In late 2011, I decided that I wanted to become an educational consultant, which is an educator who is paid to provide professional development and support to other educators. I got my website and business cards ready and published my first blog post in March 2012. I then waited for everyone to recognize how amazing I was and for the endless requests to show up in my inbox.

That’s not what happened.

No one seemed to care or even know I existed. I didn’t get my first blog post comment for over nine months, and that only happened because I emailed Fawn Nguyen and asked her to check it out and leave me a comment. It was another six months before I got my second comment. In truth, I did have a comment earlier than Fawn’s, but it was me leaving a comment for myself with a fake name because I wanted it to look like anyone cared! My whole “make it big” dream was not really going anywhere.

Fast forward five years and much has changed. I’ve spoken all over the United States and have trained educators from all over the world through my online workshops. I am an author of a high school math textbook for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and a professional development book for Stenhouse. I’ve learned many lessons the hard way, but have also gotten useful advice from mentors who were generous with their time and knowledge.

In looking back at where I’ve come from, I realize that I have an obligation to pay it forward and help others who are trying to come up. So, I’ve written this blog post to share my top nine tips that all educational consultants need to know.

  1. Determine your daily rate
  2. Be the guide, not the hero
  3. Deal with Impostor Syndrome
  4. Learn how to handle tense situations
  5. Strengthen your branding
  6. Choose your consulting path
  7. Be seen as an expert
  8. Be seen as a thought leader
  9. Grow your fanbase

This blog post only has the first five tips. However, you can download all of them (including the final four) as a PDF by clicking the button below or at the bottom of the page.


If you’re looking for even more support, you should check out my Ed Consultants Lab online workshop for aspiring and current consultants. I’ll take you through the whole process including how to get started, how to grow your business, how to negotiate with clients, how to prepare for success, how to take care of yourself, and how to work towards your long term goals. We’ll get really specific and talk about what you really need for your business (like whether you need a business license, website, LLC, business cards, and more) and even how much you should charge. If you’re serious about moving forward in your business, this is what you’ve been looking for.

I hope you enjoy them and find them useful!


1. Determine Your Daily Rate
I’ll begin with a story about how I lost out on thousands of dollars by not charging enough on my first national consulting engagement. One day I was looking in my SPAM folder when I saw an email that was supposedly from a school district asking me to do three days of training. My first thought was, “This has to be a fake. They must be trying to get my credit card number or something.” The idea that someone was interested in hiring me was so unfamiliar (more on Impostor Syndrome below) that it seemed more likely to be a scam! I reached out to them, and to my great surprise, it was real!

In a follow up email, they asked me how much I charged per day, and I had no idea what to say. As silly as it sounds, this wasn’t a question I had ever considered. So I contacted my only math consultant friend and he told me what he charged. His amount sounded ludicrously high! I thought that surely I didn’t deserve as much as him, so I replied back to the school district with a daily rate that was a few hundred dollars less than my friend’s daily rate.

You know what their reply was? They said that they could afford to switch from doing three days to doing five days!

And thus began my first lesson in realizing that I had no idea what to charge. I had given them a daily rate that was so much less than what they were expecting that they were willing to spend almost double the amount I charged! I lost out on thousands of dollars because I was too scared to charge what I was really worth.

Pricing is a really challenging topic to figure out for many reasons including:

  • In general, people don’t get into education for the money. So, some people feel uncomfortable charging what they’re worth.
  • When you’re first starting out, you’re willing to accept practically anything, and you undervalue what you’re worth because you fear rejection.
  • The amount consultants charge is on a different scale than what teachers make in a day, so even the lowest educational consultant daily rate will feel ludicrously high when compared to a teacher’s daily rate.

Here’s what I’d recommend you consider:

  • If 100% of your potential clients say yes when you tell them your price, then you are charging too little. I’m not saying to charge an insane amount, but if everyone keeps saying yes, then bump your daily rate up a bit and see what happens. That first rejection won’t feel great, but you’ll get closer to receiving what you’re actually worth and can work less to earn the same amount.
  • Charging too little may be even more concerning for potential clients than charging too much. The simplest way to explain this is that you may grudgingly pay $40 for a pizza, be thrilled to pay $10 for the same pizza, and absolutely not take a bite of the same pizza for $0.15 because anything that cheap must have quality concerns. I would say that, in general, anything under $1000 per day is the consulting equivalent of a $0.15 pizza. I know it might sound crazy, but most school districts would have concerns about the quality of someone charging that little.


