The Society of Professional Consultants

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The purpose of this blog is to provide information to help consultants and solo professionals. Please contact us if you're an active SPC member willing to provide content for our blog. 

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  • Tuesday, November 09, 2021 2:17 PM | Anonymous

    Your brand is about more than your company’s logo, tagline, or brand colors. Anything you write on behalf of your business is part of your business’s brand image — that includes emails, blog and social media posts, marketing materials, and client-facing documents.  

    Write With Your Audience in Mind

    Whether you’re writing a blog post or an assessment report, you’re writing for an audience. But if you don’t write in a way that resonates with that audience, they’ll lose interest and stop reading. For instance, when writing for subject matter experts, you’ll likely use different language than you would for a non-expert audience. Or you might use more formal language in an assessment report than you would in an email.

    Taking the time to identify your audience segments and understand their needs will help you write relevant and relatable content that will keep their attention. No matter who you’re writing for, consistency and clarity are key to writing effectively and staying on brand.

    Keep Track of the Small Stuff 

    Sloppy, inconsistent writing and formatting can kill your credibility. Your voice and tone and your writing and formatting preferences are as much a part of your brand as your logo, tagline, and brand colors. It may sound trivial, but the little things add up, and consistency is part of what makes your brand memorable.

    That’s why you need a writing style guide — a living document that helps you keep track of your writing and formatting preferences, including things like tone of voice, common terms and terms to avoid, how to treat abbreviations, and how to style headings.

    Three ways a writing style guide can help strengthen your brand:

    1. It reduces conflict over style and formatting preferences. Everyone has different preferences. If you work with a team of writers and editors, they are bound to disagree over style and formatting issues from time to time. Having your preferences spelled out in your writing style guide helps keep everyone on the same page.

    2. It shortens the writing process. Referring to old pieces of writing to see how you wrote and formatted things or consulting your default major style manual for the same rule over and over adds time to the writing process. Keeping track of your writing and formatting preferences will make the writing process faster and less frustrating.

    3. It ensures a consistent brand experience for your clients. Consistency helps build credibility and makes your brand recognizable. 

    Your brand is how your company presents itself to the world, so the details matter. Tailoring your writing to your audience and developing and maintaining a consistent writing style will ensure that you present a professional and polished image to your clients, prospects, and competitors.

    Next month, we’ll discuss how to write clear and compelling copy, with a look at how different platforms and purposes impact your writing.​

    Sophie Michals is a writer, editor, and writing coach who helps brainy, image-conscious subject matter experts deliver clear, concise writing with a consistent brand voice. Learn more at (SM) Edits LLC.

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications, a collaborative of writers and editors partnering with executives, consultants, and coaches to transform their ideas into published articles.

  • Friday, October 29, 2021 3:33 PM | Laura Burford

    How changing the form of your questions leads to more inclusive problem-solving and a friendlier approach for everyone.

    A key reason why clients hire consultants and freelancers is to help them solve a problem.

    As a consultant, one of my favorite approaches for problem-solving is Toyota’s 5 WHYs Analysis. I embraced 5 WHYs Analysis while managing software application projects and have continued to use it as a management consultant. However, over the years I’ve changed the form of my questions and I never realized it.

    One day one of my clients said a meeting with one of their potential clients didn’t go well. Actually, it flopped.

    In my work, I frequently recommend consultants and freelancers consider using 5-WHYs Analysis and recommend they include it in their “tool box.” But after talking with my client, I realized that I’ve been leading consultants and freelancers astray.

    I’m now telling them, “I’ve been WRONG!

    Am I saying that 5-WHYs Analysis is not a good technique? No, I’m not. It is an easy and powerful technique to use. However, I believe a modification in the form of the questions makes the approach more powerful and better accepted.

    What is 5 WHYs Analysis?

    5 WHYs Analysis works well when the symptoms of a problem are known but the cause or actual problem is not known. In theory, a person asks five (5) why questions continually diving down to uncover the root cause of the problem.

