Interesting Finds: October 13, 2013

by Jason Haley 13. October 2013 01:38

Other

Code to look at

Web

Database

Cloud Computing

Career

Innovation

Thoughts on Blogging

by Jason Haley 14. March 2012 06:59

Last week I attended a workshop at the local university: How To Write A Great Blog.  I signed up for it because I personally would like to write better blog content (ie. not be just a link blog).  However, once I got to the workshop, sat down and started to look over the handout … my thoughts on why I was there changed.

What Jennifer Powell (the speaker) and all the other attendees really got me thinking about was my current situation as an independent consultant looking for new clients and the role I want my blog to play.

I started blogging in 2004 to share my ideas, stories and links with coworkers and other people with the same interests … you know other software engineer types.  Somewhere along the line, I started doing mostly the Interesting Finds link blog and acquired some followers.  Being a link blogger wasn’t my intention, however I found that I naturally assemble a list of links to read myself so I might as well share that list with other people (which is really the only reason I continue to do it).  Writing original content has been lacking for quite sometime.

Last week it occurred to me that my blog isn’t going to help me find new clients.  It never has been purposed for that.  It helps provide information to other software engineers and independent consultants as well as provide some basis for my expertise/experience with .Net.  So it helps with my ‘expertness’, but that’s it.  Last week I mentioned in the Career in Software Development - Hourly Consultant B (Self Employed) entry that the blog makes me findable too … but that is not enough to keep finding new clients.

The reason why: I started the blog when I was a full time employee and when I became an independent consultant, I didn’t repurpose the blog.

So now, I rethinking my approach to blogging and beginning to look at how I can start building a brand with an audience that could be my next client.  Some random thoughts I’ve had are:

  • Create a new blog on my company site
  • Start blogging about more relevant topics for my clients
  • Stop doing the Interesting Finds link blog (causes a lot of noise) and repurpose this blog
  • Create a roadmap for my blog(s)
  • Start blogging with purpose – stop just putting crap out there

Currently my roadmap is still under construction, but thanks to attending the workshop last week I now understand that if I want to use my blog to find clients as an independent consultant I need to change my blogging habits.

I’d love to hear for readers out there, what do you think?

Career in Software Development–Hourly Consultant B (Self Employed)

by Jason Haley 7. March 2012 09:57

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
1 article
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.

Note about being an Independent Consultant

by Jason Haley 4. February 2012 06:40

I know its been a long time since I’ve written about my adventures of being an independent consultant – but here is a quick note about a lesson I learned yesterday.

For the past 2+ years, things have been going well and I have some great clients and interesting projects with them.  However, recently I’ve been looking at a subcontract type job – and yesterday a thought occurred to me after doing pretty lousy on a tech screening call: 

When you deal with small businesses as your clients – they need to be confident that you can solve their technical problems and need you to be able to communicate to them in their language.

So after 2 years of working with small businesses, I’ve gotten use to communicating in their language … and I’ve fallen out of love and out of date with technical trivia.

The point of this is: if you plan to do any subcontracting type jobs and are being hired based on your technical expertise – you better get your technical communication and trivia back up to speed … especially if you say you know a technology well … you better know the trivia too.

Interesting Finds: May 20, 2010

by Jason Haley 20. May 2010 04:09

Other

Code to look at

Web

Database

Security

Agile

Cloud Computing

Career

Blogging

Business

Innovation

Community

Other link blogs

Interesting Finds: May 11, 2010

by Jason Haley 11. May 2010 04:21

Other

Code to look at

From CodePlex Feed

Web

Database

Agile

Architecture

Cloud Computing

Career

Business

Community

Other link blogs

Independent Consultant Notes: February 15, 2010

by Jason Haley 15. February 2010 16:54

Consultant vs. Independent Contractor vs. Freelancer vs. Entrepreneur

What’s in a name?  What do you call yourself if you are an ‘independent’? 

I’m not talking about the official terminology (like being a sole proprietor), but what attitude do you have about your work (when you are an independent).

Some people say, a ‘contractor’ is basically (and unofficially) a hired short term employee where a ‘consultant’ is more than that.  Kind of fuzzy isn’t it?  How about a freelancer? 

If you read the four linked definitions mentioned at the beginning of this entry you’ll probably come to the conclusion that technically they are all the same (or can be).  So it really comes down to attitude.  Here is my attempt at defining the terms in a round about way:

Independent Consultant
Someone with a respectable reputation in their industry.  They have usually worked hard for many years to get to their ‘consultant’ level.  They make a living doing what they love to do … in fact they have to love what they do or they wouldn’t have gotten to this level.

Independent Contractor
Someone with experience but not necessarily a well known reputation in their industry yet.  Contractors can either love what they do or just make good money doing what they know … it is a mixed bag.  Some ‘contractors’ are budding Consultants or Entrepreneurs.

