Many of my clients are solo consultants, or will try to get consulting projects to bring money in during their job search. One of the most valuable things I do is help clients navigate the chaos of projects / contracts / full-time employment. 

Many times, a client will go in for a job interview only to realize the company is in transition, the position is poorly defined, there are budget concerns, a hiring freeze is imminent, etc. A sound strategy can be to instead carve out a piece of the total job description with a defined objective and deliverable and pitch it as a project for x months. 

This tactic has been working well recently. If you can afford to do it, trying before buying is a great idea on both sides. You don’t really know what a company is like or what the management team will be like to work with until you get in there. Some roadblocks could be:

  • The company says it’s looking for change, yet may not be open to doing things differently. You may be consistently blocked by “But we’ve always done it this way…” 
  • Your internal sponsor may be totally fired up and their boss, the rest of the executive team, or the board may see things differently.
  • There may not be any budget or resources allocated to accomplish the goal.

In short, you don’t know what you’re walking into – it might be a fantastic situation, or it might be a hot mess. You just never know.

Choosing wisely

What project should you pitch? There are several things you might want to consider. 

What is (relatively) easy to do and could potentially have a high value for the client?

An assessment or a gap analysis could be a good start, but make sure you position the findings as being valuable for the client. Stress that you will be identifying places where your client will save time or money, get to market more quickly, take advantage of a market opportunity – whatever makes sense.

Think of this as an opportunity to get your foot in the door and establish credibility. This first project may be short (just a few weeks or months) and you may even pitch it at a slightly reduced rate with the hope of getting follow-on work. 

Try to understand what the client’s budget might be, and what price point wouldn’t require a zillion signatures for budget approval. 

While this term is overused, it is helpful to consider what is the low-hanging fruit? What has been in plain sight, but the client hasn’t seen it or taken advantage of the opportunity? 


The three questions you have to practice until you answer them convincingly are: 

  • Why you? 
  • Why this? 
  • Why now? 

Why are you the right person to do this work? What industry knowledge do you bring? What connections do you have? What previous experience is relevant?

Why this project? What is the potential benefit? How will you make the sponsor’s life easier, make them look smart to their boss, save the company money, or bring in new revenue? You get bonus points if you can do several of these.

Why now? This is critical if you want to start soon. If you don’t make a case for a quick decision and starting ASAP, you run the risk of having your project being put on hold until next quarter or whenever. 

I also recommend identifying the problematic questions – the ones you really hope they won’t ask. If you prepare for those in advance, you can have several strategies in mind, depending on the situation. 

In the next post, I’ll talk about pitching, following up, and getting the work.