    Here’s a scenario illustrating the technique. 

    Your car doesn’t start so you call the car repair shop.

    The Mechanic starts by asking you, “Why wouldn’t your car start?” Your Reply: “The engine wouldn’t turn over.”

    Mechanic: “Why wouldn’t the engine turn over?” Your Reply: “The battery was drained.”

    Mechanic: “Why was the battery drained?” Your reply: “I think I forgot to turn the lights off.”

    Mechanic: “Why did you forget to turn the lights off?” Your reply: “I thought they would turn off automatically.”

    Mechanic: “Why didn’t they turn off automatically?” Your reply: “I don’t know. They were set to turn on and off automatically.”

    The 5 WHYs Analysis approach was developed by Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota, to help Toyota Industries Corporation uncover manufacturing problems.  It works extremely well if there is a technical equipment problem or when a feature or functionality is missing as in a software application or with a business process.

    The challenge is everyone involved in the analysis needs to evaluate the situation objectively putting their personal feelings aside.

    That is why am I saying, “I’ve been WRONG!

    Why I’ve been WRONG!

    For the entire article that includes an example of how I recommend modifying your approach, click on this “friendly” link

    Final Thoughts

    Consultants and freelancers are problem-solvers.

    That is why people hire them — to solve problems.

    But before a consultant or freelancer can solve a problem, they need to determine the root cause of the problem. Understanding the root cause of the problem helps the consultant or freelancer get hired as well as assists with determining the right approach to solve the problem.

    There are several ways to determine the root cause. One approach is to use 5 WHYs Analysis. However, before you use 5 WHYs Analysis you may want to modify the approach. Before you ask any questions, understand your client and determine the best questioning format for them. Do why questions work or would it be better to ask exploratory and explicit questions?

    Yes, I’ve been WRONG! I believe this modification in question form leads to a more powerful and inclusive discovery as well as a friendlier and accepted approach for everyone involved.

  • Saturday, October 09, 2021 10:20 AM | Deleted user

    Imposter syndrome is a debilitating pattern of thinking that inhibits optimal functioning. Not only does it undermine confidence, but it also produces a need to prove yourself by achieving unrealistic standards standards that you, the person with imposter syndrome, create for yourself. In the process, imposter syndrome reduces creativity because the person sees taking risks or trying new approaches as threats to his or her image of being the best. At best, imposter syndrome creates stress and pressure. At worst, it builds to a level of dysfunctional anxiety. 

    So how can you learn to control imposter syndrome?

    Most people believe imposter syndrome is a feeling. It is not. Imposter syndrome is a series of irrational and illogical thoughts. The beauty of this fact is you can learn strategies to control your thoughts and by doing so, you can reduce or eliminate imposter syndrome. Here are five steps to help you think, feel and function at your best.

    1. Replace illogical thoughts with facts 

    Our brains will focus on what we tell them to focus on. With imposter syndrome, our brains are functioning from an illogical belief system and will search for any information to support the imposter syndrome. To eliminate the dysfunctional thoughts, we must replace those thoughts with facts, logic and evidence. Resumes, professional evaluations and concrete accomplishments are all sources of reality-based data to replace the thoughts creating the imposter syndrome.

    2. Rely on established practices and strengths

    For individuals with imposter syndrome, there is often the belief that they need to create new ways to accomplish tasks in order to be successful. They spend their time worrying about how to do things better or in unique ways to distinguish themselves. The reality is that there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Employing skills, behaviors and methods that have been successful in past situations can create success in current and future situations. Why not use validated success strategies rather than creating new ones that have no data to support their efficacy?

    3. Talk to a trained professional 

    In many articles I have read regarding imposter syndrome, a common piece of advice is to talk to someone about your feelings. Often the articles reference talking to your boss, colleague or a friend, and this advice is faulty. These individuals might be valuable when you want to vent, but they are not trained in approaches to help you reduce or eliminate imposter syndrome, nor are they regulated by confidentiality guidelines. Seeking out an executive coach, trained in areas of brain or behavior functioning, will ensure you receive expert support in a safe environment.

