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Consulting Maxims to Live By

A while back I stumbled across Steve Friedl's awesomely informative article, "So you want to be a consultant...?" -- it was so good that I read the entire page in one sitting (my ass was sore afterwards, but it was worth it!).

Having done consulting and freelance work on and off for most of my working career, Steve's article was of particular interest to me. I was surprised by how many of Steve's points I had discovered by accident over the years and I really wished I had such a resource to guide me years ago.

With Steve's permission, I have compiled a list of all the "Consulting Maxims" he lists throughout his article. Anyone who does consulting, or for that matter freelance or contract work, should read Steve's article and integrate these points into their life.

If you're a consultant, freelancer, or contract worker, what maxims do YOU live by? What has made you better at what you do? Please share in the comments!

Steve Friedl's Consulting Maxims

What's it take?

  • You must give the customer The Warm Fuzzy Feeling™
  • "Trust" is your best job security

Job security

  • You have no job security, even if you think you do

Cash Flow

  • A financially-struggling consultant does not give a customer The Warm Fuzzy Feeling™

The Customer Relationship

  • You are primarily in the customer service business, not the technical business
  • For a good consultant, your voice is comforting: Be very easy to find

Billing

  • Hourly arrangements of any substantial magnitude require that you have earned your customer's trust
  • The best way to appreciate the value of a good spec is to do a project without one
  • Customers hate unhappy surprises much more than timely bad news
  • Bad news does not get better with age
  • Churning by dishonest consultants is the single worst thing that has ever happened to honest consultants
  • Ongoing business is much more important than maximizing every billable hour
  • It's better to give away some time than to throw away your reputation
  • Detail is comforting to a customer
  • If the customer doesn't know you did work off the clock, you don't get credit for it
  • If you routinely take ownership for your own mistakes, you're much more likely to be believed when you claim something is NOT your doing

Promotion and Advertising

  • Your best advertisement is publishing original, technical content
  • It's a huge asset to communicate well — cultivate this skill vigorously

References

  • Your references are your reputation in the consulting world

On Being Objective

  • Your customers cannot wonder where your interests are

Be Easy to Fire

  • Customers are comforted by consultants who don't act entitled to their engagements

Firing your customers

  • The customer is NOT always right

Google is not always your friend

  • The internet never forgets: don't provide dirt for your future

How much do I charge?

  • If you're booked up solid, your rates are too low
  • Your long-term customers are your best customers
  • The best way to make a lot of money is to make your customers a lot of money

Time and Project Management

  • As long as you're sleeping, you still have inventory
  • The fear of an empty pipeline is with most consultants constantly, even if they're consistently very busy
  • You must know how to read your customer

The Projects you don't take

  • Your customers are buying your judgment, not just your time
  • Being known for your integrity is the Holy Grail of consulting

Intellectual Property

  • An open customer relationship cultivates The Warm Fuzzy Feeling™

Making the Leap

  • If you have a reputation for stealing customers, you'll never be trusted by other professionals

Technical Skills and Certification

  • Your references and your experience are far more important than your certifications
  • Do not BS your customers
  • "Education" is one of the best investments a consultant can make

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  1. Wow, this is an amazing reference! Thank you very much Raam (and Steve Friedl – sharing this on Facebook).

    What kinds of consulting have you done, Raam?