How to Become a Consultant For Your Clients - ManageWP

How to Become a Consultant For Your Clients

“Can you make this small change to our website?” How many times have you heard that from a client or some variation and thought, “if they only knew what it took to make that ‘small change’ to their site” or “I wish they could understand the impact of doing what they’re asking”?

Probably more times than you’d care to count.

I find most of us will fit into one of two roles when we’re asked by clients to make changes or updates – a technician or a consultant.

How to Become A Consultant For Your Clients

What’s the difference?

Let’s start with being a technician.

Most of us started here. We are technically intelligent people (aka nerds! Don’t be ashamed of that word!) who understand the mechanics of how websites are built, function, and fixed.

This is why people hire us and, hopefully, pay us good money to build and/or care for their websites, right?

The problem is you can quickly find yourself pigeon-holed as “the computer person” who updates the client’s site. This means that client’s see you as nothing more than someone who knows how to do tasks they either don’t know how to do or don’t have the time to do themselves.

You may be asking, “but, what’s wrong with that? Isn’t that the reason we stay in business?

There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re content to be bossed around by people who don’t understand the technology nearly as well as you do and will hire someone else in your place that will do what they ask for cheaper.

Congratulations.You’ve just become a commodity.

However, I’m willing to bet most of you would like to elevate your status in the minds of your clients and form long term relationships that generate revenue month over month because you’re just so darn valuable.

If that’s you, keep reading.

If it’s not, the people who will keep reading might want to hire you to work for them because their businesses are likely going to be growing.

Now that we’ve settled that, let’s talk about how to become a consultant for your clients instead of staying a technician.

How to become a consultant

This is where shift happens (see what I did there?!).

Becoming a consultant isn’t about wearing suits, taking clients to lunch, or fancy 25-page retainers. Although, who doesn’t like a free lunch?! This is about becoming more than your list of skills.

This is about becoming someone whose insight, advice, and thoughts are sought after because they add value to the organization.

While there are certainly giant listicles and lengthy books you can read about being a consultant (some are actually helpful), I will share with you what I’ve learned and what has been working for me.

Push back… respectfully

There will be times to just say, “yes, Mr. or Mrs. Client” and do what you’ve been asked, but you need to start breaking yourself from that habit.

Your first question shouldn’t be “when do you need this done?”, it should be closer to “what problem is this solving?”

As a consultant, it’s your job to see the big picture and figure out how all the tasks fit together to solve the client’s problem – not just understand how the two Javascript based plugins will work together without breaking the site or each other.

It will feel awkward at first. Like taking a shower with your socks on.

But, you’ll eventually find your voice and develop your style that allows you to question your client’s request with respect.

Suggest Projects

Technicians are reactive. Something breaks. They fix it.

Consultants are proactive. They see problems coming before they are problems and suggest a solution to prevent them.

Aside from saving your client from losing money caused by downtime, inefficiencies, or a pagerank thumping from Google because their algorithm changed for the millionth time, there are psychological benefits. Proactively suggesting solutions shows you are invested in their business – not just there to collect a check. You’ll start to show them that you are a valuable part of their team. You’ll also help your business because new projects mean additional revenue is coming in.

While I don’t have space to debate the value of project-based versus retainer-based work, I would recommend you think about a middle ground – a series of projects that function like a retainer.

Get to know their real challenges

Trying to help someone without a deep knowledge of what their real challenges are will ultimately come back to bite you.

If your suggested solutions are only solutions for symptoms and not for the core illness, you can quickly find yourself out of clients, because your solutions are generating a return-on-investment (ROI) and you start to seem more like an expense than an investment.

Be connected

Most clients do not like having 20 different vendors to go to for external services. So, why not add value by giving them fewer people to go to for their needs?

I’m not advocating that you offer every service under the sun. That rarely works out well. Instead, you should be keenly aware of, if not friendly with, other agencies or freelancers who can fill in the gaps. That way you not only provide services to your client, but you also become a kind of concierge that they can go to trust for great recommendations.

Heck, even offer to coordinate those other teams on behalf of your client. They DO NOT need or want one more thing to do!

For example, we know that AMP is becoming more and more important to the success of websites.If you’re a technician, you’ll learn everything about it and how to implement it for your clients. And that’s great, if you have the time.

