business.

        As a full-time employee (as I’m sure you’re painfully aware), all of your income is taxed. If you make $250,000, you pay taxes on $250,000.

        As a business, however, your business expenses are not taxed. If your firm makes $250,000, but you invested$150,000 of that back into the business, you only pay income taxes on $100,000.

        What makes this amazing for you is that when you’re a business, you can include business purchases that also benefit your personal life in your write-offs. This includes:

        • Office space in your home (effectively tax free rental income to you)
        • Cars
        • Technology (computers, TVs, phones, wireless routers, iPads, etc)
        • Business-related dinners
        • Business-related travel

        The steep discount the government gives on these business expenses is the single greatest tax benefit you’ll find.

        But the benefits of being your own business go beyond the financial. The personal benefits of being a business are incredible.

        Why Owning A Business Makes Your Personal Life Better

        You don’t accidentally become a professional. If you’re a successful consultant, you spent years developing your skills and making the connections you needed to succeed.

        You did grunt work, you studied hard to learn new industries and functions, you took tough feedback from your mentors and pushed yourself to develop new skills.

        You should be proud of that.

        In order to achieve all those things, you must be a person who takes control of your life. You make the major decisions about where your life goes, you put in the work required to make things happen, and when you’re done, you get to look back and take pride in what you’ve achieved for yourself.

        Owning your own company takes that pride and amplifies it.

        You control who you work for, what services you offer, and how you build your business. When a client hires you, they’re hiring all of those experiences, skills and relationships that you’ve invested to build.  

        I’ve never met a person more fulfilled or proud of their life than a successful business owner. Someone who can look back and point not just to the career they forged, but the business they built from the ground up.  Even if it’s a one-person business.  

        The other side of owning your own business is that your work-life balance is completely up to you. Maybe you don’t take meetings after 4 pm so you can spend time with your family.  Or maybe you don’t work on Fridays.  

        If you’re working for someone else, that’s a conflict. If you’re a business, those are your hours.

        Why Staffing Firms Want You To Be A Business

        This is where a lot of consultants get hung up. They can see the upside to being their own business for them, but they can’t see why a firm would want a contractor instead of a salaried employee.

        Think of it from a consulting firm’s perspective. If the firm is paying you a consistent salary, then the cost (and risk) you represent to them doesn’t change. If they bill a client 200 or 10 hours for you in a month, you cost them the same amount of money.

        Every single consultant the firm brings on as a full-time employee is, to some degree, a financial burden to the firm. If the firm suddenly loses work, they have to pay severance, lay people off, and deal with the expensive inconvenience of downsizing.

        Alternatively, if the firm brings on a bunch of new work, they have to weigh stretching their current workforce thin versus hiring a bunch of new talent they might not need in six months.

        Simply put, full-time employees make it impossible to be flexible. That’s why most consulting firms have adopted flexible workforce solutions (FWS), which are teams comprised of contracted professionals who each operate as independent businesses.

        Firms can scale on-demand now, hiring consultants as needed and paying them on a project-to-project basis.

        If you’re looking for work as a consultant or contractor, it’s actually going to be harder for you if you’re not an independent business. The best thing you can do for your career is to set one up now.

        How To Set Up Your Business

        Many find the idea of registering themselves as a business daunting. Follow the steps below to make it easy There are only three critical steps to setting up your company, all of which can be done in an afternoon:

        1. Register A Business Entity

        There are few ways to do this, but the best way to register a small business is to use LegalZoom.

        LegalZoom is a service that provides legal services online at a low cost. To set up your company, simply go to their website and under “Business Formation” select “LLC.”

        You want to set up an LLC and elect to have it taxed as an S corporation.

        A Subchapter S (S Corporation) is a form of corporation that meets specific Internal Revenue Code requirements, giving a corporation with 100 shareholders or less the benefit of incorporation while being taxed as a partnership. The corporation can pass income directly to shareholders and avoid the double taxation that is inherent with the dividends of public companies, while still enjoying the advantages of the corporate structure.   

