The best books for freelance consultants and management consultants

The Books I Picked & Why

The Trusted Advisor

By David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, Robert M. Galford

The Trusted Advisor

Why this book?

This was the book that really got me thinking about consultancy, professional services and that broad category of work that you get paid to help people because of what you know. The central topic of this book is trust. Now we all understand what trust is – or at least we think we do. But when faced with the challenge of building trust many of us stumble. This book breaks trust down into its component parts and explores how you can use this understanding to build trust. Trust building is essential whenever you offer service to someone else, especially when it is an intangible service like consultancy. Every consultant and every freelancer should read this book.


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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

By Robert B. Cialdini

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Why this book?

If trust is the thing you need to win and retain clients, the ability to influence them with your ideas is the next essential part of being a successful advisor, coach, or consultant. I really love Cialdini’s book because it takes a very honest approach to persuasion. Cialdini is an academic, so the book is based on rigorous research (unlike many business books!). But he is also a grounded human being who came to look at persuasion not because he sees himself as the most persuasive person in the world – quite the contrary, he openly admits to being easy to persuade and occasionally a bit of a sucker for sales techniques. But because of this, he is interested to understand what is going on when we are persuaded by someone else.


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Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

By Edgar H. Schein, Peter A. Schein

Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

Why this book?

Over a number of decades, Schein has been one of the guiding thinkers in professional services and consultancy. His books are always worth reading as the advice is sounds and practical. In this book he talks about how it is better, and more productive, to help people by the practice of asking questions rather than giving answers. The model in the book goes completely against the stereotype of the consultant as a brash and overconfident individual pretending to be an expert who can tell anyone the answer to any question. Instead, Schein proposes a model that would be more familiar to those with a coaching background. It is brilliant advice.


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Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional's Guide to Growing a Practice

By Alan Weiss

Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional's Guide to Growing a Practice

Why this book?

I suspect no list of books on consulting would not be complete without at least one book from Alan Weiss. He has written a number of books on consulting – on setting up a business, writing proposals, and value-based fees. It is an all-around useful guide to building a consulting business, with the focus very much on the business side of being a consultant.


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How Clients Buy: A Practical Guide to Business Development for Consulting and Professional Services

By Tom McMakin, Doug Fletcher

How Clients Buy: A Practical Guide to Business Development for Consulting and Professional Services

Why this book?

The part about consulting many people hate is the selling bit. Well what better way to go into a conversation in which you are trying to sell your services than with an understanding of the process clients go through to buy? This book provides a useful understanding of the client’s viewpoint of consulting. Although I think it is of best use to those in sales roles in larger consultants and professional services firms, there is also advice, or perhaps a way of thinking, that is useful to everyone from the biggest firm to that single freelance consultant.


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