For project managers looking to transition into consulting, developing a strategic career plan is essential for success. As consultants, we must map out how to best leverage our skills to provide value to clients. This involves thoughtful planning around positioning, services offered, ideal clients, and business development tactics.
In this post, we will explore key considerations for strategically planning your project management consulting journey.
Assessing Your Background and Skills
First, stock your background, experience, credentials, skills, and interests. As a project manager, you likely have capabilities in areas like:
- Managing complex initiatives end-to-end
- Leading cross-functional teams
- Developing detailed project plans and schedules
- Tracking budgets and financials
- Conducting risk assessments and mitigation
- Implementing PM systems and processes
- Coaching team members and resolving conflicts
- Ensuring adherence to timelines and budgets
- Managing stakeholder expectations and communications
Look for unique strengths you can leverage as a consultant. For example, specialized experience in construction PM, AI project implementation, Agile transformations, or government contracting.
Defining Your Niche and Services
Once you are aware of your strengths, define your consulting niche and specific service offerings. Avoid being too broad. Project managers may be tempted to offer general PM consulting services spanning industries. However, it is smarter to niche down.
Some examples of potential PM consulting focuses include:
- Construction project management: Helping construction firms implement best practices in scheduling, risk management, change orders, and subcontractor oversight.
- Agile transformation: Guiding organizations through adopting Agile processes for software development and beyond. Could focus on scaling Agile, training, leadership adoption, etc.
- PM software implementation: Assisting clients in selecting, customizing, and integrating project management information systems (PMIS) like Microsoft Project or Oracle Primavera.
- Project portfolio management: Helping establish governance processes for evaluating, prioritizing, selecting, and managing projects aligned to business objectives.
When defining services, drill down into specific deliverables like assessments, project audits, PM process design, training programs, staff augmentation, interim PM leadership, and coaching. Avoid including services outside your wheelhouse.
Identifying Your Ideal Clients
With your niche and offerings clarified, research and identify target clients. The best consulting clients have:
- Well-defined needs match your expertise
- Budget to invest in outside guidance
- Access to decision-makers able to hire consultants
- Sophistication to articulate requirements and manage engagements
Common consulting client types include:
Big companies often engage consultants to advise on strategy, operations, technology implementation, process improvements, training, audits, and change management. They value outside expertise.
Focus on specific departments and functions like IT, operations, R&D, HR, finance, and marketing. Identify relevant decision-makers like VPs, directors, and managers. Connect with them on LinkedIn.
Federal, state, and municipal government entities frequently lack internal project expertise. With complex initiatives and budget scrutiny, they seek qualified PM consultants for system implementations, infrastructure projects, and process optimization.
Register as a government contractor to access opportunities. Maintain relationships with agency procurement and program management staff.
Professional Services Firms
Consulting firms, law firms, accounting firms, and ad agencies often need seasoned project managers to lead client initiatives, oversee internal operations, or provide PM coaching and training.
Target partners and operations leaders at mid-size local and regional firms.
Non-profits need PM support but have limited budgets. Offer discounted services in exchange for testimonials, referrals, and portfolio-building experience.
Pursue causes aligned with your values, like social services, environmental issues, arts, health care, and community development.
Crafting a Compelling Personal Brand
To attract clients, establish a personal brand conveying your niche expertise. This requires articulating your unique value proposition.
Elements of your brand include:
Headshot: A professional, friendly headshot builds familiarity and trust quickly. Invest in quality photography.
Tagline: A catchy, descriptive tagline like “Leading enterprises through agile transformation” quickly defines your specialty. Feature it prominently in your materials.
Website: Your website establishes credibility and serves as a sales tool. Focus the content on your niche, services, clients, experience, and results. Include testimonials, case studies, and client logos.
LinkedIn Profile: Craft a robust LinkedIn presence highlighting your background, skills, accomplishments, recommendations, and thought leadership. This will be a top destination for prospective clients researching your experience.
Printed Materials: Well-designed one-page service overview sheets, brochures, and business cards professionally convey your services and expertise. Bring customized materials to pitches, networking events, and sales meetings.
Thought Leadership Content: Publishing blogs, articles, videos, and podcasts on PM best practices helps attract new business. Promote this content on your website and social channels. Establish yourself as an industry expert.
Create Your Core Consulting Offer
Once you've defined your niche, develop your core consulting offer that delivers immense value to your ideal client. This will be your primary service that addresses your client's biggest pain points and desired outcomes.
Your offer should be packaged as a high-value, fixed-price program. Avoid hourly rates that require you to clock time instead of providing results. A fixed program fee also enables seamless scaling.
Make sure your offer is productized for consistency by systematizing the following:
- Ideal client criteria
- Onboarding process
- Standard operating procedures
- Templates, checklists, and frameworks
- Deliverable expectations
- Pricing and payment terms
Set Up Your Operations
Streamline your operations to deliver excellent experiences for each client engagement:
Tools & Technology
With the right tools, you can automate administrative tasks to focus on high-value work. Begin with:
- Email marketing platform (Mailchimp, ConvertKit)
- CRM/client management software (HubSpot, Honeybook)
- Project management software (Asana, Trello)
- Accounting software (QuickBooks, Xero)
- Video conferencing (Zoom, GoToMeeting)
Document your internal processes for consistency:
- Lead generation workflows
- Client onboarding
- Service delivery
- Quality assurance
- Offboarding clients
Executing a Client Acquisition Strategy
With your brand and offerings finely tuned, pull these elements together into an integrated client acquisition strategy:
Networking: Actively network at industry events, trade shows, conferences, association meetings, and business mixers. Seek warm introductions from decision-makers. Offer to host webinars or speak at events.
Referrals: Ask satisfied clients and professional contacts to connect you with others seeking PM consulting support. Offer incentives for successful referrals.
Sales Calls: Initiate targeted sales calls with prospective clients. Start with email outreach, then follow-up. Provide valuable content to capture interest. Avoid aggressive sales tactics.
Speaking Engagements: Seek opportunities to guest speak about PM at industry conferences, company events, university lectures, and webinars. Establish credibility and meet prospective clients.
Paid Ads: Place Google, LinkedIn, and industry-specific paid ads. Segment ads by services, geography, and industries. Create landing pages for conversions.
Email Marketing: Build an email list to distribute helpful PM content, market services, and nurture leads. Avoid spammy promotions. Provide value and demonstrate expertise.
Search Optimization: Optimize your website and content for search engines (SEO). Target relevant PM keywords and phrases that clients use during research. Produce content that ranks highly in search results.
Proposals: Respond to client RFPs with persuasive proposals conveying your fit, approach, expertise, and value. Set yourself apart from your competitors.
The combination of being highly niche while executing an integrated marketing and sales strategy will propel your PM consulting success. Remember to stay nimble and adjust your positioning and outreach based on market feedback and opportunities.
With strategic planning and persistence, you can build a rewarding project management consulting practice that delivers immense value to your clients.