        2. Open A Business Bank Account

        You want to keep your business banking activity separate from your personal financial activity. In order to register a bank account for your business, you need your company to have a Federal Tax Identification Number. This is a 9-digit number which identifies your business to the IRS.

        If you register your business through LegalZoom, you will have the option of letting them issue a Federal Tax Identification Number for you, which I’d recommend you do.

        3. Get A Business Credit Card

        Every independent business needs a credit card that feeds directly into their business bank account and integrates into their accounting system. Beyond that, the perks of specific credit cards can benefit your business.

        After trying almost every credit card, we’ve settled on two that we prefer. We recommend the American Express Platinum card to businesses that do a lot of travelling, and the American Express Green card for those who don’t.

        Aside from their rates, it’s their perks that make them so useful. For example, we get deals on flights, upgrades, and access to members’ lounges because of our Platinum card. That may not seem like a big deal, but when you fly as much as we do, it’s incredible.

        If you don’t travel, the Green card is cheaper. Both cards offer protection on rental cars and other benefits that help your company.

        There are other considerations to take, like handling your insurance and benefit plan, but these are the bare essential steps to getting your business off the ground.

        The Future Is All About Independence

        The old school view of employment is over. The 30 year job doesn’t exist anymore, the notion that it’s a company’s duty to employ the world is dying.

        Instead, our future is one in which every professional is independent, responsible for their own success, free to live on their terms, and capable of achieving so much more.

        Being an independent business is the best thing that can happen to you professionally, and it only takes you an afternoon to become one.

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          How To Be Indispensable As A Consultant

          By | Marketing Yourself, Professional Development

          What We’ll Cover In This Piece:

          • Why expertise is the key to becoming indispensable.
          • The three fundamental concepts you need to understand about expertise.
          • How to apply each concept to your career today.

          Estimated Time to Read:  8 minutes

          When you’re first starting off as a consultant or contractor, finding work can be a grind (BenchWatch helps a ton!).

          You spend that first year marketing yourself like crazy, just trying to get your foot in the door with companies. Slowly, you start landing projects, start getting referrals, and build relationships with clients that go beyond individual projects.

          Then something amazing happens. You get a repeat client. Someone liked working with you so much that they want to do it again.

          Then another client rehires you. Then another.

          All of a sudden, you have to turn new work away, because you’re fully booked with repeat business.

          That’s the way the consulting industry works. If you do a good job, after a couple of years consulting full-time, you can expect over 90% of your work to come from repeat clients. In fact, many consultants spend their whole career consulting for one main client.

          You want this to happen. Working with repeat clients means you already have a relationship. They don’t have to evaluate you like a new hire, because they know you can deliver. You don’t have to learn a new company’s culture and processes, because you’re already familiar with them. Everything is easier.

          From a repeat client’s perspective, you’re reliable, already up to speed, and have a track record of success. In a word, you’ve become indispensable to your client.

          That relationship is the closest thing to job security you’ll find as a consultant, and developing it only requires you to do one thing:

          To become indispensable, you have to become the expert in your field.

          If you’re just a warm body who can operate the software or process your client uses, you might be able to find work, but you’ll be easy to replace.

          But if you know everything there is to know about your client’s company—both the industry they’re in and the specifics of their organization—then you have something they can’t just replace. You have expertise, and expertise makes you extremely hard to replace.

          I’m going to walk you through how you can become indispensable to your client by becoming an expert. It all comes down to understanding three key ideas.

          The 3 Core Concepts of Expertise You Must Understand

          There’s no magic to becoming an expert on something. You don’t have to be a savant or have grown up in the industry. You also don’t have to be the single most informed person on Earth about a topic.

          Being an expert simply means you have a mastery of a topic, and know the most up-to-date information about it.

          For example, I work in the oil and gas industry. I own a consulting firm that services that industry, and I’ve been a part of countless projects for Fortune 5 companies in that space. I know a heck of a lot about my field, but there are lots of people who know  ten times as much as me. They could write you a complete history of the oil and gas industry dating back to how fossil fuels first came to be our primary energy source.