Freelancer
A free spirited creative personality … who is really either a contractor or consultant.  They use the freelancer term because it doesn’t sound as stuffy (consultant) or constraining (contractor). 

Entrepreneur
Someone who wants to start a business and see it grow.  They like the idea of flying by the seat their  pants and making things up as they go, when they need to.

Independent Consultant Notes: January 19, 2010

by Jason Haley 19. January 2010 08:38

Time for another update on how life as an Independent Consultant is going.  This one is about building the company web site.

Bringing a Company Website to Life

Today I’m hanging my shingle out (yeah I know that phrase is used for mostly law firms … so I’m overloading it for Independent Consultants).  Maybe it is better to just say, I got my company website up and going: http://www.jasonhaleyconsulting.com.image

The site has gone through a few design iterations and is now looking good enough for version 1 … though the content needs another iteration or two … that’s for later.

Colors

The image to the right is what the site’s first iteration looked like.  The color combination (something I always struggle with), was inspired by a couple of things (both where suggested to me by Alex Busce):

Once I got the first iteration up and going … I thought it looked ‘ok’, but sort of cookie cutter - not necessarily the look I wanted.  After getting some feedback from friends and family, I decided to put more time into the look and feel before announcing the site.image

Update: After working on the site for awhile ... the brown starts to give me a headache ... so that is going to change soon.

Tabs

The image to the left is what it now looks like (or at least, as of the writing of this entry).  The tab style for the links was inspired by one of the jQuery UI themes, though the color combination was taken from the color scheme designer colors.  I created the gradient images in Paint.net.  There are still a few things I want to change about the look … but they are all minor.

Logo

The (current) logo was inspired by two things: David Chappell's logo and the Museum of Find Arts logo.  I first created the logo in Paint.net, but then recreated it in Expression Design – which was a better design experience than Paint.Net in this case.

After a couple of iterations on the look and feel (and spending quite some time on getting the colors I liked) … today I noticed that my friend Ben Day’s color scheme is close to the same one I ended up with … maybe I should have looked at his site before starting.

Images

I purchased all the images for the site from iStockPhoto for less than $20 and still have a couple I haven’t used on the site yet.  Nice that they offer the ability to buy credits and not have to get a subscription.  The original cloud image used in the first header was actually one of mine … to bad I didn’t keep it:)

Independent Consultant Notes: January 7, 2010

by Jason Haley 7. January 2010 05:58

The last couple of months I’ve been asking a dozen or so people I know (who are independent consultants) for advice.  Yesterday, I thought I should broaden the group that I ask advice of and maybe be help others as well … so started a LinkedIn group this morning called “Independent Software Consultants”.

If you are an independent software consultant (or interested in being one) and want to join the group, you can find it in the LinkedIn Groups directory at Independent Software Consultants.  I didn’t tie it to a region, but it will probably be mostly people in the US.

My idea of the group is for it to be a place to ask for and give advice on things like:

  • setting up your own business
  • finding work
  • finding subcontractors
  • working with clients
  • networking with others
  • getting your name out

So if you’re interested in helping (or need help from) other independent consultants please join the group and participate in the discussion.

Independent Consultant Notes: January 4, 2010

by Jason Haley 4. January 2010 05:56

I’m starting a new category of blog entries to capture some notes about being an independent consultant, hopefully some people will find these helpful.  By no means are these notes anything other than a snapshot of my opinion at a point in time … everything is subject to change and clarification.

Getting started

I guess I should first mention, that this is a new thing for me.  I’ve been interested in entrepreneurship and business stuff for a long time, but up until last year I’ve pretty much been an FTE (full time employee).

Awhile ago, I read Joe Webb’s The Rational Guide to IT Consulting (Rational Guides), which did a good job of outlining the basics of getting started and I would recommend it if you are looking for a book on the subject.

For the business entity, I went with an LLC – but I know people who are S-Corps and C-Corps as well.  To take care of all the paperwork, I used MyCorporation (An Intuit Company).  It would have been cheaper to do it myself (lesson #1).  Turns out, Massachusetts is one of the most expensive states to set up an LLC in (>$500 a year currently) … I guess that’s what I get for not doing this when I was in Seattle (lesson #2).

After all the paperwork was official, I then went down to the local bank and setup an account for the business – helps to keep the business stuff the business stuff (after all that’s the point of incorporating).

Then comes the hard part for someone new to an area: find an accountant and lawyer.  This work is still in progress.

Habits to form

Unless you are some rock star (ie. well known expert) or lottery winner … which I’m neither - the first habit you need to form is networking.  Oh and even after you find your first gig, don’t stop networking … keep doing it and doing it more.  Penelope Trunk has some great advice on networking.

Second habit, which sort of goes with the first, is to get good at communicating what you are good … how else will someone know they should use to for a job?  This work is also still in progress.