Key Competencies to Succeed as An Independent Consultant

Mark Bridges
3 min readApr 13, 2023

In a given year, a number of business professionals decide to pursue independent consulting instead of corporate employment. For them, a career in independent consulting means a flexible schedule, the ability to be their own supervisor, and the chance to actualize their full potential. For some individuals, independent consulting entails utilizing their true abilities.

Independent consultants offer consulting services without being affiliated with a consulting firm. They utilize their own experience to aid a person or organization in solving problems or attaining goals more efficiently and effectively.

There are a variety of additional factors why a person might choose to engage in independent consulting.

• Lack of belief in one’s capacity to make an impact in the business sphere.

• A desire to earn more money.

• A sense of being without any control of one’s life.

• Absence of opportunities for personal development and capability enhancement.

• A feeling of insignificance as a team member.

• Dismissal or unemployment.

• A desire to start one’s own enterprise or to become an entrepreneur.

However, the majority of newcomers to independent consulting lack the knowledge and skill sets essential for success; consequently, the 5-year failure rate of independent consultants is approximately 85%. Such high failure rates among new entrants in independent consulting necessitate a reevaluation of the success factors in the industry.

To succeed as an independent consultant, one must master the three core competencies that comprise the Success Triangle:

1. Consulting Competencies — these skills qualify a professional for entrepreneurship. Interpersonal skills, Project Management, Data Analysis, Structured & Technical Writing, and Innovation are fundamental consulting skills.

2. Business Competencies — these skills are essential for launching a career as an independent consultant, for instance Strategic Development, Financial Planning, Management, and Talent Management.

3. Technical Competencies — these skills are just as essential for an independent consultant as the other critical competencies, such as Business Strategies, Market Research, Competitor Analysis, Strategic Planning, Diagnostics, Risk Analysis and Mitigation.

Rarely will an individual possess equal proportions of all three competencies prior to beginning independent consulting. Some professionals are proficient in two of these competencies, which makes up for their deficiency in the third. Each of these three competencies must be considered and mastered substantially for long-term success.

At the core of the Success and Consulting Triangles are the three essential competencies.

• The Success Triangle implies that equal weight must be assigned to the three essential competencies of Technical, Consulting, and Business.

• The Consulting Triangle, however, declares consulting as a profession, a process, and a business. Consequently, independent consultants must possess or quickly acquire technical, consulting, and business skills.

Combining the Success and Consulting Triangles helps to map a consultant’s expertise in the three important domains. Enclosing the triangles within a circle facilitates the evaluation of each competency’s proficiency. This arrangement is referred to as the Consulting Competency Circle.

The Consulting Competencies Circle framework assists in determining whether a business professional is prepared for independent consulting. A scale for each skill set incorporated within the Consulting Competency Circle facilitates the evaluation of a consultant’s strengths and limitations and helps to approximate his or her proficiency and level of expertise in the three competency domains.

Interested in learning more about the Consulting and Success Triangles? You can download an editable PowerPoint presentation on Consulting Competencies Circle (CCC) here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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Mark Bridges

I blog about various management frameworks, from Strategic Planning to Digital Transformation to Change Management.