Jason Haley

Ramblings from an Independent Consultant

Going Independent from Boston Code Camp 31

Last weekend was Boston Code Camp 31, where I presented my Going Independent talk to a small crowd of interested individuals. It is always a small but very interested crowd. Most attendees consisted of full time employees this time – which is exactly the audience I put it together for.

The power point can be found here: GoingIndependent2019.pptx

I have given the presentation at least a dozen times now in the past 9.5 years, here’s the cliff notes for you incase you missed this year’s version of it.

1. Why? 

Know why you want to be an independent, what is important to you? Are you sure you can’t just switch jobs and find what you are really after? How about just freelancing and keeping your job plus some side work?

Next, show chart of full time employee with direct deposit (ie. stable income every 2 weeks).

Follow that up with my actual income chart as an independent consultant – which is all over the place. 0 for some months, while other months are more than 10k a month.

Then the annual chart – which is more stable but still not the same as the FTE chart shown first.

2. Are you Still interested?

Get some advice – talk to friends, family, other independent consultants, people that could hire you. Run your ideas by them and get feedback plus spread the word for what type of work you are looking for

Find Client #1 – usually the easiest client to find. Could be previous employers, co-workers, other independent consultants, etc.

Establish Your Company – Get an accountant and lawyer – find out the best legal entity type for your situation and set it up (LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp), open a business bank account and get a business credit card to keep everything separate from the beginning.

3. Get Started

Note on Work Expectations – FTE vs. Consultant

- What works to climb the corporate ladder doesn’t always help you when you are a consultant
Examples:

  • Doing what you are asked to do without questioning it (no estimates, just getting started)
  • Throwing more time at a problem to fix it

Advice:

  • Clarify what expectations are before starting any work
  • Learn to estimate and always track your hours
  • Managing expectations is very important to keep good relationships

Stay organized – invoice regularly, keep track of your cash flow and expenses, pay yourself and keep at least 6 months living expenses back (ie. always have F-you money so you are never in a situation where you can’t say no).

4. Finding the next client(s)

Contract or consultant? – contract work: check job boards or recruiters. A lot like being an employee with a middleman. Consultant – its up to you. Referrals are very important.

Network – have 2 answers to the question “What do you do?”. First the broader answer of what you will settle for (use when you really need the work). Second, answer for what you really want to do (the reason you are an independent after all).

  • Network with complimentary skilled consultants – Example: Architects, Database, Security people are all out there networking to – so if you are a web developer make sure you know them so they can refer you work if they find a need for web developers and vice versa.
  • If you are an introvert and not great at networking – have 2 groups you network with – practice groups that most likely won’t be your clientele and groups that could refer you real work. Use the practice groups to get comfortable.

Become an expert – this is like a phase 2. Once you are able to make a living doing this self employed thing – set out to take it up a level. Speak at user groups, write a blog and write open source projects – these 3 items can serve as your marketing material.

2 + 1 Rule – always have 2 small projects that pay something but are not time sensitive (or at least are flexible) and have 1 project that pays the bills. The 2 small projects can help cushion the period between the big projects.