The Plight of the Independent Practitioner

Date Published: December 18, 2020
Being an independent analyst/consultant or private practitioner has its perks. No staff meetings, no production quota (sort of anyway), no having to toe the company line, dealing with research directors who don’t see things your way or getting drafted to pitch in on a project that seems more hassle than it is worth. You can write about what you want, go to the shows and conferences that you want and there are no company politics.

But, it is also hard to carry the role of producer, marketing, sales, financial, graphics and any else your business needs. You can outsource the web site, QuickBooks is a great tool, graphic design is reasonably inexpensive and editing is available. Clients will still hold you to a reasonably high standard but no one expects Forrester level branding.  Marketing and selling is a whole other matter.

It is an awkward thing to produce analytical content and then turn around and try and market and sell it to companies. Process wise you have to deal with CRM, creating email campaigns, following up on leads that come in, developing and sticking to a content strategy that promotes the brand and then there is the account management side of it.

My experience has been that analysts analyze, write and forecast. They engage with companies and talk to the media. They produce content. When they are not producing content, they are looking at information to broaden their knowledge. They may have aptitude for sales and marketing but even with a natural flair for some of the practices, they have to choose between being an analyst or someone in the revenue generation side of things. There are not enough hours in the day to be both nor do them well.

Having an in-house sales and marketing department often isn’t practical for solo practitioners. The cost can be substantial and having to manage it can be the extremely time consuming. Junior level people need a lot of hand holding, senior level people command bigger salaries.

And just how much can you produce to keep everyone busy and the cash flow coming in?

The good news is that there are ways to overcome this.

  • Organization is everything. Without this, you are done and nothing else matters.

  • Outsourcing can work if you know what key activities you want to have happening in and around your business. Find someone who has worked in your industry and bring them into your business for a fraction of the cost of hiring your own staff. Make the compensation tied to what they do for your business.

  • Commit to some basic marketing and activities and put them on par with eating, sleeping and coffee.

  • Find people that will accept your content in some form and promote it for you. Editors need content, you need promotion. Fair trade and one of the best ROT (return on time) you can find.

  • Get socially active in a business way. If you can keep your name out there people will come to you or at least follow you somewhere which is a major part of the battle. Don’t just say hey, follow me on Twitter. Get involved with LinkedIn groups, trade groups, industry forums etc.

  • Give away free stuff when you can. Automate your web site so people can access archives and samples, they give a name, company and email, they can read your premium content.

There are a number of other things you can do to make your solo practice succeed.  Budget time necessary to support the critical functions you can handle and look to partner with others to handle the rest.