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5 Online Tools I Use to Grow My Consulting Firm

The right tools can multiply the effectiveness of your efforts, enabling you to grow your consulting firm’s revenue and profit faster. Since I’m frequently asked what tools I’ve used to build my practice, I’ve compiled a short list of business tools that my team employs day in and day out to bring in more clients, more projects and larger engagements.

Join.me or GoToMeeting – If you target clients around the country (or world), in-person meetings are often infeasible or impractical. We conduct extremely effective, virtual meetings that engage prospects using join.me (we used to use GoToMeeting; both are good). These tools allow us to work with a whiteboard, sketching out ideas and responding to the prospect with frameworks and “instagraphics” on the fly. Virtually everything I do involves a team that isn’t on site, and join.me is perfect for hammering out a project plan, reviewing an idea and perfecting a presentation.

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Pipedrive.com – Want to consistently improve at anything? Then you must track your efforts and progress. Hulking giants at the gym note every rep and every pound hefted. Internet marketers analyze every promotion and mouse click. Consultants like you and me need to track our outreach efforts and prospects’ movement through the pipeline. There are plenty of great CRM applications including the giants like Salesforce.com. Personally, I use Pipedrive.com. It’s simple, intuitive and, while most CRM software is really built for the sales manager, Pipedrive caters to the person drumming up business.

ScheduleOnce.com – I detest the calendar dance. It sounds like, “You can’t do Wednesday at 4:00? Okay, can you talk Thursday at 9:00 or 10:00? No, well, uh… what about next Monday afternoon?” Talk about an energy-suck! For the past couple of years, any client or prospect that wants to meet with me is directed to my online calendar, powered by ScheduleOnce. It sidesteps the calendar dance and integrates seamlessly into my team’s workflow. Instead of missing prospect meetings because the frustration of finding a common time derails the process, prospects immediately see me as being flexible and easy to work with.

Mindjet.com – Everyone thinks, plans, and organizes differently. For me, mindmaps are the go-to format. They corral my thinking about projects, articles (including this blog), processes and more. Even my daily to-do list sits in a mindmap. Again, there are plenty of fine mindmapping applications and I highly recommend you use one like Mindjet that is resident on your desktop as well as online. Mindjet is not without flaws, but overall it’s robust and team-friendly. (One downside to Mindjet is that the Mac version of the desktop application doesn’t play nicely with the rest of the team.)

Elance.com – The best tool, of course, is another person who is better than you at whatever task you’re undertaking. Tapping others’ talents to multiply your effectiveness is the epitome of leverage. For every task on your to-do list, ask, “Could someone else do this faster and either well-enough or better than me?” If the answer is yes, then seek out that someone else. I’ve spent almost $100k in the past couple of years on contractors found through Elance. Online marketplaces abound: oDesk, Freelancer.com, and Guru.com are a few respected alternatives. For editing work, I’m a fan of scribendi.com. Regardless of the platform, to enjoy outstanding results always write a good project description, review portfolios and feedback on candidates, and, for big projects, hire a few folks to work on a pilot or sample.

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These five, online tools have proven to be invaluable for my firm’s growth. What are YOU using to fuel your firm’s success? My readers and I want to learn from you. Please post your favorite online resource below.


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40 Comments
  1. Heather Cartwright
    March 4, 2015 at 8:22 am Reply

    Hi David,
    This is outstanding and much appreciated. What do you use for time and expense software?
    We are just looking at this and would appreciate your thoughts.

    • David A. Fields
      March 6, 2015 at 9:00 am Reply

      Heather, this is a good question for the community. Personally, I don’t use time and expense software for my firm because I don’t bill by units of time and I have a bookkeeper manage expenses. I do track time to some extent (to understand the profitability of different offerings) and have found a simple spreadsheet works fine for that. Each of the consultants I have working on a project is responsible for keeping rough track of the time put in on an engagement.

      That said, I know of many firms that turn to Unanet for this type of software. Finally, if you’re evaluating a number of different software packages, I can point you to a resource that will help you make the best decision. Please call or email me and I’ll give you that information.

    • Sujee Maniyam
      March 9, 2015 at 4:48 am Reply

      We use Expensify https://www.expensify.com/
      Easy to capture receipts

      For time tracking we use QuickBooks Online — works out well for invoicing ..etc

      • David A. Fields
        March 16, 2015 at 12:13 pm Reply

        Great tip, Sujee. Thank you for contributing!

  2. Richard
    March 4, 2015 at 8:30 am Reply

    Don’t forget Lync in the mix of online meeting applications. As part of the MS Office 365 suite I found it to be the most cost effective as I needed the other MS online tools (exchange, SharePoint etc) anyway.
    Am glad to see that MindJet make the list.

    • David A. Fields
      March 6, 2015 at 9:01 am Reply

      Thanks for the suggestion, Richard. I’m not as familiar with Lync, but will definitely look into it.

    • Luda Fedoruk
      March 30, 2015 at 12:01 pm Reply

      Totally agree on Lync (also used for instant messaging). Another similar one is ReadyTalk.

      • David A. Fields
        March 30, 2015 at 12:16 pm Reply

        Thanks for the suggestion, Luda.

  3. Ken Majer
    March 4, 2015 at 9:54 am Reply

    I find your posts to be interesting and useful. Thanks and keep ’em coming!
    Ken

    • David A. Fields
      March 6, 2015 at 9:02 am Reply

      Thanks, Ken. Feedback is always appreciated! Please post your thoughts and insights too–I know a lot of people read the comments and like to see what others are thinking.

  4. Bonnie
    March 4, 2015 at 1:56 pm Reply

    This was very valuable and perfect timing for reading today. I will share with a couple of other people who could use this type of help.

    • David A. Fields
      March 6, 2015 at 9:02 am Reply

      Excellent, Bonnie. As you chat with other folks about these resources, ask what online tools are critical for them and let us know the short list you come up with.

  5. Thomas Cox
    March 4, 2015 at 5:08 pm Reply

    Great list, and a useful one. I’ve already standardized on TimeTrade for scheduling, but I’m open to a switch. I’ll check out the others.
    -Tom

    • David A. Fields
      March 6, 2015 at 9:09 am Reply

      TimeTrade looks powerful, Tom. For me, scheduleonce was my choice because it’s simple (and it integrates seamlessly into my website). However, there are always alternatives to every application. I tend to lean toward simple tools that accomplish the one thing they’re meant for. Otherwise it’s so easy to traipse down the power-user rabbit holes and poke my head up days later wondering where the time went.

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