However, if you’re trying to grow your business, then you likely don’t have that kind of time. So, what do you do? What I’m doing is learning as much as I can to have a proper understanding of it and why it’s so important so that I can intelligently consult my current and future clients on it and why they should have it on their sites.

Then, my agency, The PHNX21creative Agency, will be hiring the team over at AMP for WP to do the implementation. I recently spoke with their CEO, Ahmed Kaludi, and their services are reasonably priced and they are experts in this technology. Having the leading AMP plugin that connects with the Automattic AMP plugin doesn’t hurt either.

How to Become A Consultant For Your Clients graphic

Conclusion: Act like a partner

This sums up the heart of the previous points.

In life and in business, we teach people how to treat us.

So, teach people how to treat you like a partner in their business by becoming a consultant for your clients. It won’t happen overnight and, frankly, it’s harder to be a consultant than it is to be a technician. But, if you want to charge more for your services (who doesn’t?!) and create a steady stream of revenue with current clients and be treated better, than this is the path you want to walk.

It’ll pay off.

Kenny Lange

Kenny is the founder of The PHNX21creative Agency. His agency focuses on helping small businesses grow through inbound marketing, web design, brand identity, and web care. He is passionate about building leaders, learning, and teaching. He enjoys telling people that he now gets paid to do what used to get him in trouble in school.

10 Comments

  1. Mike Storzieri

    Great article, most of the time I’m balancing between tech and consultant.

    Clients come to me wanting a quick fix to a problem that is most of the time caused my a tech only person starting a project then finding out they don’t know how to finish it because they did not take the time to understand the client needs in the first place.

    1. Kenny

      Mike, I completely feel the same way about being caught between those 2 roles.

      That is one of the worst feelings – discovering that the needs and requirements of the client halfway through the project.

      Hope that happens to you less and less!

  2. Rob Stephens

    Hey Kenny, wow, great article. I think one of the fundamental differences between a consultant and a technician is a consultant will take the time to meet with the client and understand their business problems in order help to achieve their marketing goals.

    A lot of people with technical skills who just want to ‘do the work’ and not get tied up in meetings get positioned as technicians because the client sees no added value other than the ‘doing’ of set tasks.

    Something I try to communicate to prospective clients is that while I may at times do the technical work or delegate it to a trusted specialist, I’m more of a strategist and project manager overseeing the project as a whole. That way I position myself as the problem solver, not the technician.

    1. Kenny

      Hey, Rob! I really like your point about positioning with potential clients. The first impression sets a powerful anchor!

  3. Tanya Quintieri

    Dear Kenny,
    This is an awesome piece of writing, I really appreciate it! And your points are so valid. My main business isn’t even web design, although I do that, too (relics of a past career and some clients that are still with me, them doing WOM… you know the game). My main business these days is translations. And I’m an active contributor in my peer community. That said, all the points you mentioned can be applied to freelance translators as well. Especially with machine translation being on the rise. So our scopes of work are shifting, too (just like web design is getting “easier” and DIY solutions being on the rise — whatever we think of that…). So yes, being your client’s “concierge” and adding more value than they first realize possible is definitely the way to go.

    Thanks again,
    Tanya

    1. Kenny

      Hey, Tanya! Glad you liked the article! I agree that the scopes of our work are shifting and I think that makes the shift to becoming a consultant much more important.

  4. David Blanchard

    Great observations Kenny! I fully agree. 👌🏼 Making this shift in your mindset is indeed a lot like taking a shower with your socks on at first, good visual :) I like to compare this to being a doctor where the patient complains of a symptom and asks you to treat the symptom. Like if someone asked for pain reliever for back pain. Maybe they actually needed a new pillow or a new office chair instead of pain medicine. You are much more valuable if you demonstrate that you are your client’s partner with their long-term best interests in mind, vs. a supplier who only has sight of the immediate task at hand.

    Regards,
    David
    WP Hero

    1. Kenny

      Thank you, David! I love your analogy of being a doctor! We have to treat clients’ ills and not their symptoms.

  5. Eddie Hanson l

    Very insightful article based in practical context. The application of knowledge nuggets would be useful to a vast audience. Well orchestrated Mr. Lange.

    1. Kenny

      Thank you, Eddie! I’m glad you liked it. I find there are many business principles that transcend industry.

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