Your top 10 consulting problems revealed–and some surprises

Top 10 Consulting Problems survey results

Just to clarify, there are actually 11 items in this list of top consulting problems, not just 10. Confusing, I know. But why 11? Well, it’s 1 louder.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’ve found that when I dig into a problem, surveys can be great tool for a few reasons. Surveys:

  • give us a clearer idea of what’s going on,
  • allow us to summarize the issues and see trends, and
  • usually show us that we’re not alone

OK, on to the results:

Top 10 Consulting Problems survey results

What you told me about your consulting problems

The results above were compiled from hundreds of data points in your comments, emails, and past surveys I’ve sent out. Now, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and the chart shows how I’ve categorized what you’ve told me.

But keep in mind that a lot of you are struggling with multiple problems.

What’s more, after seeing the problems others reported, a lot of you will probably realize that you’re going through some of those same problems too.

For instance, a common problem with freelancers & consultants starting out is feeling like you need to do a ton of stuff for free. So, even though only 1% of you specifically mentioned this as a problem, I’d bet that lots more of you have actually struggled with this.

The big trend

One thing I noticed is that nearly 2/3 of you struggle with confidence, don’t know where to start, and are having trouble finding leads & prospects. Yes, I just lumped those 3 categories together.


Because all those problems are interrelated:

  • If you don’t know where to start, it can destroy your confidence.
  • If you aren’t confident, even if you CAN find leads, it’s tough to convert them into clients.
  • And if you can’t find leads, you often don’t know where to start and/or struggle with confidence in getting started on this massive problem.

It can be a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem.

Some surprises

Looking at the results and combing through all the responses I’ve gotten from you, there were a couple things that surprised me:

  • I expected more people to be struggling with pricing. However, this might be because so many of you are focused on getting started and finding prospects.
  • I also expected more people to struggle with giving services away for free. Yes, some of you mentioned it, but my guess is that more of you are dealing with it, but just didn’t mention it in your responses.
  • Just a tiny fraction of you said you were procrastinating. Seriously? If we’re truly honest, I’d bet close to 100% of us procrastinate SOMETHING every single day. If you don’t, you’re either lying or superhuman. 🙂

What this big consulting problem looks like

Getting back to the big trend (finding leads + lack of confidence + feeling overwhelmed), some of you might think you’re plenty confident, or that you have plenty of leads, or that you’re clear on what to do next.

But more than likely, you can identify with what I’ve heard from so many of you. Here’s just a tiny sample of the kinds of things you’ve told me:

I am trying to qualify cold leads, and afraid that I have no portfolio to prove my worth. I am trying to do work for free to get referrals, but even that is hard to get without a portfolio.
–Roger W.


I’m struggling with getting clients on my own versus going through a contracting agency, which cuts into my profits… I don’t know if it’s because of lack of confidence in myself or if I’m using the agency as a security blanket.
–Jenet D.


I am struggling with finding that first client. There are so many things as far as where to start that it can be daunting to decide where to begin. I don’t want to blast friends and family… But finding clients/potential clients I don’t have a connection to is my hurdle.
–Ethan P.


I’ve been spending more time reading and thinking, and not enough time taking action. First, I was stuck forever on choosing a niche. Now, getting comfortable/started with cold emails and followup calls is taking forever. Though I think I’m making progress. Still, I may starve to death under a bridge if I don’t speed things up a bit.
–Eric C.

Sound familiar?

I went through these same things:

  • feeling like I needed something tangible to demonstrate that I could provide value even before I reached out to prospects
  • limiting who I contacted to just the few people I already felt comfortable with
  • flitting from thing to thing because I wasn’t sure where to focus
  • analyzing and thinking instead of taking action

What can you do about it?

Obviously, this is a big issue, and something that can’t all be addressed in a single blog post.

But there are concrete things you can do.

  • When you’re overwhelmed: First, stop, and take a slow, deep breath. Then ask: what’s the specific outcome I want and the very next step that will move me toward that goal?
  • If you feel unsure of yourself: Realize that feeling scared, anxious, and uncertain are all normal. You’re doing something unfamiliar, so it’s bound to be scary. Those feelings contribute to feeling unfocused and overwhelmed. Next, understand that confidence comes from taking action, again and again. When you first learned how to ride a bike, were you confident? Not likely. But after you practiced, you no longer felt afraid or unsure. It wasn’t scary any longer–it actually became fun.
  • If you’re struggling to find prospects: First, if you haven’t figured out what market niche you’re in, that needs to be your first step. And remember, you might THINK you’ve narrowed down into a specific niche, but it’s likely you’re targeting a market that’s far too general. (You can learn more about identifying a consulting niche here and here.). If you’re really, truly sure you’ve niched down to a market that’s very specific, where you know the businesses in your target market are both able AND willing to pay for your services, at that point, you can start thinking about how to get leads. From there, you’ll need to think about where those people are, and how you can reach them (email, phone, LinkedIn, forums, direct mail, conferences, etc.). And, yes, that’s a big topic that I’ll go into more detail on.

I need your help to dig a little deeper

Since so many of you have told me again and again that you’re struggling with finding clients, we’re going to dig deeper into that problem.

For this next step, I need your help.

Take a quick minute to complete this short survey.

I want to know more about how you’ve tried to find prospects, what you’ve done, and what results you’ve gotten so far.

Don’t be shy, there’s no judgement here. I’m here to help. I’ve struggled through these consulting problems before, and I truly want to make creating a successful business easier for you, because I know the kind of life-changing impact it’ll create for you.

Take a quick minute to complete the survey now.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Joyce - January 30, 2014 Reply

Hi Greg:
What about handling liability? Did you for an LLC or a sole proprietorship for your consulting business?

    Greg Miliates - March 6, 2014 Reply

    Hey, Joyce, great question! It’s always a good idea to ensure you’re covered for professional liability by purchasing liability insurance.

    However, with insurance as a backup, your first strategy is to make sure you create happy clients who rave about your work. Yes, you’ll make mistakes along the way; the important thing is that you’re prompt and responsive to fixing any mistakes. If you do whatever it takes to make your clients happy, no one’s going to sue you.

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