Getting Started in Computer Consulting

SUMMARY

A note from the author, Peter Meyer

So what's in this book for you?

Consulting has two components. One is the technical knowledge of the topic. The other is the information and plans that you need to build a business out of that knowledge. Most experienced consultants will tell you that of these two, the second is the most important and often the hardest. Making a consulting practice work is what this book is about, both for the beginner and for the experienced consultant who wants to grow his or her business.

Start with why you want to be an independent consultant. For most of us, it is a desire to be able to:

» Do work that we and our clients find satisfying
» Choose who we work for
» Get paid for it

Herman Holtz and I spent time working with successful computer (and other) consultants to find systematic ways that they make this happen for themselves. This book is explains some things that they did to get that way. If success is a satisfied consultant who is well paid and chooses his or her own clients - then we found a number of them.

You will find large sections on marketing for technical consultants, deciding where to start marketing your service, three different ways to set fees, selling to the government, and on various sales processes that have worked. You'll find a whole chapter on the 7-Step systematized process that many consultants follow to get the work that they want at a fair price. Give it a try, it works really well for consultants in many fields.

If you are just starting in consulting, you'll find answers to questions that you may not have asked yet, but should have. A lot is stuff we've learned the hard way.

If you are experienced in consulting, you will find some excellent tidbits in the first few chapters of the book. You will probably spend even more time on the second half, finding what has worked for others and ideas that you can take for your own use. Here is the stuff that your peers use, often in their own words.

Steal the best ideas and use them! And then let me know what worked for you.

Thanks!

Peter Meyer

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER 1
- THE PRACTICE OF COMPUTER AND NETWORK CONSULTING

  • What is a Computer Consultant?
  • What Keeps Computer and Network Consultants Up At Night?
  • Why Become a Consultant?
  • Your Own Boss?
  • What Does a Computer Consultant Do?
  • Consultants and Technologies
  • Lifestyles of the Computer Consultants
  • What Are The Skills You Will Get to Use?
  • What Are the Most Important Skills You Need?
  • 1 - Technical Skills
  • 2 - People Skills
  • 3 - Business Skills
  • 4 - Excitement For Your Work
  • How Much Money Should You Have Set Aside?
  • What Will Your Day Be Like?
  • Investing Your Time
  • How Much Do Computer Consultants Earn?
  • Are You Sure You Want to Be a Consultant?
  • Part Time Consulting
  • Getting Started
  • In the End, What Do Clients Want?



CHAPTER 2
- FINDING YOUR MARKET AND SERVICE NICHES
  • Examining Your Strengths
  • Choosing Your Future
  • When To Take An Interim Assignment
  • Finding Your Niche
  • The Next Step In Selecting a Niche
  • Some Growth Niches to Watch
  • Process - A Potential Growth Niche
  • A Variation Of the Service Niche: Specialize by Eras
  • Y2K - Still a Growth Niche
  • The Phone Number Problem?
  • Niches That Never Go Away
CHAPTER 3
- SETTING UP YOUR PRACTICE:
  • Your Resources
  • Organization and Structure
  • Strategies to Balance Your Time and Projects
  • Marketing for consistency
  • Developing annuity products
  • Developing a virtual practice
  • Forming a corporation with one or more employees
  • Raising your fees and refusing to grow.
  • Should You Grow Your Business?
  • Advantages of Expanding:
  • Disadvantages of Expanding:
  • Your Practice vs Billing - Balancing Your Time
  • When Should You Hire a Consultant?
  • Financial Aspects
  • Structuring to Telecommute
  • Start Up Costs
  • Your Computers
  • Your Data Network
  • Which ISP?
  • Literature and Printing
  • An Office
  • Furniture and Fixtures
  • Memberships
  • Insurance
  • Legal Advice
  • Taxes
  • An Accountant
  • Marketing
  • How Much Redundancy Do You Need?
  • Contingencies


CHAPTER 3.1
- INCORPORATING AND PROTECTING YOURSELF
  • Incorporation, Partnerships, and Related Myths and Misunderstandings
  • Should You Incorporate?
  • Incorporation
  • Pros and Cons of Incorporating
  • Corporate Models
  • Domestic and Foreign Corporations
  • Getting Incorporated Without an Attorney
  • Places to Incorporate
  • Kinds of Corporations
  • Requirements for Incorporating
  • Where to File
  • Contracts and A Few Related Matters
  • Contracts
  • The Value of Contracts
  • Copyright
  • Trade Mark
  • Implied Contract
  • Judgment and Collecting


