Your perspective is your differentiator. Share it.

Independent consulting is an increasingly competitive industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2022 to 2032, the number of consultants is projected to grow significantly faster than other occupations. Demand for consulting services is also expected to increase, particularly for smaller consulting companies specializing in specific industries or business functions.

The opportunity is clear, but many consultants struggle to differentiate themselves from their peers, and prospective clients often view consultants within a particular practice area as interchangeable.

When prospective clients can’t see the difference between the consultants who can serve them, they make their hiring decision on the one difference they can quantify: price.

Blending in with your peers may be comfortable, but competing on price is not conducive to doing your best work. If you are willing to share your perspective and participate in the conversation around your expertise, you will stand out from the competition and give prospective clients a reason to work with you — regardless of your pricing structure.

The benefits of standing out.

Human beings are hard-wired to belong. As a result, most people (and, indeed, most companies) want to blend in with the crowd. Blending in is not only more comfortable for those whose insights could rock the boat, but it is also more comfortable for the rest of us. We all find comfort in the familiar.

As a consultant, however, you must be willing to rock the boat.

Your work focuses on helping your clients solve sticky business problems. Solving those sticky business problems requires your clients to embrace change.

Your clients can only create the change they seek by taking some risks.

The same is true for you.

The only way to differentiate yourself from your competition is to take a risk — to stand up and share your message, even if some people disagree with you.

Standing out is scary, which is why so few people try. But if you are willing to take the risk and share your insights with a larger audience, more people will hear your message. Some will disagree with you or simply ignore you. But those who see value in your ideas will adopt them, and your ideas will have a much greater impact.

Your business is built on your reputation, which is enhanced every time you provide real value to the people you serve. You deliver that value directly when you work with a client on a specific project or indirectly by sharing your ideas publicly through writing or speaking. When you consistently provide value, the people you serve will go to great lengths to have you on their team.

Developing your distinctive perspective.

Your experiences, insights, and education inform your perspective  — the way you think about and approach your work. Your perspective is not carved in stone but will continue to evolve and change as you have new experiences, develop new insights, and gain new skills.

Your perspective, or point of view, must align with your BIG idea — the bold, insightful, and galvanizing idea that serves as the foundation of your business and your reputation.

If your perspective is not aligned with your BIG idea, you will diminish your reputation because your audience (including prospective clients and partners) will be confused about who you are, what you do, and how you can help them.

The first step in developing your perspective is to define your BIG idea.

What do you most want for your clients? If you’re not sure how to answer this question, consider a freewriting exercise. Write the question at the top of a page, set the timer for 10 minutes, and then answer without stopping or editing. When the timer goes off, review what you wrote and try to condense it into one sentence.

The answer you come up with might feel too simple. But if you know it to be true and can feel its truth in your body, you’re probably onto something.

Your BIG idea doesn’t have to be new or provocative. It may not even require a paradigm shift. When it comes to BIG ideas, small can be BIG.

Evaluate your BIG idea by asking yourself if it boldly states your position in favor of a particular outcome, is based on your insights, and will galvanize your clients to create the future they now know is possible.

Once you’ve defined your BIG idea, list the steps your clients will need to take to realize that envisioned future. Your list of steps and guidance about executing each step demonstrate your perspective.

Your perspective is more than just your opinion. Your perspective offers a viable alternative based on your experience, education, and insights.

Sharing your perspective with the right audience.

Your perspective is only a compelling differentiator if you share it with the right audience. When you do, you stand out from your peers because you deliver real value to your prospective clients and partners before you even meet them.

So, who is your audience? Who are the people you serve? How can you reach them? What associations do they belong to? What events do they attend? Who do they follow for inspiration? What publications do they read?

One of the best ways to build your audience is to get in front of well-established audiences of the exact people you want to reach. Writing for high-visibility publications and speaking at conferences are two of the most effective ways to do this so you can share your message with the right people.

These tactics also provide social proof. The publication or event organizer vetted you and decided you have something important to share with their audience. That borrowed credibility helps you break through the natural skepticism we all have when we meet someone new.

Writing and speaking work very well together. One benefit of writing for high-visibility publications is that you can share your published article with prospective clients and partners as long as it remains relevant. The reach of your message isn’t limited to the people in the room as it is with speaking, or to the publication’s readers.

Consulting is an increasingly competitive field, and it’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself from your peers and position yourself as the obvious choice. One of the best ways to do this is to write articles for a high-visibility publication with a well-established, targeted audience. When you share your perspective and participate in the conversations around your area of expertise, you stand out as someone with valuable insights to share. If you do this consistently, people start to remember you, see the value you deliver, and identify you as the consultant who can help them become a better version of themselves.