3 huge mistakes that took me years to overcome (I bet you’ve made at least 1, if not all 3)

When you start consulting, you’re going to make mistakes. And some mistakes have bigger effects than others. Today, I’ll reveal 3 huge consulting mistakes that took me years to overcome (these are mistakes I hear again and again from readers like you).

I bet you’re making 1, or even all 3, right now.

I’ll also reveal exactly how these consulting mistakes affected me personally and affected my consulting business.

The 3 huge consulting mistakes that took me years to overcome

Here’s a rundown on the biggest mistakes I made starting out.

See if you recognize these.

Consulting mistake #1: Taking on ANY work

When I started out, I took on any project and client just to get work. It didn’t matter how small the project was or what the client was like. I just wanted the work.

But it didn’t turn out well.

I spent lots of time answering emails and on phone calls with some clients, going through changes to their projects, clarifying what they wanted, then trying to find time to do the work they’d requested (in between all the emailing & conference calls with them–“it’ll just take a minute…”).

Later, those same clients asked me to write off part of the time I’d worked for them–even though THEY asked for the scope changes.

What was worse, these same clients often WOULDN’T PAY, even after I discounted my invoices. I ended up emailing and calling them after their invoices were 60, 90, or over 120 days past due.

Sometimes, it took several months to collect payment. I had to hound these clients for payment, calling them again and again, and having awkward conversations about how they were past due and needed to pay.

I dreaded dealing with these clients. I put off calling and emailing them. It was stressful to have done work, but not know when or even if I’d get paid.

Has any of this happened to you? (A lot of you have described these exact things).

As I gained experience, I realized that not all clients are the same. The low-value ones siphon your time and energy away from focusing on high-value clients.

Some clients are better, FAR better, than others.

I knew that to build a sustainable, profitable consulting business, I needed to focus on those high-value clients.

Over time, I learned what separated low-value from high-value prospects/clients.

I no longer waste my time and energy on budget-driven, bottom-of-the-barrel prospects who want to negotiate my fees, pay late, and who don’t respect my time. By focusing on high-value clients, I’m able to charge more than my competitors and still have more than enough work. And it’s all from clients who I LIKE dealing with instead of ones who create stress and anxiety.

Consulting mistake #2: Focusing on skills

The first prospects I contacted were treated to an outpouring of look-at-all-I-can-do-for-you, along with a load of vague terminology: solutions, customization, workflow blah-blah.

It’s no wonder it took me so long to get clients.

It was a miracle of kindness that some even stayed on the phone with me as long as they did.

The response I ended up getting from prospects was along the lines of:

  • “we’ll keep you in mind”, or
  • “that’s interesting”, or
  • “we’ll let you know when we have something that’s a fit”

I was reaching out to prospects, but couldn’t get any clients.

It was frustrating and discouraging, and many of you have said you’ve experienced the same thing.

You feel like giving up.

You KNOW you can help, but NO ONE in interested.

You end up thinking: What do I need to do to get a client?

Or thinking that the only way to get clients is to become a sleazy, high-pressure salesperson. (But that’s not who you are).

I realized that nobody cares about your skills. They care what you can DO for them.

This mindset is the difference between being stuck as an employee exchanging each year of your life for a meager cost-of-living raise vs. being a thriving business owner.

Making that shift made a dramatic change in my consulting business.

Prospects now come to ME instead of me seeking them out. And I’m able to charge 2x, 5x, 10x more than I used to and STILL win out over my competitors. (And ironically, these high-value prospects never ask me about my credentials or qualifications).

Consulting mistake #3: Spending time on busywork instead of business

Well before I got my first consulting client, I was working on my consulting business, doing all the typical tasks an aspiring business owner does to get started:

  • drafting a business plan
  • choosing a business name
  • creating marketing materials (designing business cards, brochures, a logo)
  • building a list of prospects
  • researching my competition and keeping tabs on them
  • meticulously researching the pros and cons of what type of business entity I should choose

I literally spent MONTHS on these tasks.

In the end, I had no clients, no revenue.

I was wasting my time on BUSY-NESS instead of BUSINESS.

Over time, I learned how to work on my business strategically. I found the easy tasks (those that were inside my comfort zone) were NOT the things that created a real business that brought in cash, and where clients were happy to send me checks.

I found that the unfamiliar tasks made me anxious at first, but got easier the more I did them. The more I pushed myself, the bigger the results I got.

I found ways to market that weren’t sleazy, and consistently brought in high-value prospects and converted them to clients–clients who signed 5-figure proposals.

And the more I tried new things, the easier they became, including marketing & sales. Now, marketing & sales is actually one of the things I enjoy most about my consulting business.

This didn’t happen by magic or by luck.

There were specific actions I took that created this dramatic shift, and which I’ve been quietly and systematically documenting. I’ll share more details in future posts.

Which of these mistakes have you made? (or have you made others?)

Take a sec right now to share what consulting mistakes you’ve made (we’ve ALL made mistakes).

What happened as a result of your mistake(s)?

What consulting mistake left you discouraged or feeling like a failure? (We all have these)

How have your consulting mistakes set you back or affected you or your business?

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Damien Jones - March 25, 2014 Reply

Number 3 constantly.

    K.Downing - March 25, 2014 Reply

    I am right there with you on that, Damien. Too often do I fall into the routines of busy-work, giving myself a temporary fix of feeling that I am doing something while, in reality, I’m accomplishing nothing. Overcoming this obstacle and breaking these habits is surely one of the most necessary things I need to do in order to move forward and start earning some real income.


      Greg Miliates - March 26, 2014 Reply

      Absolutely: doing busy-work tasks feels good because you have the illusion that you’re working on your business. Like you said though, those busywork tasks accomplish nothing and don’t move you forward.

    Greg Miliates - March 26, 2014 Reply

    Hey, Damien, thanks. Yep, that mistake was huge & cost me MONTHS of lost time (and potential revenue).

Chantal Ward - March 26, 2014 Reply

I am currently stuck on #3. These tips always help me, now I realize I have to put more focus on business rather than busy-ness.

    Greg Miliates - March 26, 2014 Reply

    Hey, Chantal, thanks for your comment! The key for me in getting out of doing busy-work tasks was to identify the tasks that would get me clients fastest, and then to identify specific, concrete, and tiny tasks I could do to move me forward.

    It wasn’t always easy though, and I still had limiting beliefs that often held me back.

5 stupid things I did to get clients when I started consulting - May 29, 2014 Reply

[…] I hit a nerve with last week’s 3 Huge Mistakes post: a lot of you said you’ve been wasting time on busyness instead of business, and as a […]

♎Lauren♎ - May 20, 2015 Reply

I have made al 3 in some shape or form. The result is me not having any business! I’m working my way out of this rut now and thankfully I’m starting to do some of the right things to get clients. I’m definitely concentrating on #2. I have not mastered this yet. I’m good at sparking someone’s interest, but I struggled with showing them the benefits to close the deal.

    Greg Miliates - October 12, 2015 Reply

    Hey, Lauren, exactly. Like you mentioned, focusing on the benefits your prospect will get is key. That way, neither you nor they get bogged down in the technical details; instead, they’re sold on the benefits, and THEN you can figure out the technical details.

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