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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

 

IMG_0894[1]

So I got the chance to visit a little fruit company in Cupertino, CA right before Christmas. It was a fantastic experience working with their engineering department. I can’t say what I worked on but I can say that it was fun to see all of the employees walking around with their Mac computers to do engineering. Being that I use SolidWorks I have to use a PC as my primary computer.

Also, I was very impressed with the employees, everyone was very nice and at the same time very intense. They are a busy company and I didn’t see a lot of the usual “water cooler talk” that I see at most companies. Everyone seems to be on a singular mission to create great products and software.

Sooo true!

 

Small Bot

I have had a product idea for years that would operate in the snow. Ever since I first heard about the Sparkfun AVC contest and learned about the Arduino I knew that I wanted to develop a tracked vehicle. I have been working with InspectorBots to develop a small version. The prototype is now up an running.

Let me tell you a little more about it and how I built it. Since my background is mechanical engineering I designed the treads and body myself, with input from Chris at InspectorBots. Overall, it is 12″ wide x 14″ long x 4 1/4″ tall. It has two possibilities for motors: 2 540 motors and transmission from RC4WD or a P60 gearbox and motor from BaneBots. It has a camera and headlight that rotates on a 180 degree servo. The headlight is switchable on and off from the RC controller. I used the Sparkfun Luxeon high power LEDs and the associated Lens.

I designed the vehicle to be able to go straight up – assuming it has enough friction. It uses a 4-channel RC controller right now and has a video screen at the user side to be able to see what the robot sees.

Ultimately I plan to add an Arduino and a video shield. I’ll be adding more components from Sparkfun to make it Autonomous capable and add data from sensors to the video for user viewing.

I’ll be adding more about this soon!

Thanks for visiting 3 Dawn Consulting! In the next few days we will be bringing up the new site. Come back soon for a more accurate representation of our company.

Golf Car for the handicapped

3 Dawn helped develop some concept ideas for a new exterior body.