2. Be The Guide, Not The Hero
I had no idea how poorly I communicated about how I help educators until I read Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller. It is an absolute game changer.

An example that continues to resonate with me is how he talks about heroes and guides. He says that most experts speak to potential customers as the hero that will save them. While this is well intended, people want to be the hero of their own stories. Instead, they want you to be the guide.

He uses a perfect Star Wars metaphor to explain it. Customers want to be the Luke. They don’t want the expert to be the Luke. They want the expert to be the Yoda. Yoda has been there and done that. He’s done all the things the customer hopes to accomplish and will share his knowledge and experience with customers to help them become the Luke of their own story.

Once I heard that, I immediately realized he was right. Between this idea and the many others he shares, I realized that it would affect all aspects of our professional lives including how we present, how we talk to our peers and clients, how we structure our websites, and how we create and market our services.

I cannot recommend this book enough for its ability to help you clearly share what you’re passionate about.


3. Deal With Impostor Syndrome
If you haven’t learned about Impostor Syndrome, please click on the link and do so. My short summary is that everyone has times where they doubt themselves, believe that they don’t really know what they’re talking about, or feel like they don’t belong. They feel like an impostor. I’m telling you that everyone feels this way.

Self-doubt is very real, even from the people you would never expect it from. For example, Maya Angelou has said, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'” Tom Hanks has said “No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’ ”

This happens for many reasons. One of the most common is the reality that no one is a prophet in their own land. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to take for granted what we are familiar with. For example, you may tell your significant other about a restaurant you want to go to. Your significant other hears you, but doesn’t really seem enthusiastic about it. Then, one day your significant other tells you that a friend talked about that same restaurant and said it was amazing. Now your significant other can’t wait to go. You sit there looking dumbfounded thinking, “Seriously?! I said that same thing a few days ago and you didn’t even care!” I can write this, knowing you’re smiling, because we’ve all been on one side of that experience or the other.

Unfortunately, the same thing happens when you’re starting out as an educational consultant, especially if you begin by working locally. Whether they were your mentor or a colleague who has known you for years, many people may not see you as anything special because again, we take for granted what we’re familiar with. It’s hard not to internalize how others see you, but you must be in control of your own self-image.

Focus more on times you’ve presented at a conference or training and had people tell you that you really helped them and did a great job. Focus more on people who have interacted with you online or via email and said that the resources you shared made a difference in their classroom. These are the people who have less biased opinions and will give you a more accurate picture of your real value.

Also remember that if you are doing your job, then you are forcing people to move out of their comfort zone. While people might appreciate how you help them, they may not always be thrilled with you along the way.


4. Learn How To Handle Tense Situations
It’s story time again folks. I want to tell you about an experience I had when training a school district’s 80+ high school math teachers. It was a couple hours into the full day training when I mentioned that there were some amazing teachers sharing resources online. A teacher raised his hand and said “So what you’re saying is that they’re amazing and we’re not?” Everyone fell silent, the air left the room, and all eyes were on me, waiting to see what I would say.

Now I want you to think about how you would react and what would you say. Obviously, I was not trying to insult anyone and you can be sure that I was not thrilled with this teacher. However, the reality remained that if I responded poorly, I would lose the room and ruin the day. Furthermore, no districts rehire or recommend consultants who can’t handle the teachers they work with.

So, what would you do? Would you apologize? Would you make a joke of it? Would you call out the teacher for making a ridiculous comment? Fortunately, I had read Crucial Conversations several times by this point and knew exactly how to handle it.

Crucial Conversations is the single most important book I have ever read. Previously, I thought that some people were incredibly gifted at handling tense situations and that I was not one of them. Until I started reading this book, I had no idea that this was a skill you could actually learn!

Based on what I read in the book, the first thing I realized was that I should definitely not apologize. Apologies are for when you genuinely mess up and need to make amends. In this case, I did not say something bad. So if I apologized for it, it might actually make it seem like I was insulting the teachers and needed to fix what I did. Calling the guy out might only make things worse, and joking about it didn’t feel right in the moment. Instead, what I needed to do was come up with two contrasting statements: one that stated what I did not intend and one that stated what I did intend.

