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How to Create a Great Consulting Case Study Portfolio as a Freelancer

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September 10, 2021
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6 minutes
Lynn's diverse perspectives on business stem from her extensive experience as a management consultant - her role as a beloved wife, mother and grandmother adds further depth to her insights.

A portfolio of consulting case studies is a powerful tool for freelancers.

You can use it to showcase your authority and expertise in your field. It helps potential clients believe that you can truly deliver what you say you can. And your clients can use your consulting case study for advertising their businesses.

Most importantly, a great consulting case study portfolio will generate more income and higher rates for your services.

Let’s look at what a case study is, the best ways to write it, and some tips and techniques to make your freelance consulting experience stand out above the rest.

What is a consulting case study?

A case study for consulting is simply the story of how you helped someone solve a problem. It is a real-life example of how you took a client from Point A to Point B and highlights your knowledge, skills, and problem-solving in a specific area.

A case study gives information about:

  • The client
  • The problem they were dealing with
  • The approach you took and the solutions you proposed, and
  • The outcomes of your intervention

Remember to get permission from the client if possible. If not, you may have to keep the details anonymous. For example, you might refer to the “Digital transformation agenda for a manufacturing company.”

However, the more direct input you can get from the client, the more powerful your case study will be.

Try to add an interview comment – what has someone in the client organization said about the project? Even better would be the client on video talking about the benefits of your intervention.

It’s difficult to overestimate the power of third-party endorsement of case studies for consulting. Testimonials from clients are believed much more than anything you say. Doug Wead, a previous special advisor to President George Bush, had this to say:

“Nobody can really promote himself without a third party. It is also true that anybody can be the third party. Anybody can promote anybody else. Objectivity is assumed when we talk about others.” - Doug Wead, The Out-of-Town Expert with a Briefcase

How to write a case study for consulting - a step by step guide

A case study can be just a few sentences or a more detailed description, usually less than 1500 words. If in doubt, keep it short. Busy readers don’t have time to read volumes.

The basic elements

The typical case study covers three areas:

  1. Introduce the client and the problem or the objective
  2. Give details about what you did
  3. Say how the client benefitted

What is important is that you are very clear about the steps you took or the process you followed so that people can see that you have a system and methodology. Keep this section simple. It’s more effective to highlight one intervention type rather than show how you integrated everything you know.

The results section is the most important, and the focus is on the benefit to the client. This might be saved money, improved productivity, or better teamwork. Be clear about what was achieved without overstating it. Keep it factual and try to add numbers – e.g., turnaround time reduced by 20%, or employee satisfaction improved by 30%.

Take it up a notch

Here are some ideas that will make your consulting case study stand out:

  • Add specifics but tell it like a story rather than a list of facts.
  • Spend time on writing a compelling title. It must draw in the reader looking for similar help. Here’s an example: “Strategies to Convert Offline Customers to Online Shoppers.”
  • Take high-quality photographs while you are working with the client, and add them to the case study. It could be something simple like your wall covered with post-it notes or before and after shots of a process.
  • Give attention to the layout. For example, highlight critical facts in sidebars and text boxes. Use color and infographics.

There are excellent examples of consulting case studies on the Consultport freelance consulting site.

What is the best way to present a case study?

You can use case studies in proposals, on your website and social media, or in your resumé. Remember to add your portfolio if you are registered on a freelance consulting site.

We tend to think about written case studies – and you need them too. But we live in a digital age, so you might want a range of examples to share, depending on the potential client and where you are placing your case study.

There are various formats to consider:

  • Written
  • Video
  • Podcast
  • Infographic

Videos have become an indispensable marketing tool. In one study, 94% of people surveyed said they had watched explainer videos, and 84% went on to purchase. Using videos gives you the face-to-face contact with clients that is missing in online freelancing.

They are particularly effective for your social media pages as they are often shared. In fact, a third of the most-watched Instagram stories are from business profiles.

We may not be as familiar with podcasts, but they, too, are rising in popularity. (Did you know that Spotify has 2,6 million podcasts on its platform?) They are generally for long-form content, so you could use them for more in-depth consulting discussions.

Infographics generally feature measurable results. There are good reasons to add them to your portfolio of consulting case studies:

  • People engage more readily with graphics than with long explanations.
  • Facts and figures lend authority
  • People are more likely to remember the content
  • They can easily be displayed on mobile devices

There are free sites such as Piktochart or Visme to help you look good!

What should your freelance portfolio look like?

You don’t want to dump everything you’ve ever done into your portfolio.

It must be clear at a glance – you want people to do as little scrolling as possible. If you have more than one specialty, perhaps set up simple boxes for each one. You could also use different colors for impact and easy identification.

You should ask yourself what type of work you want in the future. Perhaps most of what you have done in the past is not what you want. You may have to spend time looking for the work you do want. Then you can add case studies about it for potential clients to see.

Alternatively, you can look at personal projects you have done and write about them.

For example, you may be an excellent digital consultant, but your genuine interest is the potential of blockchain to revolutionize business processes. Can you write about your learnings as a case study?

Or perhaps you’ve helped developer friends clarify their thinking about a supply chain project? You might be able to write a case study like “Blockchain for supply chain traceability.”

What else must be in your portfolio?

  • Add an “about you” section, with a good headshot, so that people can put a face to a name
  • Contact information – and also a call to action, with a contact form or a place to book an appointment
  • Testimonials from past clients

Getting testimonials is an important skill.

You can formally ask for them. For example: “I am hoping you have a minute to give some feedback of your experience of our [name] project.”

Alternatively, you can use the informal feedback that your client has given via tweets, emails, online, or WhatsApp messages. If a client has commented on a public site such as Facebook, it’s even easier – comments can be checked and add trust and credibility to your work.

Remember that quality trumps quantity. Select the referrals for the type of work and clients you want in the future.

Key takeaways

A case study for consulting is a story about a past project. It shows potential clients what you can do.

They are more likely to believe you if there is a third-party endorsement, so add client comments to your own insights.

A portfolio should have examples of different case studies, each carefully named and highlighting a specific area of expertise.

Consulting case studies can be written, or you can use videos, podcasts, and infographics and have them available for your website, proposals, and resumé.

If you are registered on a freelance consulting site like Consultport, remember to load your portfolio there too.