How do you find contracts as an independent consultant?

Have you ever wondered how independent consultants find contracts? People ask me about this a lot, probably because it's super common to have a fear of "selling" and a feeling of uncertainty when it comes to finding clients on your own.

Thankfully, there are multiple ways to attract clients and get contracts signed without having to behave in a way that's out of alignment with your values or that feels uncomfortable. For real - none of these methods involve cold calling or sending spammy pitches on LinkedIn. Here are a few of my favorite approaches:

 1. Leverage Your Network

I've had the most success getting new work (least effort on business development, highest revenue) through building and maintaining authentic relationships with people I already know. Try making a list of all your past classmates, colleagues, bosses, clients, and friends, and think through who might be in a position to hire you for consulting services.

2. Get on a Pre-Qualified List

If you do public sector work, many government organizations will issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to establish a list of consultants to whom they can award contracts. These responses can require a fair bit of effort, but often they are in effect for up to three years and are a great way to get notified of projects over the long term.

3. Subcontract with Another Firm

Many small and large consulting firms leverage subcontractors to deliver projects. The downside is that they will keep a percentage of your fees, but in exchange you'll get access to their existing contracts with clients and minimize your business development effort.

4. Team up with Other Independent Consultants

Collaborating with other consultants is a great way to pursue team consulting projects. Put some effort into building relationships with other independents whose skills complement yours, and keep an eye out for opportunities to bid on RFPs together.

5. Ask for Referrals

At the end of every successful consulting project, make sure you take the time to collect testimonials and ask your client to refer you on to anyone they know who might be interested in your services. So many people skip this step, but it can be an easy way to build upon your good work and leverage your client's happiness with your services.


What other questions do you have about independent consulting or starting a business? Send me an email at [email protected].

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