Finding Your Next Engagement: Five Firms Working at 10% or One Firm Working at 80%?

Jan 26, 2016 12:00:00 AM · by David Kushan

If a consulting firm hires salaried employees, they are going to make an effort to have projects available for them when they are nearing their current assignments’ completion. They do this because, in the absence of projects, their employees will become pure expense. This is why many people who are getting into consulting think it is less risky to be a salaried employee of a consulting firm — they will have someone actively looking for their next project.

On the other hand, there are firms that place consultants on a contract basis. Some consultants feel that working on a contract basis poses more of a risk, because they will not be paid if they are without a project. They also feel that, as a contract employee, the firm they are working for is not necessarily going to make an effort to find them a new engagement, because they are not paying them a salary.

All of the above is correct. It is also incomplete. These are rules of thumb, which are used by a majority of people looking to get into consulting when making decisions regarding what they think is best. As a result, many people make misguided decisions.

Let me give you a couple of examples: As stated above, many people think it is best to be an employee of a consulting firm, because the firm will proactively go about finding their next engagement. As a result, they will not have to worry about going without work in the future. Well, many firms have access to a large number of projects, but this does not mean that they are actively looking for something for you. There may be work you “ideally want” to do and work you “can” do. Many consultant employees find themselves on three-week activation support assignments, because that is what their firm has for them. Projects like these may keep you working, but if you had known that this is the type of work you would be doing, you might have thought twice about joining the firm.

On the flip side, when it comes to firms that place consultants on a contract basis, some will proactively help you find your next project, even if you are a contracted hourly employee. If you are a true professional with a marketable skill set and have performed well on past projects, why wouldn’t a contracting firm want to find you your next assignment? If you take time to truly question the quality contracting firms, you will find that some may provide more personal attention than many of the larger consulting firms.

As a contractor, you should understand that reputable contracting firms want to work with the best independent consultants.

These firms will take the time to help you identify your ideal next project. But this requires a major time commitment on the part of the firm. If you would like a firm to make a time investment in you, you have to be willing to give them something in return. That something is a commitment — at least for a period of time. 

When typical independent consultants near their projects’ completion, they reach out to multiple firms, informing them of their impending availability. They may reach out to five firms, with each firm dedicating 10% of their time looking for leads on their behalf. On the other hand, what if the same consultants were to reach out to one firm with which they have established a relationship, and because of this commitment, that one firm would invest 80% of their time on their behalf. In this scenario, you can see how reaching out to only one firm would result in more time put towards finding their next projects.

There is only so much space here to describe what we do, so if you have interest in learning more about our consultant marketing process, feel free to contact me personally at

Consulting, Career Planning, David Kushan


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