    4. Let go of perfectionism 

    Perfectionism is the energy source for imposter syndrome. The idea of being perfect or doing things perfectly creates some of the irrational and unrealistic standards that contribute to imposter syndrome and, ultimately, undermine goals. Some perfectionistic individuals focus so much energy and time on doing things perfectly that they never finish the goal at hand. Doing things well, using your strengths and accomplishing them within the designated time can be your focus and a way to reduce imposter syndrome.

    5. Write down your vision of success 

    Writing down your goals is a strategy towards goal achievement, but it also clearly establishes your measurement of the goal. It creates the boundary to maintain your focus so it does not stray towards something bigger or better. By writing down your goal, it also becomes a tool to measure your success based on the stated goal, not something more perfect. If you compare your outcome to the written goal, it becomes the litmus test for success and can prohibit your brain from spinning in the direction of imposter syndrome.

    For many driven and successful people, imposter syndrome is a common occurrence. Recognizing the signs and knowing you can control it allows you to prevent it from blocking your progress. By applying concrete strategies, and refusing to accept the illogical belief system as a habit or norm, you can maintain a level of optimal performance in your personal and professional lives.

    Dr. Robin Buckley, CPC, is the owner of Insights Group Psychological & Coaching Services in Rye, NH. Robin is an author, public speaker and certified coach ( In her work as an Executive Coach and Couples Coach, she helps high-achieving individuals and couples thrive in their careers and relationships. Her proprietary coaching model uses a business framework and cognitive-behavioral strategies to support clients in executing concrete, strategic plans to achieve the professional and relationship lives they want. 

  • Tuesday, October 05, 2021 11:08 AM | Erica Holthausen

    We’ve all had to wrestle meaning out of poorly written material. Perhaps it was a report that highlighted a series of problems but failed to provide a clear and actionable path forward. Or maybe it was that email from a client responding to what you thought was a simple question with an ambiguous and only vaguely related answer. Or that blog post that promised a solution but only added to the confusion.

    Poor writing costs time and money.

    According to The State of Business Writing, a report published in 2016, bad writing costs businesses an estimated $396 billion a year. That has undoubtedly increased along with the popularity of asynchronous communication tools such as Slack. More recently, Erica Dhawan, author of Digital Body Language, found that the average employee wastes up to four hours each week on poor, unclear, and confusing digital communication, most of which is written. As an independent consultant, your writing has a direct and immediate impact on your reputation and income.

    There are two types of business writing: traditional business writing and marketing communications. Below we’ll define each type of writing, examine its purpose, and give you a few tips on how to increase the effectiveness of both your traditional business writing and marketing communications.

    What Is Traditional Business Writing?

    Traditional business writing includes everything you write in the course of business, such as proposals, reports, emails, and messages in Slack. The purpose of this type of writing is typically to convey information about a specific topic. In many companies, traditional business writing is the engine that drives the day-to-day activities of the business. To increase the effectiveness of your traditional business writing:

    • Write with the reader in mind. Tailor the tone of the message to your intended audience. Avoid using jargon and abbreviations unless your audience is particularly savvy. Be clear, not clever.
    • Use the right communication tool. Email and Slack are good notification tools, but they are rarely effective communication tools. If you need to convey something important and want to avoid confusion and miscommunication, schedule a phone call or meeting.
    • Cut the fluff. Keep it short and simple.

    What Is Marketing Communications?

    Marketing communications is writing that is in service of business development, such as websites, email newsletters, case studies, white papers, social media posts, blogs, and articles on third-party platforms. Its purpose is to demonstrate your unique value proposition to your prospective, current, and former clients. To increase the effectiveness of your marketing communications:

    • Know your audience. Who is reading your marketing communications? Where are they in the buyer’s journey? Are you writing to the decision maker or to someone tasked with vetting a larger list of prospective consultants?
    • Focus on what’s in it for them. Why should a prospective client work with you? What does each segment of your audience want? Someone vetting prospective consultants wants to impress their boss. A decision maker wants to minimize their risk and know that they’ve made the right decision. How can you provide them with what they want most?
    • Show your impact. Your prospective clients care more about the results you achieve than the methods you use. Share examples of how you’ve helped your clients achieve their goals instead of describing your methods.

