Disclaimer: this post is for informational purposes only, you may or may not want to follow my advice.
Almost 5 years ago, I wrote the blog entry Career ladder of software development ... where does it lead?. That entry has been pretty popular over the years, and today I decided to provide some more detail about the last position in that entry – taken from what I have learned the past 2+ years.
If you would like to know more or think you could use my services, please feel free to contact at jason [at] jasonhaley.com or my company site.
In case you haven’t read the entry mentioned above, I’ve pasted the relevant information below:
For the hourly positions I’ve come up with a 3 tier breakdown that seems to cover what I found in my brief research:
- Tier 1 $50 – 80 hour
- Tier 2 $80 – 150 hour
- Tier 3 $150 - 300 hour
Hourly Consultant B (Self employed)
This position is similar to the Hourly Consultant A in its requirements, but this position also requires the consultant to run his own show. This means the consultant is living off of his own reputation and it alone, as oppose to the Consultant A who can make a good living from the company’s reputation. For the self employed consultant, the time spent reinforcing his ‘expertness’ really is necessary and more important than it is for the employed consultant. One key objective for the self employed consultant is to be an expert in both his niche and an expert in a broader sense (sometimes need options to get the billable hours)
Top Salary: 100k – 400k
Tier 1 40 hours/week 36 – 48 weeks a year
Tier 2 40 hours/week 24 – 36 weeks a year
Tier 3 40 hours/week 16 – 24 weeks a year
Other common sources of income: Training, articles, books, conferences, blog entries and web sites (advertisements)
As many of you know, I started as an Independent Consultant in late 2009 – which is more or less what I described as Hourly Consultant B (self employed) back in 2007.
Why do you want to be an independent?
For me, I wanted to get away from the problem I kept running into with my career: if you are creative and do a really good job, then you get to do even more of it as a FTE (full time employee). This means you move up but not out – like getting more responsibility on a project you’ve been working on for a year vs. getting moved to another project or some new opportunity. I was looking for away to have multiple clients and get to learn new and interesting technologies ALL the time.
Knowing why you are an independent is important, when going through rough times – you need to have a touchstone to remind yourself that there is a reason (and hopefully it’s a good one).
Are you a consultant or a contractor?
This is an important question when it comes to finding clients/customers. If you are a contractor, then usually you can find work through agents and recruiters (or some type of middle person). The project interview process for contractors is very similar to the process of hiring a developer for a FTE position. This means, you need an up-to-date resume and to prepare with books like: Programming Interviews Exposed: Secrets to Landing Your Next Job (Programmer to Programmer)and Programming Pearls as well as know your technology’s trivia. This type of position is really the Hourly Contract Developer in Career ladder of software development ... where does it lead?, which can be a similar experience as the consultant position.
If you are a consultant, then your challenge is to find the person (not middleman) who has the need for your services and convince them that you can help solve their problem. The interview process for consultants is (in my experience) quite different than the hiring of a developer. This means you need to be able to understand what the client’s problem is and confidently explain how you can help them … in their language.
How do you find that next client/customer?
For the past two years as an Independent Consultant, I have been learning new and interesting technologies as well as creating a small customer base – all with their own unique challenges and requirements. However, all of my clients have been spontaneous referrals – meaning they were referred to me or found me in a way that I can’t repeat (to again find more clients).
In the Career ladder of software development ... where does it lead? entry I wrote:
… For the self employed consultant, the time spent reinforcing his ‘expertness’ really is necessary and more important than it is for the employed consultant. One key objective for the self employed consultant is to be an expert in both his niche and an expert in a broader sense …
So in order to find that next client, it seems that being findable is the important part.
- Do you write articles or books?
- Do you speak at user groups and/or conferences?
- Are you involved in the communities around the type of projects you do (ie. .Net for me)?
- Do you blog?
- Are you on twitter and provide valuable tweets?
- If someone googles your name, are the results about you?
- Are you keeping up with your network and expanding it?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions – are you continuing to do it?
Here is a small example taken from my experience:
|2009 ||2 presentations |
A lot of networking
|Lots of client work for 1 client |
|2010 ||7 presentations |
A lot of networking
|Several new clients, various work projects, busy throughout the year |
|2011 ||2 presentations |
Very little networking
|No new clients, majority of the work for 1 client throughout the year |
I continue to do my blog, so I am findable – however since I worked too much in 2011 and did not write or present anything that continued to build my expertness and even worse: I didn’t keep up my networking.
I am now learning the hard way. You have to make time to build your expertise and market yourself … constantly or find other sources of income to allow for the dry spells you will run into.