          That’s great for them, but my clients don’t care if I know who dug the first well in East Texas. They care that I know what’s happening in the industry right now, where things are heading, and how best to navigate them. That’s what being an expert is all about.

          The fundamentals of expertise can be broken down into a few easy to understand ideas that you can take action on today.

          1. Expertise Requires Interest

          You can’t be an expert in a field you aren’t interested in. It’s that simple.

          The science on this is very clear: people will put in much more effort, and be much more effective, when working on things they enjoy. Since being an expert requires constant learning, you must pick a field you like learning about.

          If you don’t, you’ll dread your work, you won’t do a good job, you won’t put in the right effort, and you won’t ever become a real expert. Or, even worse–you’ll become an expert in a field you hate. Who wants to do that?

          This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to clearly define your niche according to what interests you.

          How Can You Apply This To Your Life?

          If you already have a niche and love your niche, that’s great, consider yourself lucky and skip over this section.

          Most of us are not in that situation. But that’s OK, you can find a niche that is interesting to you.

          Before you even think about landing consulting jobs, audit yourself thoroughly and honestly. Don’t start by asking yourself what field seems the most lucrative, ask yourself three questions instead:

          1. List out EVERYTHING you are interested in. Make this list by asking yourself the questions below. Don’t worry about lining these up with work subjects yet. Think about this stuff in the broadest terms possible, give yourself the most room to explore:
            1. What general subjects am I interested in?
            2. What do I read about in my free time?
            3. What problems do I like to solve?
            4. What do I want to learn about?
          2. Look at that list and ask yourself honestly, “What am I good at?” Make another list that are marketable skills you know you have.
          3. Now the final question: Is there combination of a subject you enjoy and a marketable skill and fits into a legitimate business niche?

          The combinations you have left once you answer question 3, are the topics you can become an expert in, and can be your field.

          Using myself as an example again, let’s break down my list:

          1. What general subjects am I interested in? Oil and natural gas (No seriously, I really do LOVE learning about this fascinating industry.  I see it as foundational to our current standard of living, and love the complexity of the technology and geopolitics that impact it.  )
          2. What do I read about in my free time? Business news and the energy sector (also, Texas Longhorns football).
          3. What problems do I like to solve? I like executing difficult projects that create value and productivity for companies — and impact lots of people.
          4. What do I want to learn about? What’s going on in global business and politics, and specifically what macro-trends are impacting the oil and gas business.  

          Looking at that list, it’s clear that I need to be involved in the oil and natural gas business. Now I have to ask myself what I’m good at that people in that industry will pay me for. To do that, I break down my relevant skills:

          1.  Business Strategy. I’ve spent years working in and studying business, particularly as it relates to oil and natural gas, and know how to plan for success.
          2. Team Management. I know how to put people together and get the best results from them, and I’m a natural servant leader.
          3. IT Solution Implementation. Microsoft 365, Sharepoint, Salesforce, Trading and Risk Management Systems—if it’s a relevant piece of software to the industry, I’m interested in it and know how to implement it for the whole company.

          Looking at that those skills, and comparing them to my interests, it’s clear that I should be focused on developing my expertise as it relates to project management for the oil and gas industry.

          Becoming an expert in this world isn’t hard for me, because it’s what I want to be doing with my time.

          2. Expertise Happens Through Experience

          Despite what you heard in school, formal education does little to make you an  expert on anything. You can take a course and become knowledgeable on a subject, but there’s a difference between being knowledgeable and being an expert.

          Being knowledgeable means you have very specific knowledge about a subject that makes you functional. For example, if you took a course on commodities, you’d learn the basics of how to work in that industry. But no one would call you an expert.  Similarly, an engineering degree doesn’t prepare you to drill seven miles deep under the ocean floor for Chevron.  

          Being an expert means you have a mastery of your subject, and mastery only comes with experience.

          Using the commodities example again, an expert would know how to handle every real world situation that arose—and if they didn’t, they’d know how to learn quick.

          Faced with a crisis, an expert wouldn’t reference a case-problem they worked in college, they’d think back to a similar crisis they’d seen before. 

