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The Consulting Project Wrap-Up Checklist

As the final moments of the year tick down on you and your consulting firm, you sweep your gaze across the revelers gathered nearby (or perhaps the televised shenanigans of Andy and Anderson). Wide-eyed, overtired children and adults in various states of inebriation mumble the words to Auld Lang Syne, a song no one actually knows or understands.

End of the year traditions are not optimal models for successful consulting or for how your consulting firm should close out projects.

Yet many consultants stumble through the final act of their projects like the sloshed uncle on New Year’s Eve who fell asleep at nine o’clock and woke to find the year is over, the ball dropped, the party ended, and his only companions are a platoon of empty bottles.

Don’t miss the big finale. Finish your projects strong. How you conclude your projects can be just as important to your consulting firm as how you start them.

Consulting Project Wrap-Up Checklist

Begin with the Outcome

At the outset of your project (i.e, in the proposal) define a clear endpoint. Your client and your team both deserve to know when your consulting firm’s obligations under the contract are complete.

Expand Early

One important factor in consulting success is winning more business (not just more clients). Therefore, long before any project wraps up, surface opportunities for pull through, expansion and extension projects.

Lock In Follow-On Work

Shortly before the end, discuss continuation projects, next phases and extensions.

Maintain High Energy

Stay focused on quality all the way ‘til the end. Don’t drift across the finish line and sidestep the tendency to coast while you and/or your team’s attention moves onto the next engagement.

Ensure Lasting Value

Create materials and transfer skills that your client will need to succeed after you’re gone.

Wave the Checkered Flag

Like old-time movies that showed “The End” in the final seconds,* signal clearly to your client when your  consulting project concludes.

Celebrate Success

Congratulate your client on the consulting project, point out progress and notable achievements, thank your clients for their excellent work, and distribute chocolate liberally.

Solicit Feedback

Well-constructed closeout interviews gather critical information you can use to improve and promote your consulting practice. Ask what went well, what could have gone better and what your client would say to a colleague, peer or contact that asked for advice about hiring your consulting firm.

Produce a Testimonial and Case Study

Craft a testimonial from the information you received during your closeout interview. In addition, create a short case study and solicit a supportive statement from your client while the project achievements are fresh.

Expand Your Network Core

You’ve been asking for introductions throughout your project, right? Don’t let the end of the consulting engagement slip by without asking one more time.

Cement a Long-Term Connection

Even if no follow-on consulting opportunities arose, fix a time on the calendar to talk with your client again. Staying in touch is the best way to build valuable, long-term relationships. (You may also be rewarded with more business.)

What else is on your end-of-project checklist?

  1. William J. Ryan
    December 27, 2023 at 8:47 am Reply

    Great ideas, as always David! On several occasions, I have collaborated with the client to tell their story via published article and if appropriate, submitting the effort for an award. Being acknowledge for innovation, performance success, creativity, etc. is a positive way to continue the conversation and these techniques tend to last post-project so the conversations continue too. Happiest of holidays to you and all on this list, may 2024 bring us all good health, happy times, and chances to do what we love with people we like!

    • David A. Fields
      December 27, 2023 at 9:34 am Reply

      Great idea, Bill. Case studies that showcase the client–whether in short form, a full-length article or a speech–boost your credibility and also your relationship with your client.

      All the best to you for 2024, Bill!

  2. Michael Kanaby
    December 27, 2023 at 9:46 am Reply

    These are fantastic tips that we need to do a better job at. Often times our clients have us starting the next project before the previous one is complete so we both get distracted and don’t finish the previous one as strong as we could.

    • David A. Fields
      December 27, 2023 at 9:51 am Reply

      Good on you for winning so many follow-on projects, Michael. You’re right that it’s easy to direct your energy to the next project–particularly with an existing client, and to forget to finish the current project on a strong note. Clients remember a strong finish, though, and wrapping up the current engagement well can give a positive boost to a follow-on project that’s already in motion.

      Thanks for adding your perspective, Michael!

  3. Franziska R.
    December 27, 2023 at 3:08 pm Reply

    Also important at the end of a project, along with the client-facing steps you mention, David, are parallel firm-facing ones such as celebrating successes with the team, shaping lessons learned into updated methodologies, and maybe capturing a testimonial for future marketing.
    (And know your clients well, as their appreciation ranking in that matrix might vary: I for one would prefer a nice supply of herb-champagne dijon over non-resellable Superbowl tickets 😉 )

    • David A. Fields
      December 27, 2023 at 3:14 pm Reply

      Great points, Franziska. You’re absolutely right. Internal, project wrap-up steps are extremely important.

      (Your desire for mustard and disdain for Superbowl tickets are duly noted. The chart is based on a weighted average of all responses collected from clients over many years, run through a AI algorithm then mapped based on reverse eigenvalues. I’ll update it based on your input.)

      Always great to hear from you, Franziska!

      • Franziska R.
        December 27, 2023 at 3:32 pm Reply

        How would your AI calculate the odds of me being on the /client/ side for you, David ?

        • David A. Fields
          January 1, 2024 at 2:27 pm

          You’re on the smart, insightful, funny person side, Franziska–that’s the one that counts!

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