Sporkin wrote:So apparently if you do the same thing often enough you become an expert in it... Recently I was asked to be a consultant on a project, and to give a price. It's a rather niche area, and I have not an inkling how much to ask for, how does one go about valuing their knowledge? Oh and what exactly do consultants do?
The people that contacted me are pretty sure they needed a consultant but are rather vague on what concrete things they want from me apart from this 'aiding the team' line.
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Obviously, they think you have knowledge which is worth paying for. Congratulations! If it's a niche area, that's good news as it means that your skill set will be hard to find and you can charge more.
You price yourself by determining what a full time employee would be paid doing that kind of work. For example, a senior project manager who really knows her stuff can make a $100,000 per year. But, she also gets vacation, sick days, insurance, etc... stuff you won't get as a consultant on contract. So, add 30 to 50 percent on top of the full time rate to get a sense of what your overall rate should be.
As a consultant you have to decide whether you will be hourly, half days, or days. Lawyers, accountants, and folks like that bill hourly because of the piecework nature of the job... this document, that phone call, this tax return. I preferred to bill in half day increments, as my tenure was fairly long term... 12 to 18 months, and the work I did entailed many chores.
Without knowing anything about the industry or level of expertise you have, my SWAG is that you should be thinking in the $125 per hour range as a starting point, or ask for $1000 per day. If you have some reasonable sense of the nature of the problem and what it will take to cure it, then make a SWAG at total costs but never agree to a fixed price deal to perform the work.
As to what you will be doing... well, that's easy... you are going to use your expertise to fix a problem. More specifically, you'll want to setup a project that covers these essential steps.
For yourself: Make sure you have a clear statement of work (SOW) as to what you will do and what your end products and deliverables will be. Be sure to include what is in scope for your consulting gig and what is specifically not in scope. For example, if I were to be installing a 100 PC's into an office, I might say that adding them to the company's inventory system is out of my scope because they have muppets who will tag and enter the inventory.
This is really an important part of the gig... otherwise you don't have any kind of agreed upon yardstick to measure your performance, and people will come back and say that you didn't do this or that.
Now to the project itself: What is the problem? You uncover this through a due diligence review. You look at systems, you look at budgets, you interview people, you study processes, until you have a clear picture of why they really hired you. Modify your SOW as required based upon your findings
Where do you want to be? Through interviews, research, and your own knowledge, you build a picture of what things should really look like. Don't be surprised if it doesn't look like everybody's first guess at a solution. Again, if this changes your SOW, make sure it gets updated and you get buy in from your client.
Next, you create a gap analysis... what's the difference between where you are right now and where you want to be? This might be technology that needs to be implemented, a change in process, or the hiring of certain people. This is a list of things that must be accomplished in order to solve the problem and get you where you want to be.
Now comes the remediation plan, the way you are going to do all the things that you have identified in the gap analysis. You should be able to identify work packages that need to be performed and the people, materials, and technology needed to do the work. Identify dependencies for tasks and assign time frames and costs, if that is within your SOW.
By the time you get here, your project and deliverables as stated in your SOW should be pretty well locked in. Any changes from this point forward should require a change request which may affect scope, costs, and time frames.
Now, execute the plan. Sometimes, consultants are complete when they have prepared the plan. The company then implements. But, you can also be responsible for directing all the resources to complete the plan. Execution usually includes progress reporting and meetings as well as directing the activities of those doing the work.
Finally, you close the consulting gig. With your client, you go through all the deliverables in your SOW and prove up that you have completed them as agreed. Then ask for a sign off and your final check... or better yet, your check and your next consulting gig.
This is a rather simplified response to how to be a consultant but it contains the essentials for you to define the work (and protect yourself in the process), and to prepare a plan to get the work done. You may have a more casual relationship with the client whereby some things aren't quite as well defined, but it is always in your interests to have a clearly defined SOW.