Blog Consulting How an Independent Consultant Went from $0 Bottom Line to $500K in One Year on Catalant

How an Independent Consultant Went from $0 Bottom Line to $500K in One Year on Catalant

In 2019, Sean O’Dowd left his job at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to become employee number 40 at a startup based out of Chicago. Soon after, he found the perfect Tiffany engagement ring for his girlfriend at the time, Pear. 

But after purchasing Pear’s pricey ring (which includes two pear-shaped diamonds), Sean had an abrupt realization — his new startup salary wasn’t going to cut it. He needed to make more money and fast.

Sean had previous experience in affiliate marketing and on freelance platforms like Upwork. But he wanted a “bigger and better” way to consult independently and earn the money he needed. He remembered a conversation about Catalant’s Expert Marketplace from his time at Wharton and that’s how he ultimately ended up becoming an Expert on the platform

Sean cites three reasons why he ultimately chose Catalant as the platform to help him earn the money he needed instead of another freelance platform like Upwork, Fiverr, or Business Talent Group.  

Catalant’s Expert Marketplace vs. Other Freelance Platforms

  1. Longer-term work: Although Sean came to Catalant looking to earn money quickly, he said there was an added benefit to getting started on Catalant: the platform offers many opportunities that are long-term, sustained projects. On most freelance platforms, projects tend to last a total of 1-2 weeks, whereas projects on Catalant can last months or even years. Having the ability to work on projects that have a beginning, middle, and end piqued Sean’s interest when thinking about how he could benefit from consulting through Catalant both immediately and into the future. 
  2. More impactful work: Assignments on most freelance platforms are often quick-fix projects. Meanwhile, projects on Catalant are much larger in scope and value. “You’re doing something that matters for a major corporation or private equity firm,” Sean says.
  3. Higher project price point: On Catalant, you’re bound to be doing work that requires a higher degree of expertise and investment of time than projects on most other freelance platforms. Since you’re driving greater value for the business or firm you’re supporting, the price points of projects are inherently higher, leading to greater returns for Experts. Sean recently released a video showing how he coached a fellow Expert to earn $100k on Catalant in 50 days, a goal that would have been much harder to reach with smaller projects.
independent consultant: sean o'dowd, strategy consultant on Catalant

All of these factors appealed to Sean, who saw Catalant’s Expert Marketplace as a way to not only facilitate the lifestyle he wanted but also to build long-term value for his career. 

Tips from an Independent Consultant who Went from $0 Bottom Line to $500K in One Year

Here are three pieces of advice Sean has for new or existing Experts on the Catalant platform who are looking to make the most of their experience and invest in their independent consulting careers just as he did.

1. Be the first Expert to bid on a project.

In addition to being open to starting with smaller projects, Sean has found success on Catalant when he’s one of the first Experts to bid on a project. In doing so, “You set the baseline for the caliber of Expert who will apply for the job. Then everyone who bids after you is compared to you.” He believes this helps him win interviews. “And once you have the interview, the ball is in your court on whether you can bring the job all the way home.” 

2. Collect social proof.

When asked why he believes he ultimately became so successful on Catalant, Sean explains that he started by being open to doing the work that other consultants on the platform weren’t signing up to do. He submitted proposals for projects that were live on the platform but had not yet received any pitches. By taking on these projects Sean was able to deliver results and begin collecting social proof, including glowing reviews, from his clients.

Those reviews — and other social proof such as case studies and testimonials — catapulted him into the mix of Experts who were being considered and hired for much larger projects (which happened to be at higher price points). And a snowball effect began. The more stellar social proof that came in, the more Sean was hired for larger projects, and subsequently the greater his earnings. “Starting off by doing the work that other Experts didn’t want to do and getting those reviews and social proof points was the differentiator for me.”

3. Learn from, and grow your network among, other independent consultants. 

On Catalant, you may find yourself working on a project that requires more than one Expert. For example, Sean has been hired for large projects requiring four or five Experts. Working with other Experts has given him an avenue to grow and learn from individuals in the industry — something he doesn’t necessarily have the opportunity to do as frequently as he once did while at a traditional firm. Sean says there’s “a sense of camaraderie” among Experts on the Catalant platform which is “valuable and unique when you work as an independent consultant.”

Pro tip: As you work with clients through Catalant, refer projects to earn a 5% referral fee!

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lessons from an independent consultant: sean o'dowd, strategy consultant

Sean is an experienced strategy consultant who works as a Principal at The O’Dowd Group LLC. He is also a consultant on Catalant’s Expert Marketplace.

Sean has experience at Boston Consulting Group and has consulted for Fortune 500 companies and leading private equity firms. He graduated with honors from Wharton.