What I said was something like “It wasn’t my intention to say you are not amazing. What I was trying to say is that there are other amazing teachers sharing resources online as well.” Everyone thought my response sounded reasonable because it was exactly what happened. So, we all moved on like nothing had happened because the tension had been diffused.

As you probably realize, situations like this are fairly common when working in education. I could share story after story about how Crucial Conversations has helped me get my point across or has gotten me out of very tense situations. Think about what you’re trying to do for a living: you are trying to get people to change their practices and potentially go against years of experiences that say otherwise! These teachers may feel uncomfortable and fight or flight reactions often kick in. Knowing how to respond in these moments takes you to the next level as a consultant.


5. Strengthen Your Branding
Imagine you are listening to the radio on a long drive. A song you’ve never heard before comes on and you like it. Then you hear the next song and you like that too. By the time you arrive at your destination, you’ve heard five new songs you really enjoyed. Pretty nice, right?

Well imagine now that the DJ comes on and says that all five songs are from a band you had never heard before. Think about what changes. Now you’re a big fan of this band. You’re likely to tell others about their songs and may even buy their music or see them in concert. This is the power of branding: it helps you see the connections between separate experiences, which changes how you view them.

For example, my good friend Andrew Stadel created a website called Estimation 180 and math teachers love it. What has been fascinating to me is that I’ll talk to someone who loves Estimation 180, but when I mention Andrew, they have no idea who he is! It makes me wonder how many people love Estimation 180 and have also seen him do a great job presenting at a conference, but didn’t immediately want to hire him as a consultant because they didn’t know they were connected. I’m no better as many people have no idea I created #ObserveMe or co-founded the website Open Middle with Nanette Johnson.

This also plays out on social media and even with your website’s name. You may have a clever social media handle like @learningisthegr8st and a website at, but think about the problems you create for people. They might love what you share on social media, but have no idea that you are connected to your website. They might even walk right by your presentation at a conference because they’ve never heard your name before!

I suggest making it easier for everyone to see the connections. That might mean getting a new social media handle, domain name, or just clearly putting it in your bio that you’re connected. Obviously, this can be challenging to do if your first and last name are common (I guess there are upsides to being a Kaplinsky!), but see what you can do to unify and strengthen your brands.

If you want to take branding even further, be sure to consistently use the same fonts, and colors, and shapes in everything you share. It will make it easier for people to spot your content as it scrolls by and realize that much of the stuff they love is coming from the same source. To show you what I mean, consider the two images below. The image below on the left is an example of what not to do from my somewhat neglected Pinterest page. Looking at it, even if you loved everything on the board, you’d have no clue that the resources were shared by the same person. The image below on the right is an example of what to do from my blog. Even at a glance, you’d realize that these were shared by the same person.


Download 6, 7, 8, and 9
If you’ve enjoyed these tips and want to see the remaining four, please click the button below. The reason I want to email them to you is because I hope to continue this conversation and provide you additional tips and support. So, I will also occasionally email you some bonus tips and tell you about other opportunities.



  1. Great post. I wish someone had helped me discover what an appropriate daily rate was. I had a similar experience to you on that front. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your insights.

  2. Thank you so much for this fabulous post! It’s like you read my mind and wrote this post for me. I look forward to joining the community you are creating! By the way, when I’m presenting my seminars I mention you by name when I share the Open Middle site. I LOVE it!

    • Thank you for all the kind words Ann Elise. I’m actively working on the community and am aiming for Fall 2019. It’s a lot of work to put together.

  3. Consulting is a lonely role. I love the idea of a community and appreciate your candid approach. I’ve read many of the books above and agree wholeheartedly.

    • Great Shannon! I’ve been a long time fan of Crucial Conversations but only read StoryBrand in the last year. Game. Changer.

  4. Thank you so much!!! I entered your blog looking for another post, and stopped by this one, because I happened to have an appointment tomorrow to (maybe) start as a consultant at a new school!

    • Hope your appointment went well! I think you’ll value having a community to chat with other consultants about best practices.

