Setting Up Your Consulting Practice

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Topic: Create Work Samples

It is more powerful to show rather than to tell. Sanitize samples of your work to create a portfolio you can show clients. If you aren’t allowed to sanitize past work, then hire yourself to, for example, create a strategy document for a public company or an operational improvement diagnostic for the Department of Motor […]

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Prepare a sanitized sample of your work, or ideally multiple samples of your work. Now, many times, when I interact with clients, they’ll say, “Well, we’d love to see a sample of this person’s work.” So it’s very helpful to prepare that ahead of time and not scramble at the last minute. 

It may be the case that when you left a large consulting firm, you were required to not bring any materials with you. Understandable. The same thing may happen when you’ve left a large employer. If you were the Head of Strategy you’re not allowed to bring any of your work with you. Understandable. And if you haven’t yet done any projects as an independent consultant, you may not have any material that you can sanitize.

In that case, invest in yourself. Hire yourself to create some samples of work. Let’s say that you work on mergers and acquisitions. And you do strategy around mergers and acquisitions. Well, take a recent real-life merger that’s been already announced in the news or already happened. Research both companies and prepare the strategy document that you would have shared with the CEO of one of those companies making the case for that acquisition — potentially even listing out other targets that could have been acquired.

So, kind of do the document outside in.

Let’s say that you do operational improvement. Well, pick something that most people are familiar with. Maybe it’s the DMV. Spend a day at the Department of Motor Vehicles watching what happens and then create a lean diagnostic document on improvement opportunities that you have observed and what you would do to capture them.

So, you get the idea. Create some documents. They don’t have to be 30-pages long. Three, five, six, or seven pages of quality work, horizontal. If you’ve written white papers, that’s great. But often clients want to see what would your actual deliverables look like? They want to get a feel for that.

So, if you do sort of market landscape analysis or due diligence, then spend a couple days, pick a company, research it, and create a sample document that shows what you’re capable of. It’s very, very powerful to be able to show and not just tell.