Since 2019 the business landscape has rapidly shifted and traditional careers or office-based jobs are being replaced by independent and remote workers.
It is not really news to anyone that the global rise of the gig economy has reached new heights and that remote work and freelancing have increased dramatically. According to a study by Intuit, 34% of the U.S. workforce is composed of freelancers, and this is expected to reach 43% by 2024.
What is news, however, is that this shift has paved the way for those with the right experience to start a career as a micro-consultant. This form of freelance consulting focuses on niche markets and small-scale projects, and it’s quickly emerging as a popular way for individuals to leverage their expertise and profit from their experience.
Demand for focused and specialised expertise is increasing, with businesses turning to consultants to assist or help manage specific projects rather than hiring full-time employees. Smaller businesses that need guidance and support for a short period of time may turn to a micro-consultancy to get the help they need.
With the global market for consulting services trending upward all the way through 2027, it is likely that the number of micro-consultants operating will continue to grow.
Micro-consultants vs. traditional consultants
Working with micro-consultants offer companies some advantages over partnering with traditional consultants and as the focus on niche businesses rise, traditional consultants just don’t have the specificity that micro-consultants can offer to their clients.
Micro-consultants have the advantage of working either individually or as part of a small close-knit team, meaning that they can dedicate resources to smaller-scale or short-term projects. Traditional consultants typically work as a part of a larger more loosely structured team or a consultancy firm that handles large-scale, complex projects, often spanning multiple disciplines or industries.
Project type, pricing, models, and working arrangements are more varied for micro-consultants who are able to be flexible to meet their client’s needs. This may be more challenging for traditional consultants to manage, especially if restricted by rigid structures or set processes demanded by their consultancy firm or management team.
This operational freedom and adaptability supports the micro-consultants ability to meet client and project needs, and offer things like affordable or tiered pricing options, personalised service, and more time dedicated to each project. Personalisation is emerging as a demanded part of any service, and a tailored experience is expected by a high proportion of business owners. For this reason, a micro-consultant may be preferred over a large consulting company which may feel more detached and impersonal.
Micro-consultants often use purpose-designed technology and software platforms to communicate with clients over video calls, chat, or other direct forms of communication. Enabling them to be available, responsive, and offer a more personalised and personal experienced than that of a traditional consultancy.
Micro-consulting as a business model
Micro-consulting can be a great way to test the waters before taking the plunge and starting a full-time consulting business. Many micro consultants begin by offering their services on a part-time or short-term basis, and some may never even transition into full-time consultancy, preferring to offer their services as a part-time venture or a side gig.
For those who wish to make consulting their full-time career, operating as a micro-consultant allows time to build a client base and test out different services before leaping to full-time business ownership. New consultants can test things like different service offerings and monitor the success of projects to work out any kinks in their process.
Along with experimenting with different service offerings, this allows time to build a business reputation and credibility in your area of expertise. Many successful consultants become profitable by word-of-mouth referrals, and by specialising in a niche and delivering high-quality work to clients, micro consultants can quickly build a strong reputation. micro consultants can often leverage these connections to generate future opportunities and grow their business faster.
Micro consulting can be a flexible and low-cost way to start a business with minimal overhead costs. A low outlay at the start allows micro consultants to keep their prices competitive, something which be attractive to new start-ups or small businesses with a limited budget.
Working with a variety of clients and staying on top of industry news and best practices, means that micro-consultants can very quickly become experts in their field and offer valuable insights and advice to clients. It can also be an excellent way to stay up-to-date on industry trends and the latest developments.
Building your micro-consulting business
Starting and succeeding as a micro-consultant means that you will need a clear understanding of your skills, knowledge, and expertise. According to a survey by the Harvard Business Review, the top purposes of a consultant are a mix of traditional and additional purposes.
Growing a successful micro-consultancy business will mean you need to identify your target market and research the competition to determine gaps that your skills and experience can fill, and highlight the places where you can add real value. Once the areas have been determined, your service offerings will need to be developed.
One of the trickiest aspects of starting a micro-consulting business is setting rates. Your target clients and the kinds of services you offer will all impact how much your can charge. A common misconception is that ‘micro’ equates to low-cost, which is simply not true Many top consultants have an extremely high level of expertise that can be leveraged to command very profitable rates.
Even so, rates can very drastically, a recent study by Consultancy.org discovered that consultancy rates could be as low as £50 per hour or in excess of £350. However, many micro-consultants have moved toward value-based pricing, where the rates charged are based on the value delivered to the client rather than being structured as an hourly or daily rate.
Whichever model you decide to use, pricing is a critical aspect of micro consulting. You need to understand different pricing options, determine your strategy, and communicate your pricing to clients. Contrary to what some people think, micro-consulting rates don’t have to be cheap. Meredith Marder offers her Better Exit Strategy session for $10,000, and Steve Sims offers 1 full day of coaching for $15000.
What companies expect from micro-consultants
Different things will be expected from micro-consultants depending on business aims and goals, however, some common expectations fall within these areas -
Expertise - access to the best knowledge and insights from industry experts who have relevant experience and skills.
Speed - quick and targeted answers to specific questions or challenges without wasting time on lengthy proposals, contracts, or deliverables.
Flexibility - businesses want to choose when, how, and who they work with based on their availability, budget, and preferences.
Reliability - a micro-consultant is relied upon to deliver high-quality work that meets standards and expectations.
Innovation - leaders want to stay updated with the latest trends and developments in the industry and learn from the best practices of other successful companies.
With such a broad range of requirements and sub-sets, there is plenty of opportunity for consultants to offer services across whole range of industries and sectors, with each one seeking to fulfil a different need or satisfy objectives.
A survey by the Management Consultant Association shows the business areas that UK companies hire a consultant for, with business transformation and digital technology ranking highest. The bar indicator on the left shows that 84% of respondents use or currently use consulting services.
Developing Your Consulting Process
Success in any business relies upon clear work structures and processes. Including things such as defining your services and packages, creating an onboarding process, and establishing project timelines and deliverables.
According to a survey by Deltek, 43% of consulting firms use project management software to manage their projects, and this number is expected to increase.
Knowledge of your chosen industry or sector is essential, but the right tools and infrastructure will also need to be in place to manage things like time-tracking and file-sharing effectively. Even though overheads are relatively low when starting a consulting service, having the correct tools will save time and effort and streamline business processes.
Micro-consulting offers a great opportunity for individuals to start their own consulting business with no shortage of openings. With companies striving for better profitability, processes, and workflows, your skills, no matter what they are, can be used by organisations seeking to make positive changes or drive improvements.
- Determine your area of expertise and the services you can provide to clients.
- Differentiate from competitors and attract clients who value your specific expertise.
- Networking is key. Ask for referrals. Attend industry events. Join professional associations.
- Set clear pricing and ensure it is competitive with other consultants in your niche.
- Develop a solid process for client onboarding, service delivery, and project tracking.
- Provide high-quality service to your clients and prioritise their satisfaction.