PMean: Independent consulting and the cold call

There’s been some more discussion about getting started as an independent statistical consultant. One person is ready to hang their shingle and proposes to “find a niche I can serve, contact companies in that niche, etc.” but didn’t know what that niche might be. I had one cautionary comment and then discussed finding your niche.

Beware! When you write “find a niche I can serve, contact companies in that niche, etc.” you are proposing what most business people call the “cold call”. The cold call is a low yield strategy because you almost never find the right person at the companies you are calling and when you do find the right person, you find them at the wrong time.

It’s much better to get the clients to come to you. You do this by increasing your visibility. Just as one example, I volunteered to run the Kansas City R Users Group, and it has led to several new clients approaching me for help. There’s lots of other strategies for increasing your visibility: giving talks, writing a blog, encouraging your friends and co-workers to spread the word.

The other thing is that you may not know what your niche is until you start working at it. You’ll find that you tend to attract certain types of clients more frequently or that you enjoy working with certain types of clients or that you work most efficiently with certain types of clients, or that you do not have a lot of competition for certain types of clients. That’s how you discover your niche.

So if you don’t know your niche yet, start with anyone and everyone until your niche discovers you.