  5. Hey Robert! Thanks so much for sharing all of these! I think the “Be the Guide, not the Hero” one sticks out most to me. Why on earth do we do that? I know I sure do. I want to be the one that everyone looks up to and wins the day, but that’s not who someone wants to learn from. They want to learn from Yoda, a non-threatening, non-competitive sage to help them be the hero. I haven’t read Building a StoryBrand yet, but it’s on my list. I work in the LMS industry and can’t help but to wonder if the way we create training software is impacting the usability. Are there ways to create the software in and of itself to feel more like Yoda and less like Luke? Do people even think about it that way? I’m not sure, but you’ve got my wheels turning. Thanks!

  6. Robert- All of this information was enormously helpful. I have a very specific area of expertise that I am considering sharing through consulting. Over the past decade I’ve built a program for literacy and college readiness acceleration specific to immigrant, refugee, and asylum seeking teens that did not entered the US school system until the secondary level. Do you think that skill set is too narrow for a successful consulting career?

    • Hi Lindsey. Determining demand can be tricky. On the one hand, your expertise is certainly in a very specific area which would limit your market. On the other hand, there may be few people who can help like you can, so that works in your favor.

      My best advice would be to start sharing what you know as widely as possible. For example by blogging or presenting at conferences. For example, maybe create a handout with your five best tips and have it available for download on your website? If people are downloading it, then that’s a good sign. Otherwise, it may be worth asking questions like, “Is this what people want to learn?” “How do I let my audience know I exist?” “Is my audience too small of a market?” Unfortunately, I’m too unfamiliar with the demand for your services to be of any real help.

      Good luck!

  7. Robert – I am here in 2020 reading your information and it is all so true to what I am experiencing right now. I feel so capable, but so lost just the same. I established my consultant business up in 2019 and I have yet to move forward. I feel at a lost with what to charge, documents to use as “terms of agreement” for services, and so forth. I spent years training, creating lessons/documents (and more) for my district, state, teachers, and now I feel like I am unable to help myself.

    • Hey Erica. I feel ya. It is very hard to know how to move forward, and the pandemic certainly isn’t hurting. Two thoughts for you. First, you should join the Facebook group we’ve made for educational consultants here: I think you’ll appreciate having others you can chat with who get what you’re going through.

      Also, I’m working on an online workshop to share answers to these questions. Here’s my current list of topics:
      Module 1: How do I get started?
      • How do I become an ed consultant?
      • What kind of consulting work is right for me?
      • How do I get others to see me as a thought leader?
      • Do I really need a business license, bank account, or insurance?

      Module 2: How do I grow my business?
      • How do I find clients?
      • How do I develop my brand?
      • What do I need on my website?
      • How do I take advantage of social media?
      • How do I build my audience?
      • How do I turn my audience into my fans? (building email list)

      Module 3: How do I negotiate with clients?
      • How do we decide what I’ll do?
      • How much should I charge?
      • How Do I Consult Internationally?
      • How do I earn more money in less time?
      • Why is a contract absolutely necessary?
      • Who do I turn to when I need help?

      Module 4: How do I prepare for success?
      • How can I be knowledgeable without being a know-it-all?
      • How do I make amazing presentations?
      • How do I exceed my client’s expectations?

      Module 5: How do I take care of myself?
      • How do I transition from not being a consultant to part time consultant?
      • How do I transition from part time to full time consultant?
      • How do I work smarter, not harder?
      • What happens when I feel like a fake?
      • How do I balance working for others and making time to create something new?

      Module 6: How do I set and work towards long term goals?
      • How do I surround myself with people rooting for me?
      • How do I know what to spend my time on?
      • What happens when I want to change the kinds of work I do?
      • How do I generate other kinds of consulting revenue?

      So, perhaps this will be a good fit for you in September when I hope to launch it.

  8. Thanks for sharing these tips. I would recommend an addition to the part about deciding your daily rate. You should set a daily rate that includes taxes that you will pay. For example, I pay about 30-35% of what I make as a consultant in taxes, so I would charge whatever I need so that when 30-35% is taken off, the amount of money I’m left with is what I need.
    Also, I love the app YNAB (you need a budget) for tracking my work expenses. As soon I get paid, I assign 30% of that money to taxes, so that I have the money to pay quarterly and I can assign the rest of the money to my work expenses and paying myself!