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Expand your Horizon - 5 Tools Every Top Independent Management Consultant Should Know

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September 4, 2020
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6 minutes
Bernadette Geyer
Bernadette enjoys working with innovative companies to help them communicate their value to a global audience. She's an avid ice hockey fan and balcony gardener.

As a freelance management consultant, you’re not only responsible for client projects. You’re also responsible for your own “business side” of things. It includes networking to find clients, keeping track of all the proposals you have outstanding, and managing your time spent on current active projects.

Top independent management consultants have learned how to use a variety of tools to help them juggle project work. In addition to doing the networking and marketing, they need to make sure they’ve got projects in their pipelines. Have you ever met a freelance consultant who likes large gaps of downtime?

When you are looking for consulting tools that will help you stay on top of all the things you need to do. You don’t necessarily have to use the biggest and best ones that come with all the bells and whistles. Look for software, products, and tools that are designed with small teams or individuals in mind.

The following are five highly useful tools you should familiarize yourself with if you want to become a top freelance management consultant.

Customer Relationship Management Systems

No one uses rolodexes anymore, and they haven’t for decades. But what do you do with all those business cards you acquire from networking events? There are apps out there that will scan business cards and add them into a spreadsheet or database for you. The best card scanners can even integrate with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

Independent consultants often work on projects through online consulting platforms. They also make use of their networks for finding new clients. However, it usually takes more than one email or phone call to turn a new contact into a client. You need a way of tracking your communication history with the people in your network. This is where the CRM system comes in handy.

CRM systems are highly useful for consultants who want to be able to easily search their contacts by a variety of options – such as name, company, or position. Many systems will also allow you to track your communication history with an individual. As a result, you can see the last time you spoke to the person, what was discussed, and any past work that you’ve done for them. Some systems will also let you mark the “lifecycle stage” of a contact, so you can easily filter contacts by whether they are leads, customers, or if they serve as an evangelist for you.

Examples of CRM systems include Salesforce Sales Cloud, Hubspot CRM, Bitrix24, and Apptivo.

“‘Time management’ is really a misnomer – the challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.” – Stephen Covey

Proposal Management Software

To keep a steady stream of project work, the top freelance management consultants always make sure they have proposals out for new work. If you are not using an online consulting platform to find clients, you will want to look into proposal management software. This is to help you keep track of when and where you’ve sent proposals to prospects.

Proposal management software is also valuable for reducing the amount of effort it takes for you to respond to requests for proposals. Reusable and customizable proposal templates will help you spend more time doing billable work on projects and less time working unbillable hours on proposals. Some software providers also allow you to track when proposals are opened, and to receive reminders about unopened ones.

Examples of proposal management software providers include Nusii, Proposify, Quilr, and ClientPoint.

Digital Asset Management Platforms

When you are working on management projects, there will be lots of data to share. This will be along with files, images, charts, and spreadsheets. To make sure you and your teammates or clients have ready access to all of the assets needed, you should get comfortable with cloud-based platforms that allow you to share information.

Digital Asset Management (DAM) platforms are useful for cataloging and organizing things like photos, graphics, and videos, especially if you are working as part of a team on a larger project. A company’s graphic designer will not want to have five different people requesting the same image from him or her over the course of a week. A well-organized DAM system reduces the amount of time spent looking for an image for a report, a presentation, a social media post, or a pitch deck. These systems will also let you decide who gets access to which items.

For simple file sharing – such as with documents and spreadsheets – top independent management consultants typically have experience using a variety of cloud-based services. These kinds of services help you and your project collaborators avoid wasting time searching emails, Slack, WhatsApp, and other channels for important file attachments.

Examples of DAM solution providers are Canto, Filecamp, Brandmaster, and TACTIC.

Examples of cloud-based file-sharing tools are Dropbox, GoogleDrive, Microsoft OneDrive, and IDrive.

Time Management Tools

Everyone is given the same 24 hours in a day. Top independent management consultants are able to manage their time wisely. There are lots of tools and techniques that consultants can use to make the most of the time they have.

Techniques like “Time Blocking” and the “Pomodoro Technique” enable a consultant to focus for a specific period of time. After that they can take a short break to stand up or walk around to get the blood moving again. Time Blocking means focusing on a single task or project for a designated amount of time and shutting out any distractions. In the Pomodoro Technique, you focus on a designated activity for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break – using a timer to alert you when your time is up. You can either switch activities or return to the same activity after the 5-minute break.

If you’ve tried either of the above techniques and still find yourself getting distracted, there are some apps that aim to help with that. For example, some apps will block your access to websites that might distract you, while other apps play music specifically designed to help you be more focused.

Examples of useful time management apps are Cold Turkey, Hocus Focus, RescueTime, and Brain.FM.

Project Management Tracking Tools

There are loads of project management tracking tools on the market. Many companies will experiment with several of them before settling on one that offers the features they need or want. Some consultants are completely devoted to a particular tool. On the other hand, others will jump from one to the other, depending on which client they are working with at any given moment.

Project management tools are great for teams to keep track of all the tasks necessary for a given project. It tells who is assigned to that task, when it’s due, and the task’s status. Some tools offer a timeline view, so that you can see “at a glance” who is working on which task during a particular week, or which tasks might have an approaching deadline. These tools also make it easy to transfer tasks among project team members.

If you want to find work as a top freelance management consultant, you need to make sure you’re familiar with some of the most common project management tracking tools, such as Asana, Trello, Todoist, and Jira.

Fill Your Toolbox

There’s a saying, “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.” Unfortunately, as an independent management consultant, you need to have more than one tool in your toolbox when it comes to tackling projects for clients. The types of consulting tools listed above will help you thrive.