    If you truly want to be of service and improve the effectiveness of your business writing, treat your reader’s time as more valuable than your own.

    Next month, we’ll talk about the importance of knowing your audience and dive in to how your brand influences your writing.

    Sophie Michals is a writer, editor, and writing coach who helps brainy, image-conscious subject matter experts deliver clear, concise writing with a consistent brand voice. Learn more at (SM) Edits LLC.

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications, a collaborative of writers and editors partnering with executives, consultants, and coaches to transform their ideas into published articles.

  • Tuesday, September 07, 2021 10:41 AM | Anonymous

    Everyone writes. Whether you’re writing an email to a client, putting together a proposal, preparing a report, or crafting an article for publication, your writing reflects your company’s brand and either builds your credibility and authority or diminishes it.

    Everyone writes. But not everyone writes effectively.

    In this series of articles, we will share tips for effective business writing, including practical tools you can apply immediately to improve your written communications and guidance on how to find the help you need.

    We’ll cover one tip each month — and, as a special bonus, we’ll share a list of our favorite writing resources to help improve your writing:

    • Tip 1: Acknowledge the Need for Effective Business Writing — different types of business writing and the purpose of each type
    • Tip 2: Understand Your Brand and Your Audience — how your brand influences your writing and why you must know your audience to write effectively
    • Tip 3: Write Clear and Compelling Copy — advice on writing clear and compelling copy and how different platforms and purposes impact your writing
    • Tip 4: Edit, Edit, and Edit Again — why editing and consistency are crucial to effective writing and how to establish a good relationship with your editor
    • Tip 5: Don’t Go It Alone — what to look for when hiring a writer or editor and why the writer or editor you hire doesn’t need to be an expert in your field
    • BONUS — a list of resources for writing and editing advice, reference tools, and where to find quality freelance writers and editors

    Check back in early October for Tip 1: We will talk about the differences between traditional business writing and marketing communications and the goals of each type of writing.

    Sophie Michals is a writer, editor, and writing coach who helps brainy, image-conscious subject matter experts deliver clear, concise writing with a consistent brand voice. Learn more at (SM) Edits LLC.

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications, a collaborative of writers and editors partnering with executives, consultants, and coaches to transform their ideas into published articles.

  • Tuesday, August 31, 2021 9:54 PM | Rick Pollak (Administrator)

    How do you set priorities when you start a solo consulting business? If you focus on these three tasks, you’ll improve the chances of making your business successful.

    Building Authority

    It’s difficult for a new consultant to compete in a crowded field. Thought leadership activities will help you establish authority and get clients to find you. Creating blog posts, magazine articles, YouTube videos, and newsletters will help position you as an expert. If you produce content that’s relevant to your potential clients, you’ll establish authority and be able to win contracts over more experienced consultants.


    When you start a solo consulting business, you become the director of sales, marketing, finance, contracts, IT, and PM. The more time you spend on these tasks, the less time you can spend providing consulting services. Outsourcing some of these business responsibilities will give you more time to do the consulting work you enjoy. You can end up hating consulting if you try to do all the required operations tasks yourself.

    Asking for Help

    The Society of Professional Consultants offers networking, mentoring, and education to new consultants from around the world. We’re a diverse group of new and experienced consultants that encourages our members to collaborate, share best practices, and learn from each other. The SPC provides a supportive environment where new consultants can ask questions about launching and growing their practice. You can view our free resources for people considering a career in consulting at

    Rick Pollak is president of the Society of Professional Consultants. He’s also the founder of Presentation Medic, a consulting company specializing in curing boring presentations. He specializes in coaching speakers for TEDx talks, executive presentations, and technical workshops.

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