What is the DNA of a successful, independent consultant; the personal building blocks of a rewarding, lucrative career leading a practice with roughly 1-100 employees?

This is not an idle thought-exercise. I frequently field questions about the consulting profession from mid-career executives “in transition.”** Even professionals who have already hung up a shingle or accepted a senior position at a small firm wonder whether they are well suited for independent consulting. Particularly if their performance has been flagging as of late.

Rather than offering an off-the cuff answer, I set out to make a list of important attributes. Five minutes and 46 attributes later, I realized the brainstorming approach would not yield a satisfying answer. Therefore, I made a list of the most successful independent consultants I personally know. (Fortunately, the nature of my practice enabled me to draw from a large pool.) Then I cataloged my impression of what has allowed each of them to flourish.


There’s no uniform profile or precise mold every outstanding consultant conforms to. My list included individuals who ranged from nerdy to suave, inspiringly humble to shockingly arrogant, and consensus-builders to autocrats. However, there are definite commonalities among those who have ascended to the top of our profession.

Below are the attributes I saw most frequently in my analysis; the characteristics that describe you now or could in the future if you commit to embracing them:


Please join in the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comment section. What attributes would you add to the list?



Text and images are © 2015 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.