How to Choose Which Projects to Pitch
As an independent consultant, one challenge you’ll face is determining which consulting projects to pitch on, and crafting a persuasive pitch that showcases your expertise, enthusiasm, and planning.
To invest your time wisely, consider where you’ll be the most competitive, and focus your energy there. In this post, I will outline a strategy to help you identify and refine your win zones in order to get better at pitching on consulting projects.
How to Identify Higher-Probability Pitch Opportunities
Assess your skills and expertise.
The foundation of a successful pitch lies in your ability to demonstrate how closely your skills and expertise align to what the client is looking for. Before pitching on any project, you’ll need to identify your strongest abilities and areas of competence. To do so effectively, consider a comprehensive self-assessment in which you:
- Reflect on your past experiences, education, and professional achievements to identify your core strengths.
- Create a list of your skills, areas of expertise, and experience with different topics, and rate your proficiency in each area.
Once you’ve done this, stick to pitching on projects that align with your core areas of expertise, particularly where you have past demonstrable achievements, in order to improve your chances of success.
Know your passions and interests.
Independent consultants often find greater success and satisfaction when they pursue projects that genuinely interest them. The beauty of being an independent consultant is not having to do work you dislike! Passion for your work can lead to increased motivation, better performance, and more often than not, results in a more convincing pitch.
- Reflect on the aspects of your field that you find most engaging and exciting and consider which types of projects have given you the most satisfaction in the past.
- Look for projects that involve these areas of interest and resonate with your personal values.
Take the expertise assessment you made above, and add a column for interest, and rank how interested, or passionate you are, on a scale of one to four. Now, you have a matrix demonstrating your top areas of expertise that align with your interests.
Gauge market demand.
Understanding the market demand for your services is crucial when choosing which projects to pitch. A solid grasp of your industry, current trends, and competition can help you identify gaps that your consultancy can fill.
- Conduct market research to stay updated on industry trends and changes.
- Network with peers and potential clients to gather insights on market needs and demands.
- Assess your competition to identify areas where your consultancy can differentiate itself.
Let’s say you specialize in digital marketing. You could conduct market research to understand which industries are investing heavily in online advertising and digital marketing, and identify trends, like the shift towards influencer marketing, video content, or AI-enabled marketing. It’s important to keep a pulse on what’s happening in the market and adjust how you position yourself and your offerings accordingly. Focus on pitching projects that cater to growing demands and trends that align with your expertise and interests.
Determine project scope.
When considering potential projects, it’s essential to both assess if the project scope aligns with your capacity to deliver, and ensure you understand exactly what is being asked for in the project.
- Overcommitting to projects or taking on work beyond your capabilities can lead to client dissatisfaction and damage your reputation.
- Carefully review project requirements and deadlines to ensure they fit within your bandwidth and capabilities and take into consideration the resources that will be required to finish the project.
- If you do not understand the problem to be solved in a project, you may not be in the most competitive position to win, and should evaluate whether pitching on it is worth the investment of your time. If you just need a little more information from the client to fully understand what is being asked of a consultant, then build this into your pitch using stated assumptions and guiding questions.
For example: A client requests a complete organizational restructuring with a tight deadline. First, evaluate whether you completely understand the problem to solve. Assess whether you have the capacity and resources to execute this project effectively. If this type of work is lower on the scale of your experience-interest matrix, it may require you to spend more time researching or setting up an approach, time which may not be feasible given the client’s request. If you feel the scope is beyond your capabilities or the deadline is unrealistic, consider passing on the project or suggesting a modified, more manageable version.
Evaluate the client’s reputation.
The clients you choose to work with can significantly impact your experience as an independent consultant.
- Partnering with clients who have a positive reputation can lead to long-lasting, successful professional relationships.
- Research potential clients to ensure they have a history of treating consultants fairly, paying on time, and being responsive to communication.
- Ask your network for recommendations or warnings about clients, and check online reviews, forums, or industry publications for feedback on potential clients.
Let’s say you come across a potential project with a client in the retail space, which is an industry you haven’t yet done project work in. Before pitching, research their reputation by checking online reviews, seeking feedback from peers who have worked with them or similar companies, and analyzing industry publications. While you may not have an identical experience with that client, you’ll have a better sense of what to expect and how to position your pitch.
Consider your personal goals.
Aligning your project choices with your personal and professional goals is essential for long-term satisfaction and growth in the independent consulting world. Your goals might include expanding your portfolio, gaining experience in a new industry, or developing a particular skill. Other goals might include earning extra income; starting or growing a consulting practice; securing new clients, or clients in new industries; and creating better work/life balance.
- Set clear, measurable objectives for both short-term and long-term growth.
- Determine which types of projects will help you achieve these goals.
- Prioritize projects that align with your objectives and contribute to your overall career development.
If one of your goals is to rapidly expand your practice, you may seek out shorter-term and more numerous projects in order to make several new client relationships. If instead, your goal is to become a niche expert in a specific industry, you might seek to narrow your focus and work only on projects with clients in a single industry.
Network and Build Relationships
Your network can play a significant role in helping you identify the right projects to pitch. Building relationships with other professionals, industry leaders, and potential clients can lead to valuable insights and opportunities.
- Attend industry conferences, workshops, and networking events to connect with potential clients and peers.
- Engage in online forums, social media, and professional groups to expand your network.
Join your university’s alumni network. Find a local professional association in your industry and attend their events to connect with potential clients and other consultants. Engage with thought leaders on LinkedIn, participate in relevant online forums. Network with other independent consultants through platforms like Catalant’s.
Choosing the right projects to pitch as an independent consultant can be a challenging but rewarding process. By carefully considering the elements described in this article, you can make informed decisions that focus your efforts toward higher-probability scenarios. Investing your time wisely will help your consultancy thrive and grow. Remember, the key to success is focusing on opportunities that align with your strengths and interests, ensuring a fulfilling and successful career in the independent consulting world.
Meet the Author
Johnathan provides hardware and software support in a Data Center environment for the world’s largest on-demand cloud computing platform, Amazon Web Services. As an independent consultant on the Catalant platform, he provides a better understanding and clearer picture of Information Technology, Cloud Computing and Data Center Networking and Hardware Industries.