What are the best books on becoming a consultant?
August 15, 2014 11:35 PM   Subscribe

No snowflake details on this. other than I'm in a salaried job. I'm just interested in getting up to speed on this front. A search of the archives (at least for the past couple of years) doesn't disclose any list of good books/articles, so this could be a good resource for others. Thanks for your help!
posted by learnsome to Work & Money (3 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Consultant is too broad of a term to know how to help in detail, but I'll take a shot.

Are you in technology? Do you want to work for yourself or a consulting firm?

I went from working at a major tech company, to working for a few startups, to starting my own consulting firm that built apps, to selling that company... each phase was different and honestly i haven't found a single book that really helped that much. I did read this book and it was helpful, if necessarily a bit generic. But I read it after my company was running with 15-20 employees.

The biggest difficulty is stepping out on your own for the first time, going from a steady paycheck to "eat what you kill". It's difficult but rewarding. I'm a tech nerd and I realized that I didn't need to be a sales guy, I just had to be credible. My stability and credibility when I talk is what closed deals, not my attempt to emulate bobby-from-die-hard who negotiates million dollar deals for breakfast (that didn't work out well for him anyway).

When starting, I had some months I really didn't know what was going to happen. I had to borrow $10k from a friend at one point to cover bills that had piled up, but ultimately I made it out and when I did, it was really rewarding, socially and eventually, financially.

Hope that helps. I find reading the articles on hacker news around people who have gone from salaried jobs to consulting to be the most helpful.
posted by carlodio at 1:47 AM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Experience, not books, here. I was a great consultant... except for marketing, so I had to "quit" and return to salaried positions.

When you are a consultant,

YOU are the first one they think of during cutbacks (so it's not enough to be "useful"; you must be "indispensable", or at the very least "obviously outproducing the salaried workers" (on revenue generated).

YOU are the outsider, socially, and always will be - so you are socially vulnerable to "othering". DO NOT forget that you aren't just another worker to your peers - and they can destroy you.

YOU are the only one looking out for your tax safety, retirement planning, and health care. (For me, it was "I'll buy health insurance starting next month..." - CAT scans cost $5,000 in 1999, and emergency appendectomies are $10,000. The More You Know!....)

YOU must market yourself. Stay on the lookout for your next gig. When the market turns down, consultants find it harder than anyone else to find a job (unless- you sell yourself as a no-strings answer to short-term staffing issues. During a recession I took a job at 50% of my usual rates for a startup desperate for another worker with my resume skills, and got ~6 months of pay, plus another week or two later).

YOU are outside the normal hiring requirements. Obviously salary is one point, but you could also negotiate on: hours, days worked (M-Thu, Tue-Sat...), travel costs (one customer refused to pay me for 8 hours travel time, because it wasn't specified in the contract), and termination details (I've worked "at-will", and also "by-month". In the latter case, I was terminated on Jan 28th, after a budget shortfall was discovered - !!!)
posted by IAmBroom at 6:35 AM on August 16, 2014

There are consultants who are hired independently and then there are consultants who work for an employer for W2 salary/benefits and that employer is engaged by outside customers for specific work.

I have been the latter for 15 years. I do not have to care about running a business; my checks come every two weeks, sometimes with a bonus. I work on a couple of very specific software products what are sold and serviced under a partner model. I work at partners.

I know there's kind of an in-between world where there is a company that does all the management and invoicing and marketing and sales, and then they use IC's to do the work, and those ICs only get paid when they're working on a contract. I meet IT consultants like that now and then, and it seems like a shit gig but I guess it's still better than doing your own sales (except you're at the mercy of outside sales so you have no control).

If you're working independently, then the book you want is not about "consulting" but about running your own business.

Whether you are 1099 or W2, the actual consulting work is made up of a) actual subject expertise, b) perceived subject expertise, c) project management. The consultants who impress a) actually know their stuff and b) are amaaaaazing project managers, and that's about 50% actual competent project management and 50% making spreadsheets and presentations that look really cool.

So if you're wanting to do independent consulting, you'll need to learn entrepreneurship including marketing and sales, and then project management, and then you have to know your subject. (Or, from my experience, know how to pretend you do for an impressively long time until someone figures out you don't and they end the contract.) Those things equal consulting.

Unless you can corner the market on a high-demand skill (which is often not as high a bar as you'd think, especially if you can be industry-specific), or become a well-known blogger/book-writer on a subject, or can develop a product or service that generates passive recurring revenue, or you really love sales and hustling, true independent consulting can be a real slog.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:09 AM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Why would a physician refuse to accept credit...   |   Blood Type - What Blood Group am I in. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.