CHAPTER 4
- SELLING YOUR SERVICES
  • What is Marketing For A Consultant?
  • Getting Into New Accounts and Markets
  • Informational Interview Model
  • Step One - Who Will You Talk To?
  • Step Two - Calling Managers
  • Step Three - Structure Your Two Questions
  • Step Four - Coffee and the Interview
  • Step Five - Who Else Should You Talk To?
  • Step Six - Start Solving Problems
  • A Variation On the Informational Interview
  • The Benefit First Model - A Better Way
  • Are You Selling to Their Problem or Your Solution?
  • Finding the Key Results and Benefits
  • U.S.P.s
  • What Is a U.S.P. And How Do You Get One?
  • Good U.S.P.s
  • Creating An Effective U.S.P. in 2 Steps
  • Step 1 - The Problem Statement
  • Step 2 - The Resolution Statement
  • Benefit First in U.S.P.s
  • Make the U.S.P. Easy on You
  • Using a U.S.P. On Line
  • More Than One U.S.P.?
  • Brochures and Mailings
  • Getting Value From People Networks
  • User Groups
  • Is There Value to Certifications?
  • Key Certifications
  • Technical Certification Suppliers
  • Non-Technical Certifications


CHAPTER 5
- PRICING YOUR SERVICES
  • Pricing as a Marketing Tool
  • Can Price Put You at Risk?
  • Pricing Software Projects
  • Too Much Work? Look at Your Pricing
  • Over Committing
  • Underestimating
  • The Solution - Price and Expectations
  • Using Expectations to Keep Bids Down
  • The High Cost of Working for Free
  • Systematizing Fees - 3 Processes
  • Process 1 - Hours Per Year
  • Process 2 - Competitive Analysis
  • Risk 1 - Who Runs Your Practice?
  • Risk 2 - Focus on Price or Results?
  • Process 3 - The 7-Step Process
  • The Place for a Bakers Dozen
  • Constraint 1
  • Constraint 2
  • What Stops Consultants From Raising Fees?
  • The Survey Responses
  • Quotes and Comments From the Survey Participants
  • Comments On the Survey
  • Structuring Fees - By the Hour or Flat Rate?
  • Why Bother With Flat Rate Pricing?
  • Reducing the Risk
  • Breaking the Work Into Discrete Components
  • Define the Limits and Assumptions
  • Cover the Over Runs In Advance
  • Guarantees


CHAPTER 5.1
- THE 7-STEP PROCESS
  • Two Clients, Two Prices?
  • Hours or Results?
  • Could A Result Be Worth More Than the Hours?
  • Step 1 - Prospecting
  • Step 2 - First Meeting
  • Step 3 - Survey the Stakeholders
  • Step 4 - Design Session
  • The Phases Of a Design Session:
  • 5 Problems and Solutions In the Design Session
  • Step 5 - The Proposal and Close
  • Step 6 - Contracts
  • Step 7 - The Next Contract


CHAPTER 6
- MARKETING TO THE GOVERNMENT
  • What Government Agencies Buy
  • How Governments Buy
  • Exceptions Of Which You Can Take Advantage
  • Getting the Contract Without Bidding - An Example
  • How To Find Out About Government Needs
  • Example Sole Source Bid Request
  • Example RFP Request
  • Procurement Categories
  • Awards And Subcontracts
  • Extending the Meaning Of "The Government"


CHAPTER 7
- CONTRACTS, NEGOTIATIONS, AND BROKERS
  • Win-Win Negotiations
  • Contracts and Agreements
  • Contractor or Employee?
  • The Limitations of Your Contract
  • Special Considerations for Software Contracts
  • What About Brokers?
  • Finding Brokers
  • Choosing Your Brokers
  • Criterion A - Will you like the work?
  • Criterion B - W-2 or 1099?
  • Criterion C - How much do you get?
  • Criterion D - Do You Trust the Broker?
  • Negotiating With Brokers
  • Non-compete Clauses
  • Confidentiality or Nondisclosure Clauses
  • Termination Clauses
  • Guaranteed Payment
  • Fee Increases
  • Selecting Your Brokers
  • Dealing With Broker Defaults


CHAPTER 8
- ADDITIONAL PROFIT CENTERS
  • Why Additional Profit Centers?
  • The Three Basic Ancillary Services
  • Public Speaking, Seminars, and Training
  • Platform Paralysis
  • Speaking Opportunities
  • Writing and Publishing
  • Developing Software - From Hobby to Income
  • Developing Software - Advantages and Cautions
  • Marketing Your Software
  • Making Your Software Into a Product
  • Your Offering
  • Your Pricing
  • Terms and ConditionsGetting Paid For Your Software
  • Selling Hardware
  • Maintaining Hardware


CHAPTER 9
- CONCLUSION - SOME FINAL GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

APPENDIXES

Technology Consultant Resource Guide

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