To Consult or Not to Consult, That is the Question!
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
Many folk who have left or who are thinking they may leave their roles in marketing companies and agencies are intrigued about becoming a marketing or management consultant.
At Flock we spend as much time as we can seeing those considering a move to consulting. We ask them some questions to help them decide on the next best step.
We have listed some of these questions below to help potential consultants think through their next steps:
1. What do you enjoy most? What are you best at?
Be clinical about finding the intersection of these two questions. You will need to be passionate and better than others to succeed in a consulting role.
If you love creating and making most of all, then do bear in mind that isn’t normally what consulting is all about. You may wish to stay in agency and marketing land.
When your focus is very clear you can consider different types of consulting.
2. Uncles, Gurus, Lifters - what suits you?
There are broadly three different types of consulting:
“Uncles” are wise and sage advice-givers who offer counsel, wisdom, and opinion. They may not get too involved in detailed execution. Many who leave advertising and marketing roles quite like the idea of this or assume that is what consulting is like, giving advice on brand strategy or some other topics for a couple of days a month. It is well-suited to those who want a “lifestyle” role. However, be very aware that endless networking and scrabbling for work, and long lonely hours working in your spare room may be a reality. Also, if you have been used to the perks of corporate life (e.g. having someone else doing the hard work for you) then this too should be considered. There are a lot of independent sole “Uncles” around right now and to succeed in making a good sum of money you will need to be ruthlessly motivated to gain assignments and hold on to them. It can be a real rollercoaster of boom and bust.
“Gurus” are people and companies that have specialist skills that others lack. Flock are this type of company. You may find many niche companies consulting on specialist marketing areas - clearly new and emerging areas are suited to Gurus. To succeed the companies/individuals will need real authority in their area, and a USP, for example tools, data & technologies. They are expected not just to advise, but “do stuff”. If you wish to join a “Guru style” consultancy you will need to excel in that area, and ideally need to bring the company clients/skills they lack. Guru consultancies tend to be smaller and to hire someone on an ex-corporate salary (especially in this current time) is a big commitment. You may need to accept a low pay/high bonus, or “eat what you kill” pay scheme and you may be surprised that you won’t get offered stock - you’ll need to earn it. Many of the big 5 consultancies also need specialist Gurus, especially in martech/data/digital/ecommerce and they pay very well, but their culture and their ways of working may be a very toxic shock to many in marketing. Follow https://instagram.com/consultingcomedy?igshid=b3ytit3rgka2 for a witty insight into big company consulting.
“Lifters” are providers of capacity - often general consulting firms who need someone with a marketing background to fulfil an assignment. You may sign on to these companies as a freelance “associate” and get selected on different assignments. The work can be very varied and interesting, sometimes stop-start, but often you are a cog in a larger machine. The good news is that un-like an independent freelancer you won’t have to prospect for new work all the time (aside from buttering up those who assign work). The downside is you don’t have a lot of say over how projects are run, or the projects you get assigned to.
So hopefully by now you have decided what you are great and passionate about and decided on what style of role/company most suits you. You can now try and find that plum role!
3. Finding work.
Obviously all the major Big 5 management consultancies have an open recruitment approach but you may be lucky enough to know a partner who can introduce you to another and so on.
To find other sector specific consultancies do look at the websites for associations for management consultancies in UK: https://www.mca.org.uk/ and USA: https://www.imcusa.org, http://www.top-consultant.com/mca.asp
If you search for your chosen niche, e.g. marketing transformation consultants, you should find other companies to whom you can apply.
In all instances for those who haven’t applied for a job in a while be prepared that people won’t reply, you will end up speaking to a kid in HR, they will ask you to send your CV in (again). We would advocate that timing is everything, and persistence pays off. Find key players to speak with and keep pushing for connections. It is a full-time job, getting a job!
If you are going to be a freelancer or set up a business on your own then consider tax, insurance, and your own cash flow very carefully. Make sure you have your family’s support as the “on-off” income and timing of assignments can cause stress. And, if you are not sure that you fancy doing the “sales part” of finding work we’d really caution against going “solo”. There are many talented solo consultants that struggle or give up, simply because they lack the sales skills and perseverance required to build a sustainable business.
We love our work, our company and are proud of the work that we do. We have gone through all the steps above! We hope that this quick blog helps your thinking and helps you to find a happy place. If you would like to speak to us, our colleagues, or our contacts who have made the switch to consulting don’t hesitate to let us know. We will do our best!
Simon Francis, CEO, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mitchell Caplan, Managing Director US, email@example.com
Kieron Matthews, Managing Director EMEA, firstname.lastname@example.org