5 Common Mistakes New Consultants Make And How to Avoid Them

March 26, 2021 Jamie Johnson

5 Common Mistakes New Consultants Make And How to Avoid Them - "Oops!" spelled out in large block letters

Remote work has steadily been picking up traction over the past decade, but it reached a whole new level in 2020. Many companies were forced to lay off full-time employees and instead began relying on freelancers and independent consultants.

If you’re thinking about starting your own consulting business, there has never been a better time to jump in. It’s estimated that half of the working population will be freelancers or consultants over the next five years.

Mistakes are inevitable anytime you’re starting a new venture and going into business for yourself. Let’s look at five common mistakes you’ll want to watch out for as a new consultant.

Common Mistakes Consultants Make

1. Not choosing a specialty

Choosing a specialty is what’s going to set you apart as a consultant. It’ll ensure that you find projects that are the best fit for your skill sets and do work that you enjoy.

It will also help you make a name for yourself in your industry and find the right types of clients. And when you specialize, you can charge more for your services because you’re an expert in that industry.

But for many new consultants, choosing a niche can feel counterintuitive. You’re anxious to start bringing in revenue, and the thought of working with all different types of clients may sound appealing.

But failing to specialize may leave you stretched too thin, and it’ll make it harder for you to deliver your best work. So before you start working with clients, spend some time identifying your unique skills and decide what you want to specialize in.

2. Not setting boundaries with clients

When you’re in the midst of a client project, you’re probably willing to devote a lot of time and energy to that client. But that doesn’t mean all boundaries should go out the window.

One of the biggest mistakes many consultants make is forgetting that they are involved in a business relationship. You’re not your client’s employee — you’re working with them, not for them.

Make sure to stick to the terms of your contract and keep an eye out for scope creep. If you’re not careful, this can lead to lost time, money, and resources.

It can also jeopardize your relationship with your client in the long run. Here are some best practices for maintaining boundaries with your clients:

  • Set expectations right from the beginning.
  • Don’t just assume that you and your client are on the same page.
  • Make sure they understand how they can contact you and when you aren’t available.
  • Clearly outlined the expected deliverables of the project in your contract.

3. Not staying on top of your finances

It takes some time to get used to managing your finances as a solopreneur. And one of the easiest things to overlook is setting aside money for taxes every month.

As an independent consultant, you’re responsible for paying your estimated quarterly taxes. At the end of the year, you’ll either pay the remainder of what you owe or receive a refund if you overpaid.

To avoid getting stuck with a massive tax bill at the end of the year, set aside 30% of your revenue toward taxes every month. And pay your quarterly taxes when they’re due to avoid getting hit with any late fees.

It’s also a good idea to hire an accountant who can walk you through this process. That person can tell you how much money you owe and help you figure out what expenses you’re able to deduct.

4. Not marketing every day

In the beginning, most consultants pour a lot of time and energy into finding their initial clients. However, once they have a stable base of clients, many people stop doing the marketing that helped them find those clients in the first place.

This inaction becomes a problem when one or two of those contracts end, and you find yourself short on clients with no new leads in your pipeline. Soon, you’ll find yourself back at square one, having to hustle for new clients all over again.

To avoid finding yourself in this situation, make marketing a daily priority, even when you’re all booked up with work. Consistent marketing will help you maintain ongoing client projects and avoid dry spells in your business.

5. Not diversifying your client base

You’ve probably heard that you should diversify your income so that if one income stream dries up, you have others to rely on. In the same way, you should try to diversify your client base.

Having just one client who makes up most of your income may feel more manageable, but you’re putting yourself in a vulnerable situation. Plus, you’re likely missing out on many opportunities.

Here are a few ways you can start broadening your client base:

  • Update your website: Make sure your current website looks professional and that it clearly outlines the services you offer. Be sure to include testimonials from previous clients and make it easy for prospects to contact you.
  • Ask for referrals: One of the easiest ways to find new clients is by asking your current clients for a referral. Your clients already know you, and like working with you, so it’s only natural they would want to recommend you to their business colleagues.
  • Expand your offerings: Can you expand on your expertise to offer new services to consulting clients? For instance, if you offer content marketing services, you could expand into social media marketing.

Final Thoughts

Consulting is a rewarding and lucrative career path, but it’s not without its challenges. By avoiding the common mistakes outlined in this article, you’ll be able to give your new business the best chance of success.

One way to ensure that you get your business off to the best start possible is by joining a talent community like Business Talent Group. We can connect you to the leading organizations in your industry, so you find the work you’re best suited to do.

And BTG will be there to facilitate and support you during every step of the project. See if the BTG community of independent talent is right for you.


Skilled professionals are becoming independent consultants to capitalize on their strengths, gain ownership over how they work, and select projects that interest and excite them. You can too! Become an independent consultant today.

Apply Today

About the Author

Jamie Johnson

Jamie Johnson is a freelance writer who teaches others how to start their own freelance writing careers. She covers topics related to small business, entrepreneurship, and personal finance. She currently writes for clients like Business Insider, Bankrate, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Quicken Loans.

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