Working as an independent consultant for more than 11 years has been a lot of fun. I have met a lot of interesting people and worked on some really interesting project. Recently I have been working with two entrepreneurs (each different projects). Both guys are trying to develop their ideas. One wants to become a manufacturer and the other doesn’t. Both projects are taking a long time because we are trying to develop the idea into the lowest cost, best looking, and perfect function. On the other end of the company size spectrum I just finished working with Gillette. This project was to update a macro I wrote for them years ago. In a similar vein, it has taken a while to get it done (I started in August). However, rather than the slow progress being a result of development of an idea it is due to the fact that the automation is only one of many projects they are working on.
Don’t think that projects are always slow. Sometimes I get projects that happen very quickly – start to finish they are done in a matter of days.
I wanted to give my readers and little window into my business because I am often asked by people how to get into consulting. So let me say a few things:
- It isn’t easy being a consultant. I work hard EVERY day. I have to be very self motivated to constantly be monitoring projects, remembering everything that needs to be done, and managing the day-to-day issues. You need to know yourself to understand what you are good at and where you will have issues. If you can’t focus on work if you have a home-office then find a place to work so that you can.
- To start a business you need a client. It is more difficult to start THEN look for business. It seems counter intuitive but if you have a first client it gives you focus. You need to focus on earning money for your time and overhead (computer, software, etc).
- Be a specialist in SOMETHING. If you are trying to tell potential clients that you are good at everything they will be suspicious. It is a giveaway that you don’t understand your field. There are too many areas out there to be good at everything. Choose something you have a lot of experience with and lead with that.
- Be honest with clients and yourself. Bill your clients only for the time that you work. It is tempting to bill for more hours if you are on an hourly basis. However, this leads to one-time clients.
- Bill all of your clients the same. I knew a woman that tried to figure out how much she could charge clients per hour based on their initial meeting. Pick a rate and stick with it. If you don’t get a job because of your rate then it wasn’t right for you.
- You probably won’t make as much working for yourself as you would working as an employee. Yes, you get more freedom but you also get more stress. Working for yourself means your income will go up and down. You want to make sure that you are ready for the downs.
That is my short list of advice. Have questions? Send me an email or post in the comments.