Today was the second session of my 2-part workshop for consultants and wanna-be consultants. Jana Byington-Smith blogged it again, and here's what she recorded. We started by listing everyone's burning issues, then discussed as many as we could in-depth.
Robert L. Weiner
John Kenyon, John Kenyon Technology Consulting
Michael Stein, Michael Stein, Inc.
Eric Leland, Five Paths
Michelle Murrain, Open Issue
Getting the word out about my new consulting practice
Pricing, fixed or hourly -- why choose one or another?
Need for contract?
Communicating what my specialities are.
Valuing my services for the marketplace
How to size up clients if they're a good fit? what are the red flags? how to set boundaries, say no, share bad news?
Starting out on my own
Trying to re-learn how to work on a team? As partners, as a collective, without creating toxic/un-needed structure?
Employer -- human resources management in hardware consulting
Managing client expecations -- workflow, documentation, contact len
Growing - capitalization and hiring needs
Struggling with letting go of hard-care contracts into a more agile environment.
Should I pull off onto my own practice?
Separation of strategy work and managing vendor neutrality. Client management expectations.
Looking at growth, through partnership, subcontractor, off-load work on to others and still get paid. 🙂
Which path should I take, vendor or "soft" consulting?
Used to be independent and no longer am, so how do I handle more of the administration of a multi-person office? And needs new bathrobe to wear at work?
Has always been the accidental techie in arts organizations, starting as a volunteer, so how can can I transition and set a dollar value for my skills?
Juggling different projects efficiently without adding overhead, and working with others with different skills as sub- or co-contractors?
Managing longer and larger-budget projects, with more stakeholders.
Managing a transition from being an employee in an organization to being a consultant in the same organization.
Struggling to communicate what I do to prospective clients and telling them what they need to know. Confidentiality of sharing case studies.
What about franchising consultancies, to make a network of 'train the trainers.'
How do you fight burn-out as a technology consultant given the churn of new technology?
Ideas about telling the story about "what do I do as a consultant?"
You may be a specialist, but come off as a specialist -- focus on benefits of a few things in your elevator speech.
Finding the match between market needs and skills -- try informational interviewing with other consultants.
Be able to articulate what you help orgs do and accomplish, not necessarily the technical products/skills?
In the mid-nineties one could be more of a generalist. A lot of this is trial and error -- what is your experience, what do you like, but you have to weigh if anyone would buy it.
Kept doing actual job interviews and learned about what their needs are, what the core needs are, and then package their plan around that.
You might make mistakes and say you are able to do a project when it is, in fact, out of your skill set -- admit it and give the client a refund if it isn't gonna happen.
Sometimes a niche helps you define clearly.
Understand your proficiency, maybe defined on a likert scale,What up with what to charge? How to decide to do pro bono?
Don't be afraid to ask for what you're worth, and decide by market analysis
Different price structures are ok for different projects
Don't start ask with, how much can you afford? In a relationship building, they will likely understand that certain tasks will cost a certain amount.
There's risk in hourly, if you miss something in the scope of the project -- try to be specific about the functionality. Hourly billing -- it's always in our interests to spend more time, so we could easily spend too much time.
Value-based pricing - what is the project worth, including me, the client, and the market (book: Million Dollar Consulting) -- you get pragmatic -- what is the ROI, what are the metrics and quantification of success?
Create a capped-rate, a retainer + hourly for tech support, project-based
An option in fixed project cost, Figure out what it's gonna take (time, resources, product), then double it because things will go wrong (recommends quickforms.com)
Contract length can vary by length of project -- put a protection "woe" clause in case other things get out of control or change in a way that will affect the time and resources needed. At the 70% mark of your budget, you'll have these functionalities. After that the 30% we can re-examine additional need and maybe renegotiate.
Clients don't have an understanding about what time things take -- they may think something is hard that we think is easy, and vice versa -- so communicate why something is harder or easier. The client trusts you that you will be worth the investment that way.
During the dialogue for proposal and contract, there is a real opportunity to observe each other, so time spent can have an effect on the relationship.
Teaming up with other consultants
Sharing knowledge was very beneficial -- NTEN and Tech Underground were founded so people could have a collection of trusted consultants to assist, or cover vacations, or handle additional expertise. There has to be agreement on philosophy, of style. A partnership or trusted advisor in a formal relationship can provide necessary balance to assure that workload is reasonable, tasks are managed in a coordinated way. This can be done per project to add expertise, as long as you really know that the subcontractor can do factually (not by reputation).
NPTechConsult is on the NTEN (look for great comments from Karen Nyhus) -- it's got great archives and interesting discussions