How to take your consulting/freelancing gig to the next level


I know quite a number of freelancers and consultants, engaged in a variety of services: design, HR Consulting, programming, writing, training, fitness, and so on.

These guys are cool – they are able to live the dream of being their own boss and at the same live comfortably.

Some of them are perfectly content with their lifestyle and current circle of clients. I remember one of them telling me recently:

“Why should I complicate my life getting more clients?”

(For me, this is awesome.)

Some of them though, want to expand and are constantly seeking ways to do so. Some have opted to hire an employee or two to help them grow. Maybe more.

If you are among the latter category, this article is for you.

Most of the freelancers, consultants, and consulting firms I know offer a whole list of services.

For a web design consultant, a typical menu of services would look like this:

Hey guys! I can do all these things for you! One-stop-shop-I-am!

– Website design


– Website Management


– Logo design

– WordPress design

– Marketing paraphernalia

– Print design

– Flash animation

– business card design

Moving onto another field, an HR Consultant’s list of services may look like this:

– Training and Organizational Development Consulting

– Performance Management Consulting

– Recruitment Consulting

– Talent Management Consulting

– Onboarding

– Workforce Planning

– Job Analysis and Design

– Job evaluation

– Salary Scale Development

This is all well and good. The intention and logic of offering many things are clear: more services, more chances of getting clients, right?

Here’s the problem.

Go to Linkedin. Search for “web design freelancer” or “HR consultant.”

(go ahead, I’ll be right here)

See the problem?

EVERYONE’S profile will look like mirror images of what I just typed above.

This strategy will NOT make you stand out and attract a market beyond your friends’ friends.

Here’s one branding strategy you can do.

one thingPick ONE thing in your list.

One thing you know you can do very, very, very well.

Then drop everything else. Build your brand about this ONE singular service. Make it the only thing to appear on your website.

OMG, Who did THAT Video? 

In a time when one-stop-shop wedding services were the rage, Jason Magbanua changed the game by delivering JUST wedding videos. Oh, and during that time, I think he even ultra-focused on just doing videographies of the Church wedding (to be shown a few hours after during the reception – I was just stunned the first time I saw this).

Armed with this intense focus, he managed to create his art – magnificent, awe-inspiring videos with a hip soundtrack.

Now, he’s a household name, and arguably created his own local industry.

I’m sure Jason could have offered the typical menu (photography, the album, stills, video editing, videos of the reception, maybe even the floral arrangements and coordination). But choosing but ONE service made him stand out.

The numerous advantages of ONE THING:

1) You stand out

What’s more memorable, saying:

I do consulting in performance management, recruitment, training, organizational development, job analysis, job evaluation, onboarding, HR policies, and Workforce planning,

or saying:

I am THE onboarding coach?

(onboarding – the process of making sure an employee is oriented properly and completely when he first starts in a job)

You can now name your consulting firm something like ALL ABOARD! and get a memorable url like Your website can contain interesting facts  and tips about onboarding. You can position yourself as THE onboarding expert.

Now, everytime someone thinks, “I’m having trouble with onboarding,” she will now think of YOU, and not think about about the kajillion other generic HR freelancers around.

Even if a couple of people in the kajillion might actually be better than you in onboarding expertise, guess who takes the credit for being the best?

If you were the client and you need onboarding consulting, would you go to a one-stop-shop or an onboarding expert?

If you are a startup and you need a lawyer, woud you go to a typical law firm offering generic “corporate legal consulting?” or a focused “startup lawyer?”

If you wanted to do a video on your website to explain your product, would you go to an all- around production house, or Stream Engine Studios, whose website very prominently states:

Hi. We’re STREAM ENGINE STUDIOS, and we make kickass animated explainer videos.

One thing makes you stand out.

2) You are forced to become great in that one thing

Since you are now focused on a single service, you can rally all your resources around making that one thing great. Yup, there is pressure in doing absolutely GREAT work in doing your one thing – this is how you have chosen to brand yourself.

But you know what? That is good pressure. Doing one thing great gives you a larger chance of recognition and success versus doing 10 “good enough” things.

Instead of keeping up with trends and continuously improving on TEN different things, you can just focus on getting better on one thing – which surely will cause radically faster progress.

3) Better scaling

Generally, consulting doesn’t scale very well – if you plan to grow you would need more and more people. Still, “one-thing-consulting” can still scale so much better than a one-stop-shop, where you need to think about multiple services and processes.

Let’s say you offer 5 different services and you manage to get 50 clients. What will happen is you will have, say, 12 clients you are doing one service for, another service for 8 clients, and so on. Can you imagine growing your company that way? It’s like growing 5 startups.

One service across the same 50 clients? Much easier to digest and build efficient processes for.

One last tip 

Building a brand takes time (and is so much worth it). Once you have an established brand which focuses on one thing? Expect a ton of passive referrals.

But what do you when you are just starting?

You can still offer the long list of services, but offer these privately to your immediate network (friends and friends of friends).

For example, if you were a design consultant, you could still offer the service buffet table to your current clients. Logo design for this client. SEO for this other client. And so on.

Your plan, however, is to be the business card design king.

So what do you do? While doing all your other projects, you have to simultaneously be working on building your brand around your one thing – build the focused website, learn a ton on business card design, survey the business card market, think of the amount of innovation you can do in the business card industry.

Then one day, when your business card profits are enough, you can drop everything else. You can truly focus on being the Jason Magbanua of Business Cards.

Gotta have that one thing.

(apologies – any spontaneous One Direction LSS is unintended)


11 thoughts on “How to take your consulting/freelancing gig to the next level

    • Thanks Jeune! And yes, the power and advantages of FOCUS really go way beyond just freelancing and consulting!

      I got the inspiration of writing it when I realized I recently gave the same advice to a couple of freelancers who wanted to scale. This is something I’ve long advocated for startups and I realized, perhaps freelancers/consultants could use a bit of this as well.

  • This one’s good. I am actually more similar to the first person you described earlier, but I continued reading out of curiosity. I was planning to brand myself as a jack-of-all-trades writer, but I changed my mind after reading this. Thanks! 🙂

  • Hi Peter, this site is a goldmine for a freelancer like me! 🙂 I shared on another comment that I recently became a freelance writer. And I’ve been thinking about the best strategy. And I totally agree with you on focusing on just one thing. In 2012, I refocused my blog and just wrote about technology. Before that I’ve been blogging about different topics. After six months of just writing about technology, people and other bloggers started to notice me. The main reason why I focused on just one topic is because of Steve Jobs. I read the book written by Walter Isaacson, and he writes about how Steve Jobs was laser focused.

    Right now, I’m leaning towards writing for startups. And I think I want to brand myself as the “Startup Storyteller”. I’ve worked with entrepreneurs over the years, and I’ve always been fascinated with stories on how they built their businesses. Do you think that this kind of branding will stick? 🙂 Thanks again for providing these amazing strategies and resources!

    • Just saw your cool site! We should have coffee and exchange ideas one of these days.

      That Isaacson book was cool. What I remember in the book about how focused and design-oriented Steve was was when he insisted on spending to improve aesthetic design on an internal part consumers would never see.

      Just read your last paragraph about being a “startup storyteller.” We SHOULD definitely talk.

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