I was reading this book How to Succeed as an Independent Consultant (Amazon link) by Herman Holtz and David Zahn. A consultant is someone with great expertise in a particular field. You can be a software consultant, a tax law consultant, a management consultant (or even a consultant consultant *smile*).
There was a short section on versatility. The authors wrote that it’s hard for someone with many talents to be a consultant. Which field do you become a consultant in? The answer is: all of them.
They gave an example of someone who changed their field of consultancy based on whatever needs to be consulted on. That person became an engineer consultant or technical writer/consultant or management consultant based on whatever their client needed. He’s a chameleon consultant, a polymath consultant.
But there’s a catch. People might associate you with their view of what you should be, if they find out about your other talents.
Herman Holtz himself encountered this problem. He’s a consultant for mainly government agencies, but he’s capable of consulting for commercial purposes too. It’s to do with the client’s expectations. He said there was once where a client refused to hire him after learning about his consulting fees.
“I’m not paying that much to hire a writer.” said the client.
“But I’m also doing this, and that, also those.” said Herman.
It doesn’t matter. The client had it fixed that Herman was just a writer.
I understand the war between versatility and niching. Heck, I’m rationalising that war in my mind. It’s hard.
And then Seth Godin wrote in Small Is the New Big (Amazon link):
The ability to change fast is the single best asset in a world that’s changing fast
A chameleon consultant is probably better at changing fast than a niche consultant. But it also depends on what you’re changing to. I just believe a chameleon is better at adapting and solving our increasingly complex problems, which involves different disciplines, such as world hunger/poverty (sociology, logistics, inter-nation relations) and environmental issues (biology, physical sciences, agriculture).
Anyway, in my quest to feed myself, I’m also offering consulting and speaking services on:
- online publishing (e-zines, blogs, and dare I say, social media)
- small online business (how to start, marketing, sales)
- software (design, coding, management)
There are probably more I could help you with, but the topics are so diverse, they’re buried in bits here and there in my archives. I think of myself like a medical diagnostician. You have a problem, but you don’t know where to start solving it. Present it to me, and the least I could do is point you in the right direction.
Me, a chameleon consultant? Hmm, that’s got to be a new category.