Consulting is full of myths. People create myths when they need to excuse themselves from pursuing their goals. Many strive to be a consultant or envy their position, but few ever push themselves to excel. Debunk the myths of consulting and you’ll find it easier to really make a career of it.
They are the Unassailable Best
Summary: It’s not what you can say, but how you can say it.
There is an idea that every consultant is the absolute best in their field. There seems to be this narrative – which informs my next point – that they go from menial worker, to prodigy, to god-of-the-field. From their godly perch, they grow bored of their tasks and evolve in to consultants. Consultants are super-deities of their field whose every word drips gold and honey.
Well this isn’t true. Most consultants are pretty well respected in their field, but more importantly they are effective communicators. If you imagine your stereotypical IT guy from a TV show, it will be a chubby, unkempt 20-something who knows everything about IT yet has not a single clue how to convey that information. It wont matter if you know everything in your field, it will matter if you can explain it in a way the client understands.
Summary: It’s about communication and insight, not experience.
So we know the myth: from slave to god to super-god dispensing panaceas to the mob of uninformed and needy mortals. And we know that isn’t true. Yet the myth still exists that only people with massive experience can get a gig as a consultant. Unless you have literally experienced every single permutation of issues your industry could face, you are not qualified.
Again, not true. You don’t need to have a PhD in your field, though it might help. Often companies are actually looking for young, fresh insights. There is a relatively large market for the non-expert consultant as well – people who profess to know little about your niche but research and apply their well-rounded minds. Personally, I started a career as a contracted ghostwriter and editor with no “credential” or previous experience; I simply knew I had the skills and the drive to compete.
Bill Based on Time
Summary: Bill based on value, not based on time spent.
You look at a project, put together a spreadsheet and take detailed notes. You figure out how much time it would take you to complete a project, you work out your hourly rate, your provide figures.
Well this is actually a somewhat unethical billing strategy. Yes, it is “fair” but it only gives you incentive to stretch the project out longer than it needs to. Instead, bill based on the services provided. If a project will increase a company’s revenue 1 million dollars, why are you billing less than 6 figures?
Summary: You are not an employee, your are an expert.
The myth here follows that you are in some way beholden to the opinions of your client. They are paying you so you must cow-tow to their whims and thoughts on the project.
This is inherently false. In fact, by hiring you, the client has in some way invalidated their own thoughts. They are saying “we can’t figure this out, we need outside help.” You are not there to rub their backs and tell them how great they are, you are there to revolutionize the way they view their product or service. Make sure you remain aggressive in your pursuit of their goals, not the egos.
Summary: You aren’t on the clock. Look at your schedule in terms of accomplishments, not time.
The mentality you see many new contractors or consultants fall in to is one of the funniest, most unproductive patterns imaginable. They wake up, sit down to work on a project at 9AM like they are back in the office, finish by noon and – after lunch – they go back and sit at their desks, confused.
That confusion stems from the fact that they forgot they are no longer on the clock. Once they complete a project, they can do what they like. But instead they waste time at their desks, rather than enjoying the freedom of their lifestyle. Reap the rewards!
By the same token, don’t cut out early if you still have work to do. Push yourself!