Focus: The Self-Taught Marketing Consultant

Of the Five Types Of Marketers, the self-taught marketing consultant has adapted to the realities of current marketing landscape, absorbing new skill modules and competencies as clients require them. A marketer to the bone, has had to be cross functional, a fast learner, and competent. Apolitical, this type is driven by wins, not titles or salaries.

The Five Types Of Marketers

Focus: The Self-Taught Marketing Consultant

The Consultant

The MBA Grad

The Prodigy

The Day Worker

The Charlatan

Sometimes referred to as ‘self-employed’, a marketing consultant or freelancer is an unusual creature; pound-for-pound, this ‘outdoor cat’ is more practically and technically capable than a marketer who was formally trained, only, or who was employed in one capacity at a company (the day worker or indoor cat).

This ‘outdoor cat’ has only ever been able only to ‘eat what he kills’ (a common saying in the freelance community, due respect to animals), and is not accustomed to the cushy indoor life at a corporation, with the metaphorical ‘milk saucers and safety’, which are often provided irrespective of outcomes or performance.

Indeed, the marketing consultant has had to market in order to procure clients to then market for. It’s heavy lifting, and these types are therefore strong players, especially if they’ve been self-employed for any duration.

One shouldn’t assume a consultant seeks permanent employment because his or her consultancy isn’t profitable or because he or she wants to take it easy. Careers have stages, priorities shift, and learning curves plateau.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking a consultant’s creative or functional past equals his or her future. Anyone adaptable enough to act as an entire marketing department him- or herself can easily deliver in-house marketing services of the highest quality for one company or product. In fact, there’s an actual danger that if not fed challenges regularly, the consultant will grow bored ‘indoors’.

How do you spot the legit marketing consultant? Assuming he already has a professional LinkedIn profile and resume, a consultant’s competency is a discernable 1) by his time spent marketing, 2) a professional website, 3) prestige clientele, current or past, and 4) by proof of wins and the ability to execute: LinkedIn reviews, past clientele, case studies, and a portfolio.

The consultant works to learn, to expand his skill stack, and is driven by the win

At the corporation, decisions are made by executives, and simply not screwing up too bad and being well-liked is enough to keep your job. The consultant’s has never had that luxury; indeed, his consultancy is only as secure as it is effective, or as long as he is winning. Able to work alone, but appreciative of competent teams, this type is perpetually driven to move the needle more.

The self-taught marketer understands marketing as it actually functions, as an engineer understands the realities of a working machine in ways that an academic does not. The engineer’s product must work in the real world. It’s an infinitely higher bar than that for the theorist.

Self-taught marketers tend to be cross-functional, having had to learn on the fly for demanding clients. More and more the consultant is obtaining technical certifications to validate his experience and expertise. 

He places emphasis on execution and may prefer to work with minimalist iterations they can later scale; test and make sure it works before drafting grand marketing strategies based on speculation and hope.

The self-taught marketer understands marketing as it actually functions, as an engineer understands the realities of a working machine in ways that an academic does not. The engineer’s product must work in the real world. It’s an infinitely higher bar than that for the theorist.


  • The consultant is self-evident: he’s self-employed.
  • He or she may have career movement (like the Charlatan), but it will be accompanied by reasons, and wins.
  • This type doesn’t respond to the control systems or culture seen at unhealthy workplaces; highly capable, he or she will not suffer bad treatment.

What They Bring And Where They Fit:

  • The self-taught marketing consultant is a cross-functional, vertically-integrated, individual contributor. He or she is ideally suited for small operations or early-stage companies that require a broad skill stack, strategy-to-dashboard competency, and results on a budget. This type gets it done, without a lot of to-do and discussion.
  • The consultant can do well in a corporate role if it is diverse. With or without an MBA degree or BA in marketing, his experience allows him to excel in a management role at a a corporation, if the role requires redundancy, or leaders who can do the tasks of those beneath them. 
  • This type is a painter, not a paint-brush. Self-taught marketers aren’t suited for micro- or, really, co-managing. They excel in a ‘Here’s the ball – GO!’ situation.
  • This type marketer is a self-starter, and will have ideas he or she wants to explore. Let them.
  • The self-taught marketing consultant has a short learning curve, and therefore may get bored with a limited scope of responsibilities.
  • As a result of familiarity with a wide array of tools and having seen varied operations, consultants are great detectives of breakdown points, and often come complete with the ability to fix a problem he or she has diagnosed.

What To Bear In Mind:

  • While the self-taught marketer is not formally schooled in marketing strategy, he has had to pick the practical aspects up along the way. His understanding may be informal and not tuned to the conventions expected to, say, present to a board of directors at a larger, older, company.
  • Because he judges others, and prefers to be judged, on performance (he is not political), workplaces with politics or clout-chasers may not be the ideal environment for him. He or she won’t have a problem with others, but they may resent his or her fearlessness and self-satisfaction.
  • Similarly, the consultant has been the uncredited brains behind many an operation while freelancing. This may be too much to bear at a full-time job, so give him or her their due credit.
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