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How to attract clients as an independent HR consultant? by Marie Richter

Transitioning from a full-time job in HR to an Independent HR Consultant can feel like a natural career progression for some, but for others who desire to be their own boss it comes with some challenges. That is why we have collaborated with Marie Richter, a top Independent HR consultant based in Berlin, to share her top tips and best practices on attracting and retaining clients as independent HR consultants.


The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way companies and their employees work and interact. This change has given rise to the need for independent HR consultants and HR freelancers to help companies effectively transition to this new style of work. Finding the right projects as an Independent HR Consultant in a globally competitive market can at times be challenging. Marie Richter shares her best ways to attract clients as an independent HR consultant. 



Ways to attract new clients: 


The most obvious way is to tap into your network of existing or past clients. They will have already had the experience of working with you and the hurdle to do so again won’t be as high (if you did a solid job of course). Keeping in touch with people, sending them end-of-year holiday greetings and interacting with them on social media are some of the easiest ways to do so! 

In terms of acquiring new clients, the most effective way for me has been word of mouth. Never underestimate the power of your network and their connections in turn. That’s how I got my first few projects in fact. It might be previous happy clients, former colleagues and especially other consultants who can be your biggest advocates. Make sure to return the favour.   

There are also more active strategies you can use when looking for new clients. The main question to ask yourself is how you can help people and how you can find out about people needing your services. The most obvious way for companies to advertise their need for support are open roles they are posting on their website or social media. Why not contact them and offer them immediate support on a project whilst they are working on finding their permanent hire? Within the HR field the talent pool has been notoriously slim recently, playing into your hand.

Offering people free advice is also a good way to not just help out your network but also make yourself known as a knowledgeable person who’s services they might want to buy in the future! There are slack and social media channels like LinkedIn where people post their questions. Keep an eye out for opportunities where you can add value! On top of that, you will also stay in the loop on what the hot topics are that people are dealing with.


Positioning yourself in a competitive market


Leaving a good impression and living up to it will do half of the work for you. There is a rule of thumb that as a consultant you need to check two of the following three boxes:


  1. Be on time
  2. Be friendly
  3. Be good at your job


If you can check all three, even better! 


Like with most things you do in life, it is also important to play to your strengths. Try to ask yourself what your areas of expertise are, i.e. what are the topics and themes you can help people with? It might be as mundane as how to do payroll in the most efficient way possible. (you’d be surprised how many companies ask for support in that).Think of some of the projects you have tackled in the past for inspiration! 


What does your CV say about you and your expertise? People will most likely be looking at your LinkedIn profile for an indication of what they can expect from you. Of course, try to tweak it according to how you want to position yourself for any other permanent role you would have applied for in the past. Maybe you have extensive experience with setting up processes from scratch and have done so in small- to medium-sized companies before. Those are likely going to be a good match for you. Or did you mostly lead teams? Then taking on interim management roles could be a good niche for you instead!


Finally, your brand is something that develops over time. Reevaluate it from time to time, see how projects you were a part of broadened your area of expertise. Maybe a particular service you were offering in the past is not in high demand anymore, so scratch it from your list. Try to be concise in what you offer so people can grasp who you are and whether you could add value to their business in a few seconds. Are you a generalist that can figure out any issue in your field? Or an expert that knows how to do a few niche things extremely well? The journey of discovery never stops.


Interested in joining our Referral Partner Program? 

Fill in the form on this page to learn more and get in touch with us! 


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How did COVID impact your business as an HR Consultant?


This is an interesting one! As Covid hit, the demand for HR expertise skyrocketed as support on topics like Kurzarbeit in Germany were in high demand. HR people, consultants and employees, were working overtime! Towards the end of 2020 there was a fatigue in the market as the winter peeked its head around the corner and people were uncertain about what direction the market and world economy were taking. Nevertheless, investors were running short on opportunities to invest their cash in as a partial result of that. And in a beautiful twist, started pushing even more into startups than they were before. 

This was reflected in the headcount plans of startups that were ambitious, to say the least. So when January 2021 came around and those headcount plans started coming into effect, the need for talent went through the roof. Recruiters and other HR experts have since become a scarcity in the market as every company is looking to hire more people and need the respective HR support to do so. In a funny twist, COVID helped fuel the need for HR people and increased the demand for consultants!   



Tell us about a challenging HR consultant project you had - how did you overcome it?


I had a project where I was helping a large American company get their German HR set-up in place. It required knowledge from all areas of HR, from questions like ‘How do you write job descriptions in Germany?’ and ‘How is payroll done in Germany?’ to ‘What is the best benefits strategy for our Germany employees’ and in-depth labour law and compliance questions. Having the answers to them all would have been close to impossible. So I had to come up with ways to bridge the gaps!


One of the most obvious ways to close this gap is to do online research. Also, tapping into your network of experts can make a huge difference and generally people are excited to share their knowledge. HR Slack Channels like the Purple Squirrel Society, The Secret HR Society and the People Over Perks workspaces are excellent for that. 

But also try to think about who you might know personally who would know more about the topic or could point you in the right direction. These personal contacts are often the most valuable. I have found the community of freelancers and consultants to be very supportive.



What is your favourite part about being an independent consultant?


What is great about being a consultant is the amount of new people you meet and just how much you learn with each new client. You don’t only get to work on and learn from the projects you are involved with directly but by interacting with people you also get to learn about the struggles they are facing and what makes them successful. You start noticing industry trends and best practices and are in turn able to have your clients benefit from this holistic perspective. 


I also get the chance to meet interesting new people every day, which is fun. Whether it is by helping them with their HR questions online or talking to a potential client about their HR strategy. With some of my past clients I am still regularly in touch today! We are also lucky that the Berlin startup industry is a cosmos that is large enough for things to be exciting and at the same time small enough for everyone to be connected in one way or another! It's a community I really enjoy being a part of. 



Interested in joining our Referral Partner Program? 


Fill in the form on this page to learn more and get in touch with us! 


Profile Pic (1)-modified


About Marie Richter


Marie Richter is an HR Consultant based in Berlin. She works with start-ups and scale-ups of all sizes, funding stages and industries. She has helped over 20 companies, like Zalando, TIER Mobility and Contentful find answers to strategic HR questions and set-up HR solutions.


You learn more on her website:

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