          The only way to acquire this experience is by getting out into the wild. You develop a mastery of a subject by living and breathing it, not by taking a course on it.

          How Can You Apply This To Your Life?

          Wherever you are in your career, you can always get more experience.

          If you’re an experienced consultant with years under your belt, find someone above you in your field and make them your mentor.

          No matter how many years you’ve spent in your industry, someone who has been around longer than you and has worked their way higher than you has experience they can share.

          If you develop a good enough relationship, they’ll even become a resource you can use when you face new crises (see what I said before about knowing how to learn quick.)

          If you’re a young consultant just starting out, I have slightly different advice for you: Pick a field you want to be in, and then take any job in it. Even if you have to take less money (or significantly less money).  

          If you work two years in an entry-level job in your chosen field, learning skills that apply to what you want to do, you’ll be two years ahead of someone with an MBA.

          You’ll have not just hands-on experience, but you’ll have spent time meeting and working in front of senior people from your industry.

          Senior level professionals are much more likely to take you under their wing if they’ve seen your work ethic and they have some working relationship with you. They don’t care what school you went to.  Trust me, I hire lots of people and so do my clients.  One of the biggest misconceptions is how important your university is.  Nobody cares after you are 25 years old.  

          3. Expertise Never Stops

          I started my career at Arthur Andersen, a firm renowned for the way they developed their talent. During my first performance review, I asked “What’s the one thing I can do to go to the next level?”

          I got a very simple response, which changed my entire life. They told me to get a subscription to The Wall Street Journal.  I was shocked.

          They knew that I needed to immerse myself in the world of business and develop a real feel for how it works, for how one thing affects another in the business world. It was one of the biggest steps forward I took as a consultant.

          But I didn’t stop as soon as I’d developed that feel. The world kept changing, and there was always more relevant information for me to find. To this day I read everything I can.

          Everyday, I pick up a new bit of information, or just further develop my feel for the way businesses work.  I’m using myself as example, but this is what I see other successful consultants and contractors doing.  

          Here’s another way of thinking through this. If you were an expert in the technology sector in 2007, you probably thought the following:

          • BlackBerry had a great position in the mobile phone market
          • HD-DVD was going to grow and compete with Blu Ray
          • Twitter was just a neat idea for a niche audience

          Fast forward to now. No one you know owns a BlackBerry, HD-DVD is all but gone, and Twitter has a market cap of around $10 billion.

          The point is, expertise is a fluid, changing thing. There is always more to learn, and the only way to stay on top is to keep moving

          How Can You Apply This To Your Life?

          Get yourself some newsfeed software. Personally, I use Google News, but you can use Feedly or whatever newsfeed you prefer. You want to compile your information from a few sources:

          1. Major news outlets
          2. Industry-specific outlets/trade publications
          3. Stock reports and analysis from your industry
          4. Thought leaders and experts in your field

          When I have time throughout my day or before I go to bed, I check my feed and read everything that has been published that day. I don’t tell myself, “Today I’m going to learn about shale oil.” I plan everyday to learn whatever I can about my industry.

          One day, that might mean I read a new stock analysis of a major oil company, and get some better insights into their inner workings and plans for the future. On another day, I might read about emerging technology in the field, or macroeconomic trends that could potentially affect the industry.

          Because I’m so deeply entrenched in all of this information–and most importantly, I LIKE learning about it–I become an expert without really trying to. That’s the only way to become an expert.

          You’re Indispensable Because You Love Being There

          I’ve written about the importance of servant leadership before, of how working to serve your team makes you more valuable to your clients. Expertise has a similar kind of value.

          You can’t be an expert without loving your field. Staying on top of all that information, obsessing over it night and day, it would be absolutely exhausting if it wasn’t so meaningful to you.

          Not only does that make you a greater asset in terms of the skills and knowledge you bring to the table, it lets employers know that they can trust you. You aren’t there to punch a clock or because this was the most lucrative field you could think of.

          You’re there because you want to be, and that sets a client’s mind at ease. Companies can’t put a price on that kind of reassurance.

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