Every successful consultant invests time documenting and improving their methodology. Here's what it is, and how you can start creating your own.
When you start your consulting practice, every engagement seems to be a one-off. You are diagnosing the client's situation and performing activities in such a way that makes sense based on your previous experiences, but nothing is actually standardized.
But at some point you will have done enough projects - with similar clients, to achieve similar goals - where you're going to extract some "method to the madness". You notice that you consistently follow a system, process, or approach to solve your client's problems. That's your methodology.
The problem is, your methodology is inside of your head. And many consultants don't understand that keeping it there is costing them time, money, and work satisfaction.
They never really document the methodology. They never really codify it in a way that can it can be bought differently. And until you do, you will always be undervaluing your expertise.
To illustrate it, I'm listing just a few of the benefits of having a methodology:
- A Bigger and better offering mix: Once you are clear about which problems you can solve and how you do it, you can consciously design new offerings with different levels of intimacy and value. They might solve the same challenges, but in different ways.
- Higher effective fees: A documented methodology will make it easier for you to identify which activities can be streamlined, delegated, or outsourced. You can also use part of your methodology to create info products (books, courses) that teach your audience how they can solve their problems by themselves.
- Higher client satisfaction: Having a structured methodology reduces the risk of errors and creates a high-quality, standardized delivery and superior client experience. Highly specialized professionals like surgeons and airplane pilots have checklists - you should too.
- Higher sales effectiveness: Having a methodology implies you have seen enough engagements that this approach will be applicable and effective in the vast majority of the cases. It allows you to more clearly communicate how you work and transmits confidence to prospects.
- Better client selection: Whenever you have a custom request, having a methodology makes it easier for you to say: "I had clients who asked me to do a similar one-off project before, and it didn't work out well. Maybe we're not the ideal match." You become less likely to dilute your positioning.
- No scope creep: A methodology makes it easier for the prospect to understand and hire since it allows you to describe the "boundaries" around the box. You can say, "here's the goal, here's how we will achieve it, and here's why it's been structured that way".
Until you transition from billing your hours and keeping it all in your head, to documenting and using your expertise in the form of a methodology, you are never going to be paid fairly for your work.
You don't need to mention your methodology in your marketing materials, as it's often not something clients are interested in. But they will surely appreciate you have one once the engagement starts. It's professional and makes things clear and easy for both of you.