A consultant’s perspective

Throughout this series, I have included some of my own perspectives where relevant. This post is some of the things I look at from my perspective. Some things I have gotten right over the years and some things I have screwed up.

When I evaluate a client, I look at a few things. Do they have a good idea of what they expect from a consultant? Do they realize I am not their employee and have other obligations?

With every long-term engagement I have with clients, there are always chunks of time that are needed. This might be a new tower build or a new upstream provider being added. There is a flurry of work-related, and then might be an extended break after that project is done. One of the jobs I, as a consultant, strive to do is make the next job easier on the client. This might be a checklist or documentation on what they can do without engaging me. This saves their time with me for items I really am needed for. This may seem counter-intuitive to billable hours. However, it goes back to the quality vs. quantity I said in one of the earlier parts. My goal as a consultant is to bill at the highest hourly rate possible while still adding value to my client. I would rather set up my client to do 10 hours of work themselves and come to me for 5 hours at a higher rate. This solves the problem of me overselling my time, thus causing issues.

Where do some consultants go wrong?
Speaking of time, this is one area consultants go wrong. I figured I had forty hours to sell each week when I did full-time consulting. If I am feeling Industrious or have a big project, I can go into overtime. Maybe some weeks, that time stretches out to fifty or even sixty hours of overtime. Some weeks, due to travel and such, I have worked a seventy-hour week. This is not sustainable long term. When people need help and have money in front of them, it’s easy to oversell your time. That quick trip out of state to help a client may turn ugly when another client has a major outage, and you are an hour from a good internet connection.

What are some of the things I have done as a consultant to improve my business?
When I was doing full-time consulting, the best thing I ever did was document all communication through a ticketing and project system. If a client calls up and we speak for 15 minutes, I will open a ticket and do a summary of what we talked about. Even if it is an issue, we solve it on the phone. This helps me to keep accountable to time per client.

Even though I am not a full-time consultant these days, I still do consulting work but am more selective on the jobs and clients I take on.. I still approach them with a scope of work before work is done. This prevents scope creep and statement bloat.

What are things an operator can do to better utilize a consultant?
Document as much of your network as you can into a single document. Have something which can be easily looked over with notes on what you know. For security reasons, you are probably not going to put passwords into a word document, but have a reference. Sometimes it is as simple as “Refer to Last Pass (or whatever password manager software you use) for the password.”

Also, have a punch list together of things you want help with. This does not have to be a fully vetted list. By having this list, you can open a dialogue and talk through things. you may find several items on your list that could be accomplished with one work item.

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