3 Keys To Successful Consulting

There are tons of videos and talks out there that address consulting. How to brand yourself, how to start a business, how to fill out a 1099, why to get into consulting, how to get clients, etc. But I couldn’t find anything addressing one of the most difficult aspects of consulting.

I am approached by friends and ex-coworkers asking me about “consulting” and how they “always wanted to be their own boss.” After multiple discussions back and forth, they have the same reasons for not pursuing their passion.

“I don’t know enough”

“Why would anyone hire me?”

“What if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to?”


All these questions point the finger to the real culprit: the mindset.

It’s their own minds that are limiting their potential. Obstacles such as hesitation and self-doubt can be overcome given the right mindset. But that is easier said than done. Anyone can say, “just do it!” But getting in the right mindset requires making a mindshift.


In case you are wondering what “mindshift” means;Mindshift By Dr Barbara Oakley

A “mindshift” is a deep change in life that occurs thanks to learning.

-Barbara Oakley PhD, author of Mindshift

In her book, Mindshift, Dr Oakley talks about breaking through obstacles and hurdles using certain techniques to help discover your true potential. Reading her book really opened my eyes. I highly recommend her book for anyone interested in self/professional development. [Amazon link]

3 Keys to Successful Consulting

These keys are in specific order starting with the most foundational key.

Key #1 – Believe in Yourself

Cliche right? If you don’t, no one else will. It takes time to gain the belief needed to start your own business. This key is crucial and needs constant support/reevaluation to keep it going! It’s not a “one and done” type of thing. I’ve had many people talk about their passion of owning their own business but when I asked them “why don’t you start one?” The would reply, “I cannot because I don’t know databases!” [you can replace “databases” with whatever YOU are passionate about].

Do you notice anything with that mentality? The “I cannot” mentality? It’s negative. How will you ever attempt to start anything (let alone maintain it through the hard times) if you start out thinking “I cannot”??

Let’s change it up: The first step to truly believing in yourself and your capabilities is to remove negative thinking from the start. Replace it with positive thinking.

Here’s a technique I use:

Negative thought: “I don’t know all I need about databases.”

Positive thought: “I CAN learn what I need to given the opportunity and time to learn the material!”

Always think you can…given the opportunity to learn the material.

Key #2 – It’s Okay Not Knowing Everything

Drinking From FirehoseOnce you are thinking positive in Key #1 above, now it’s time to pursue that knowledge. Dive deep into whatever you are passionate about. Remember that the more we all learn, the more we realize how much we don’t know :) But don’t let that discourage you. Initially it will seem like you’re drinking from a fire hose. Break each topic into chunks if you have to. Never give up. Knowledge takes time to sink in. For some people it sinks in a lot faster (Johnny 5 anyone?). Understand that everyone has their own pace of learning. Do not compare yourself to anyone else but yourself.

In a month, if you know more than you do today, you are making progress!

A question I often get is, “I love to get into consulting but what if I get asked a question I don’t know the answer to?” It is absolutely normal to think this. A research study showed that at least 70% of people will have an episode of “Imposter Syndrome” in their lifetime. That’s perfectly fine. Not everyone knows everything. Everyone starts from square one. There’s no problem in telling a client, “I don’t know the answer to that but I’ll get back to you.”

Key #3 – It’s About the People First, Then the Tech

You finally believe in yourself, you’re honing your craft, and now you finally landed your first client. The tendency might be to jump right in and prove your technical capability to the client ASAP!

“If I show how awesome I am technically, then they will surely send me more business!”

Slow your roll!

First things first: get to know the people in charge, their requirements, their pain points, their struggles, etc. Once you know all these things, it’s easier to understand exactly why their tech (or any other issue) is the way it is. You’ll start to understand why you were hired in the first place. Maybe the previous consultant screwed up? Maybe their last DBA left on bad terms? It’s crucial to really get to know the people, THEN the tech.

To Future Success

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it helps you pursue your passion! I have presented this session at a couple SQL Saturdays last year, and plan on presenting a lot more this year. I am in the process of recording this session and uploading it to my Youtube channel. I will update this blog with the video once it’s live.

Feel free to reach out and let me know your thoughts and experiences!

[Updated: 5-9-2019]: I just did my very first presentation of this session to the PASS Virtual Group. The video is below:

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